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Young shares benefits of cardiac rehab during American Heart Month
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Patient Susan Young, on treadmill, is assisted by cardiac rehab Mike Penn, RN, and Sara Bryant, RN, at St. Rose Medical Pavilion.

Susan Young was apprehensive after she had the arterial valve to her heart replaced last summer. She was apprehensive about the healing process, which would include exercises and new medications.

“I was concerned about my ability to physically meet the criteria for cardiac rehabilitation,” Young said. “My general health was fair, at best.”

Then she met Mike Penn, RN, and Sara Bryant, RN, registered nurses who provide cardiac rehab services at The University of Kansas Health System St. Rose Medical Pavilion. 

Young agreed to share her story in observance of American Heart Month.

“Mike and Sara were very caring and explained the exercise routine,” she recalled. “They modeled use of the treadmill, recumbent bike and NuStep, as well as the stretching regimen.

“They consistently encouraged me,” Young continued. “And as with my tentative students, I responded with an eagerness to meet their criteria and improve my health,” said the long-time Great Bend teacher who now serves on the USD 428 Board of Education.

Young admires the cardiac rehab team’s professionalism based on how they cared for her. Bryant noticed the heart rate monitor showed Young’s heart rate had increased dramatically.

“She quickly and calmly took charge,” said Young, who was taken to the emergency room at The University of Kansas Health System Great Bend Campus. “I was then taken by ambulance to Wichita.

“This was the result of a medicine-dosage problem,” Young said. “But the response to the situation is what I appreciate. I’m so grateful for Sara and Mike.”

Young’s rehab regimen included Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions over a 12-week-period. She completed the sessions in December.

“I miss seeing Mike and Sara but am thankful they instilled in me a desire to continue exercising,” Young said. “I joined the Great Bend Recreation Center and am keeping the three-times-a-week schedule. I look and feel better because cardiac rehab gave me a healthy direction.

“The program gave me more than I expected,” she added. “It was conveniently located on the first floor at the medical pavilion. Skilled and pleasant professionals monitored my heart and took my vitals throughout the sessions. It wasn’t long before I felt more energized and noticed my clothing was looser.”

Bryant noted that it’s not easy for people to change their habits and learn to live a heart-healthy lifestyle. “However,” she said, “Susan was very open-minded and dedicated. She was motivated to take the opportunity to become a healthier and more active person.

“Susan was proactive in her rehabilitation and implementing heart-healthy changes that will last a lifetime.”

James McReynolds, MD, medical director of cardiac rehab at St. Rose Medical Pavilion, said Young’s situation is not unusual. The doctor is also a physician at The University of Kansas Health System Internal Medicine on the second floor of the medical pavilion.

“Most people recognize the benefits of rehab,” Dr. McReynolds said. “Awareness is a big issue because after a surgery or procedure, patients sometimes forget they have been referred to cardiac rehab. They come back with instructions that may get lost in the shuffle.”

Dr. McReynolds strongly encourages people to take advantage of rehab after a cardiac event.

“Even if they don’t feel great while doing rehab, they will feel better afterward,” he said. “It’s good to set goals such as walking a certain distance, or going to the grocery store or church. It’s much easier to reach these goals after rehab.

“In addition,” he continued, “rehab results in a decrease in cardiac-related deaths. The survival rate is much better.”

Cardiac rehab is tailored to each patient because everyone is different, the physician noted. “Patients are evaluated based on what they can and can’t do. We start slowly. This is not like exercising in a class where everyone is doing the same thing.”

Dr. McReynolds praised the cardiac rehab nurses work with patients like Young. “They clearly care about their patients,” he said. “They take care of day-to-day evaluations while providing education about medications, diet and lifestyle. They are quick to bring questions to me. I would trust them with my own family.”

Mike Penn, RN, has worked in St. Rose’s cardiac rehab program for several years. He also served for 30 years as an intensive-care nurse.

Saran Bryant, RN, has 13 years of nursing experience in medical-surgery care, intensive care, geriatrics and pediatrics.