Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Why You Need, And Should Want Therapy

So, maybe this post could have been called “You’re Too Young For This – Part 2.”  I had made comments about my experiences lacking in physical therapy, and during cardiac therapy.

When we experience any kind of trauma to our bodies, whether it be physical or emotional, we need to repair whatever damage has happened.  This is called rehabilitation, or therapy.  We should expect to either go through this rehab supervised, or at home.  No matter where it occurs, it needs to be done.

Besides the fact that therapies are often not suggested, there is sometimes a cost factor involved, especially if benefits do not provide or do not provide enough coverage.  But as a fellow long term Hodgkin’s survivor once told me, “do not let economics determine the care you need.”

For the purposes of this post, I am going to talk about cardiac rehab, or cardiac therapy.  Physical therapy and psycho therapy are just as important, but the points I will make using cardiac therapy, actually apply to all three types of therapy.

We can all agree that the heart is the “be all, end all” when it comes to our bodies.  If I oversimplify that all we need to do following any surgery involving the heart, is to just get some exercise, as simply as going for a daily walk it is easy to dismiss the necessity of cardiac therapy.

The question you have to ask yourself however, is how do you know your heart repair is healing properly, getting stronger as it should, and that there are no complications?  After all, were you aware that you had an issue with the heart before the surgery?  Or did someone else need to diagnose that?  For as important as the heart and cardiac system is to us, following a surgery to that system, we need to, and should want to rely on anyone, and anything we have access to, to makes sure our recovery is progressing as it is expected.

Three Things That Cardiac Therapy Accomplishes

The first, you have had physical trauma, whether through open heart surgery or even through catheterization.  Especially when it comes to a cardiac procedure, most patients will agree, you feel almost completely different, better of course, following the procedure.  But for many, depending on how long the patient has been sedentary, we can, and I did, end up very weak, as in lost probably 80-90% of my strength and endurance in less than a couple of days.

Of all the several times that I have had to rehab, more than a half a dozen, I am notorious for pushing myself, often further than I should.  No one wants to return back to what I was like before quicker, than me.  And  because of that, I am likely to not adjust back into a routine, but rather pick up, right where I left off.    And the only way that ends, is with me getting hurt.

A cardiac program will have a therapist set up a program, designed with your goals, as well as how to get there safely.  The therapist will set up based on time of exercise, somewhere between 30 to 40 minutes, different exercises to be done, and what level of resistance or effort to complete each exercise.  That therapist will increase time, and effort as time goes on, and just as your goal was set, it will be reached, safely.  And when therapy is completed, you will have learned how to continue and build on that progress.

The second thing accomplished with a supervised cardiac rehab program, trained staff can actually see what you cannot, your heart.  Remember when I asked if you knew you had a heart issue or if someone had to tell you?  Cardiac therapy gives you a constant set of eyes as you exercise.

All cardiac patients are attached to their own monitor, usually with three leads.  One goes to each side of my chest, another to the left side of my rib cage.  My heart is watched the entire time that I am exercising in the event of any event involving my heart beat.  As I am not one to complain, this is a big deal, because they will see what I do not say, and if necessary, stop the exercise.  Whereas on my own, I would be likely to continue on, pushing my body harder than what it should, potentially ending up with a serious issue.

The other benefit of this therapy, as mentioned, the staff can see what my heart is doing, and can adjust the exercises to achieve goals, one of which is a working heartbeat (as opposed to at rest).  Work loads can be increased to get the heart beating stronger.

And one of the final things cardiac therapy does?  It helps to fight off the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise.”

Cardiac therapy helps, it does not guarantee.  But, after two and a half months of going three days a week, for forty-five minutes each session, there is really no excuse to say you have no time.  That has been the schedule for two and a half months.  And it has been done with the same time and schedule.  Instead of looking at our newly returned forty-five minutes to our day, we need to keep that forty-five minutes committed to continuing on our own.  As many try to start an exercise program, too many give up just weeks into the program.  A cardiac therapy program helps you to establish a firm routine.

There you have it.  My explanation of why you not only need cardiac rehab, but should want it as well.  It is to your benefit and your family will thank you for it.


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