Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

But It Can Help

If there is one thing that drives me bonkers as a health advocate who believes in universal health care for all, it is knowing the benefits of certain welfare decisions in recovery from procedures, especially when involving the heart.

Think about it, you have surgery to your heart. I purposely did not use the word major, because any surgery to the heart is major, and traumatic. Yet, when it comes to the aftercare, a patient will fall into one of two categories, and there really should be only one. Should a patient undergo cardiac rehab after a heart surgery? Does a patient really need cardiac rehab?

It really should not be that hard. The answer to both questions should be “yes.” And yet, many patients get told they do not need cardiac rehab, or will not benefit from cardiac rehab. An almost automatic pass on cardiac rehab will come based on “youthfulness.” Having gone through cardiac rehab three times (yes, I have had three heart surgeries, qualifying for cardiac rehab each time), I can confirm with 100% certainty, I did not fit in with the demographic of other participants, averaging the age of 70 to 75 years old.

I was definitely told “no” following my open heart surgery back in 2008. And it was clearly laid on my youthful age of 42. I did what I do best, and advocated for myself, and was able to participate in cardiac rehab. My other periods of rehab following my other two heart surgeries were approved easily.

Here is why cardiac rehab is so important. First, you need to understand, any procedure to your heart, whether bypass, stent, valve replacement, or even transplant, is TRAUMATIC! While the issue may have been repaired, the heart is still fragile as a patient recovers. A patient should not expect or attempt to just return to normal activities, especially when it comes to working out. But if you are young, chances are pretty good, that will be the only reason you are not referred to cardiac rehab.

In cardiac rehab, the patient is connected to a heart monitor, where a nurse follows your heart and vitals on a screen while you work out on several pieces of equipment over a time period. A trainer, supervises you and creates a beginning work out plan, and over time, and depending on the results on the monitor, increases your efforts to help you restore physical fitness. And a nurse also walks around, at least once during the session, taking your blood pressure to relay back to the nurse behind the monitor screen. At least my last two rounds of cardiac rehab, I have had three people not only making sure that I recovered at a safe and healthy pace, but that my body was accepting the efforts as well. I have personally witnessed a patient being told to stop, because something on the monitor indicated something was wrong with him. And he was taken to the hospital. You do not get this kind of care, if you are left to your own efforts. And if you push too hard too fast, the end result could be tragic.

As far as I am concerned, there is only one reason not to do cardiac rehab. As it is expensive, of course, insurance is definitely helpful to be able to afford it. But then, this is where I believe in universal medical care for all. Everyone should have this critical recovery option available.

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