After a heart attack: Cardiac rehab helps patients bounce back for a brighter future

February 8, 2019

Bob Franz coached Little League and enjoyed following Jeffersonville and Providence high school sports. A former football player at Jeff, he worked 42 years at the Courier Journal and tried to stay in pretty good shape. He was shocked when he had a heart attack in 2007.

After having two stents placed into his arteries, Bob not only recovered but built upon his strength through the cardiac rehabilitation program at Clark Memorial Hospital. This program helps patients who’ve had a cardiac event to strengthen their hearts and reduce the risk of future problems through safe exercise, lifestyle changes and education.

Now 81, Bob has worked out in the cardiac rehab center at Clark three times a week for the past 11 years.

“I feel very comfortable here,” he says. “Having the nurses check your blood pressure and watch out for you on the heart monitor – I’m glad to feel safe.”

Nurses and certified fitness trainers April Hulsey and Jane Voyles have run the cardiac rehab center together for the last five years, and they both agree that getting to know the patients is the best part of their jobs.

“We know them on a personal level, and they know a lot about us, and it’s like a big family,” April says.

“A lot of our patients have been here several years and stay with us after their initial cardiac rehab program,” Jane adds. “[After a cardiac event,] insurance typically covers the first three months, and then patients can continue on with us, like Bob, for as long as they want.”

In addition to monitoring patients and guiding them through using the exercise machines and weights in the cardiac rehab center, Jane and April work to educate patients on healthy lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and lowering the risk factors of high blood pressure or cholesterol. Patients can also receive guidance from a dietician and diabetic educator on staff.

The Mended Hearts support group is another part of the cardiac rehab program that was especially helpful to Bob in his recovery. This group for heart patients or caregivers meets the fourth Monday of every other month.

“The most rewarding thing to me was not just physical, but talking to other people that had had the same thing,” Bob says. “I know when I came the first few weeks, every time I felt anything at all, I’d think, ‘Am I going to have another one?’ You start imagining everything is another heart attack. But hearing other people talk about it eases your mind a lot.”

Bob now volunteers with Mended Hearts and visits others who have had cardiac problems, complementing April and Jane’s work of educating people on the benefits of continued care for their hearts.

“Cardiac rehab helps lower future risk of early death from heart disease,” Jane says. “It increases life, quality of life, mobility. There’s no reason not to choose a cardiac rehab program.”

Staying Heart Healthy IN Your Hometown: Learn more about Clark Memorial's Cardiac Rehab Center, or learn about the next  Mended Hearts support group meeting on Feb. 25.