Most of my readers are aware that I recently had open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. That was five months and one day ago on June 2nd. Yesterday morning was the final session of a 12 week, 36 session cardiac-rehab program at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, in Fairfax, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. I will miss the “small band of professionals” who have done such a great job of watching over me and nagging me and cajoling me and having fun with me. They are truly a professional bunch who seem to genuinely like each other, like their jobs, work well together and have fun with their charges, as well as closely monitor those charges through a program of rehabilitation from the many different varieties of heart surgery. I am writing this blog post in praise of, and appreciation for, this professional and highly skilled group.
I would like to name each person individually, but they are truly a team, working together as one, to make sure that those of us who participated in the program progressed smoothly and safely.
I was fortunate that I went into the surgery in good physical condition. I exercised regularly and ate healthfully. When I was tested before the surgery, my arteries were clear, but my aortic valve was in the final stages of closing and the surgery was necessary. It was not a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, but the end effect of what started as a heart murmur as a child. Not everyone with a heart murmur will need surgery, but I was surprised at the number of people I met who had valve problems rather than arterial blockages.
There were ten people in each class meeting three times a week for 12 weeks. My 12 weeks were interrupted a few times by trips and visits to friends up and down the east coast, but I managed to complete all 36 sessions in a timely manner.
We were checked in each morning, one by one, and each of us picked up, and hooked up, a heart monitor which we attached to our bodies with wires and fasteners. These monitors were mini-transmitters that sent our heart rate data to a separate monitor which was always attended by a nurse.
We started the program with a series of cardio exercises using equipment including treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and Concept II Rowing Machines. Each patient worked up to 45 minutes of progressive cardio exercises, followed by an additional period of walking laps around the room and cool down stretches. Some of the patients did strength building exercises with weights later in their program. Since I did my weight exercises at home or at the gym on the other four days, I spent all my time on the cardio machines. The main point is that most of us were doing things we simply would not have done on their own without the Cardiac-Rehab program. That includes me. I would have exercised but I would not have done the cardio exercises which turned out to be the most important recovery exercises of all.
I won’t mention individual names other than to give a shout out to Diana B, who took the extra time and effort to help me prod my doctor, and got him to release me into the program when we were up against a time deadline. Thank you Diana.
And I can’t thank the entire group of professionals enough for the competence and compassion they all displayed, as well as the professional way they each handled their responsibilities. This was not a game to them although there were a lot of “one-liners” and bantering that made the entire experience fun. In fact, they won’t release a patient from their day’s session until their heart rate was down to a specific reading. We had to sit in “detention” until it did. I spent a lot of time in detention and the nurses and physical therapists made it fun to have to stay after school, bantering one-liners right back at me like tennis pros. I will miss them all.
I must mention, too, that they have an excellent intern program as part of the overall staffing. I truly enjoyed the bantering with the sassy young intern who spent time working with me and absorbing my one-liners and my general troublemaking. She’s a keeper, but unfortunately, she’ll be moving on after her internship.
If you are ever in a similar situation where you have major surgery, wherever you are located, I strongly recommend you take advantage of all the recovery services that are available to you. They are there for a reason, and speaking only for my personal experience at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, they do a magnificent service.
My thanks to all of you at the Cardiac Rehab Center. You are a major reason why I feel so good now and have recovered so quickly. As we used to say in the Marine Corps, “WELL DONE!”
Thank you for reading.