As more people are surviving heart attacks but are being left with a weakened heart, heart failure is the only major cardiovascular disorder on the rise.
Walking to the mailbox left Charles Grojean breathless. “It just got worse,” recalls the Kelso, Mo., man, who suffers from congestive heart failure. In such cases, blood returns to the heart faster than it can be pumped out so it ends up backed up or congested. “That can lead to fluid buildup in your lungs and around your heart,” Charles explains.
Help From a Pacemaker
Prompted by Charles’ worsening condition, cardiologist David A. Law, MD, of Cardiovascular Consultants placed a combination pacemaker/ defibrillator in his chest on April 22 at Southeast Hospital to regulate his heart rate. Charles was discharged from the Hospital the next day.
Dr. Law says Charles had been taking medicine for his chronic condition. “He had done well on medicine for a long time, but now medicine alone wasn’t doing the job,” Dr. Law explains.
Dr. Law says in Charles’ case he elected to use a special pacemaker/defibrillator that regulates both the right and left ventricles of the heart. “His health rapidly turned around,” Dr. Law notes.
In May, Charles began outpatient cardiac rehab on the Southeast Hospital campus. He completed rehab in August, but has elected to continue working with SoutheastHEALTH Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
“I go three days a week, usually in the morning,” he notes. He exercises on four different machines and lifts some light weights.
On the days he doesn’t exercise at Cardiac Rehab, he works out at home. “I walk a mile in the morning and usually ride my exercise bike in the afternoon,” he explains.
Charles, who retired after a 35-year-career with the Army Corps of Engineers, says the cardiac exercises have made a difference. “I think my heart is stronger now.”
Laura Sheridan, MS, an exercise physiologist at Cardiac Rehab, says Charles has “greatly improved his cardiovascular endurance and has been able to return to an active lifestyle.”
She notes, “He is now in good control of his heart failure symptoms by watching his diet, taking medications as prescribed and continuing with his exercises.”
More than Exercise
Sheridan adds that cardiac rehab involves more than physical exercise. “We educate patients on disease management, nutrition, medication and lifestyle modifications.”
Charles says the Cardiac Rehab staff made him feel at ease right from the start. “In the beginning, I would have been scared to death to walk on my own,” he says, explaining that he feared he would overtax his heart.
The Rehab staff, Charles says, works well with the patients, monitoring their heart rates and keeping a close eye on their health. “I think they are fantastic,” he adds.
Dr. Law says cardiac rehab improves the health of heart patients by strengthening their hearts. “People feel better and live longer,” he explains.
Dr. Law says the pacemaker/defibrillator is “an add-on therapy to medicine and exercise. Together, they have made a marked improvement in Charles’ quality of life,” Dr. Law notes.
The defibrillator part of the device is more of a precaution in case Charles would go into cardiac arrest, Dr. Law says. “Two-thirds of the people who have defibrillators never get shocked.”
Charles praises the care provided by his cardiologist. “I am really impressed with him,” he notes. “I have been his patient for years and years. I just feel comfortable dealing with him.”
Charles says he’s glad to be feeling better. At his home, he literally has plenty of “time” on his hands. He has a collection of more than 150 watches and clocks. Many of them are military timepieces, including precision navigation clocks – housed in their original wooden cases – used by the U.S. Navy during World Wars I and II. A number of antique pendulum clocks decorate the walls of his home.
These days, Charles strolls to his mailbox and his nearby workshop. “I wish I would have started cardiac rehab sooner,” he says with a smile. “It builds up your heart.”