Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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February 11, 2014
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Alta Sierra resident credits Cardiac Rehab for adding years to his life

A year ago, even going down the driveway of his Alta Sierra home to get the newspaper was hard for Jack Carmody.

“I’d have to sit down for half an hour to catch my breath and wait for the pain in my chest to go away,” he said.

Now he attends Qi Gong classes four times a week, is learning Tai Chi, and plays nine holes of golf with his “old geezer” buddies. Oh, and his chronic back pain is gone.

What made the difference?

First it was placement of a stent in a coronary artery that turned out to be more than 95 percent blocked. Then it was 36 visits to the cardiac rehab program at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. Now it’s the classes at the South Yuba Club.

Carmody is 80, but claims to feel 55 “and a new man.”

As such, he will be an enthusiastic celebrant of National Cardiac Rehab Week, which runs from Feb. 10-14, as part of the February observance of National Heart Month.

Katy Ellis, registered clinical exercise physiologist and coordinator of cardiac rehab at Sierra Nevada Memorial, would love it if more people joined the celebration.

“Cardiac rehab can stabilize, slow, or stop the progression of coronary artery disease,” she said. “It promotes wellness by optimizing physical, psychological, and social functioning, reducing future cardiac events.”

Though it has proven success, Ellis is concerned that more cardiac patients do not sign up for the program.

“Analysis of Medicare records has shown a 35 percent reduction in mortality among people who attend cardiac rehab, compared to those who don’t,” she said. “Despite the clear benefits for eligible patients, only 14 to 35 percent of heart attack survivors participate in cardiac rehab.”

Carmody attributes the professional staff at the cardiac rehab program at Sierra Nevada Memorial with changing his whole attitude about exercise, along with convincing him to change his dietary habits.

“The ladies there are really something,” he said. “They changed exercise from a word that was unacceptable in my vocabulary to being acceptable. It’s work, but they took the work and made it just short of fun. It was because of them that I feel as good as I do.”

His rehab experience and new attitude about exercise also launched him into Qi Gong, which he described as “basic stretching and movement within your capabilities.” He goes to four classes a week, between the two campuses of the South Yuba Club.

Amazingly, he’s found that the back pain, which plagued him for years and required shots every three months, seems to have disappeared. That is especially important because he is on a blood-thinning medication following his stent procedure which does not allow him to receive the shots.

“Wow!” he said. “If I’d have just learned about this 25 years ago.”

Now Carmody has enrolled in a weekly Tai Chi class, which he admits is a challenge.

“As I’m learning it, I feel like an octopus getting all tangled up in itself,” he said.

The hospital program includes an educational component along with monitored exercise. Patients and their families are invited to weekly lectures on topics that include exercise and activity, strength training, stress management, nutrition and heart disease.

“We offer a comprehensive approach to help patients achieve an active, healthy lifestyle and optimize their cardiac health,” Ellis explained. “Eligible people attend supervised exercise classes that are prescribed individually based on each person’s health status and goals.”

A medical director, registered dietitian, registered nurses, and a team of exercise physiologists and physical therapy assistants supervise the program. Since 2009, it has been nationally certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. It averages 15,000 patient visits annually, making it one of the largest cardiac rehab programs in the Dignity Health system.

Physicians may refer patients to cardiac rehabilitation, or individuals who have experienced heart related incidents may inquire about the services by contacting 530-274-6103.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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The Union Updated Feb 11, 2014 11:00AM Published Feb 11, 2014 12:08PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.