It is Cardiac Rehabilitation Week.
I am not always one to remember special calendar dates besides Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, and Anniversaries. Though what is deemed as heart week (Feb. 11-17), always has a special place in my heart (literally).
Being someone who was born with a congenital heart problem and continues to wrestle with various heart issues, being aware of what it takes to have a healthy heart, is something I don’t take lightly. Realizing that how I live my life, does make a difference. A heart difference.
At rehab when they said it was cardiac rehab week, I couldn’t help but think back to where I started. Ironically too, I am halfway through my rehab regimen. I had visit 15 this past Friday and I have 15 more to go.
I was completely clueless when it came to rehab. I didn’t have a CLUE what it was about. So, if you are wondering what I have been busy doing, here’s a glimpse:
Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I drive to a local hospital (about 15-20 minutes away), and walk into the cardiac rehab center, at 8:45 a.m. We all greet our fellow “classmates,” as we take a seat and wait for our blood pressures to be taken and our heart rates monitored. For the first 6 or 12 visits, an ECG machine is attached to you, to monitor your heart beats. I had to have the full 12, due to fact that I was “high risk.” We then have a 5 minute class time, to discuss anything related to heart health – managing stress, nutrition, exercise, you name it.
Then it’s go time.
We do some stretches, then head to our first machine for exercise, starting off with a warm-up. I currently am doing the treadmill and I am happy to say I am up to a 2.0 grade at 3.4 speed. Realizing that I started out at a zero grade at 2.5, I am so pleased with the progress I have made. That first session is about 20 minutes, then we head over and do weights for about 5 minutes. I started out at 2 lbs. and have worked my way up to 4 lbs., which again, I am so pleased with. Now it’s time for our last exercise session, where I currently do the Airdyne bike. Started out at a 0.8 level and have worked up to a 1.5. We do this for about 14 minutes and then stretch.
By this time, it’s about 9:45. During each exercise session, our heart rate is monitored, while trying to stay within our target heart, which takes into effect our age, medications we are on, etc. Our blood pressure is also taken, to ensure our hearts are reacting to the exercise. After we are done with our stretches, we head back to our seats and let our heart rate go back down, where we have our blood pressure taken one more time. End of class and water time!
I used to not be much of a numbers person, but now having to live by numbers with regards to my heart and now at rehab too, realizing that I have increases in my ability to exercise, is encouraging beyond words.
I remember when I used to struggle to lift soup cans above my head. I used to not be able to lift my arms up at a 90 degree angle. Let alone above my head. I used to not be able to walk half a block and even walk for that matter. Now I can walk for 20 minutes straight at a pace I am very comfortable with. I get winded and sweat, but I can’t believe I can do what I can. I honestly thought the day would never come.
And I say that because I do not want to ever take for granted, the things I can do. I know what it is like to not be able to do something and now being able to, thanks to God’s healing hands, rehab, and the incredible support I have, I feel I am in my own Olympics.
Anytime I am walking or riding the bike at rehab, I tell myself “this is my Olympics.” I am striving to get better and be as strong as I can be, within the parameters of what’s healthy for my heart, so that I can be the best I can be.
I look at my classmates and am thankful we can walk alongside each other during a difficult time in our lives. I am the youngest by a long shot, but we are all on level ground at rehab. We all wished to some extent that our lives didn’t have to consist of this, but we know it’s for the better. Hearing other’s stories, makes me realize we are all blessed to just be alive. Each of our situations severe enough, to cause us to need this.
And the nurses and exercise science specialists, are incredible. I look forward to seeing them 3x a week because their cheerfulness and encouragement is what each of us needs. We become family that will one day go in our separate directions, but for us patients, they become a vital turning point in our lives.
Whether you know someone who struggles with heart issues or have even lost someone due to heart complications or a heart attack, this week should be something we should all consider. How we live our lives, directly effects our hearts. Trust me, I never imagined heart issues being a part of my life, until it happened. But when it did happen, it opened up a whole new world to me.
I will never be an Olympic athlete (though after watching the Dutch dominate speed skating, I realize I think I missed my calling…). Though I am a girl of moderation – everything in moderation. But when it comes to my heart, I can’t help but take special notice to how I live my life and how the choices I make daily, can make a lifelong difference!