National Cardiac Rehab Week is February 13-19: Cardiac Rehabilitation at VMH

Cardiac Rehab at VMH: Then and now ... February 13-19 is National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. Veterans Memorial Hospital began its own Cardiac Rehabilitation program over three decades ago to help fulfill a need in the community - a need that has been and continues to be well utilized. Pictured above is the original Cardiac Rehab unit in the early 1990s. The current unit is pictured below, along with cardiac rehab nurses Amy Rolfs, RN, at left, and Diann Weymiller, RN, at right, with current cardiac rehabilitation patient Dave Bell of Waukon, seated on the center’s NuStep machine. This Cardiac Rehabilitation program is essential for the fullest recovery of a victim of a heart disorder and continues to be well utilized. Submitted photo.

Veterans Memorial Hospital began its own Cardiac Rehabilitation unit over three decades ago to help fulfill a need in the community. Jane Butler of Waukon, who had originally retired from nursing at Veterans Memorial Hospital in 1988, was asked if she would return just a year later to help begin the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program along with fellow nurse, Traci Heidelbauer McGraw.

“It took us over a year to get the service off the ground with Medicare requirements and our training,” adds Jane.  “We took out a wall between two patient rooms on the third floor and made that our cardiac rehab department.  Our first patient was DuWayne Dietrich, Jane’s husband. Dr. Withers was our Chief of Staff. We had some stair steps and a tread mill, so it was pretty antique compared to what they do now, but it was a start.”

The unit was moved into the Rehabilitation Department during the hospital expansion on 2000 and continues to fill a huge need in the community.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Half a million people die each year due to this disease. Many people develop symptoms of heart disease when they are in their 40s or 50s, interrupting a most productive time of life. Cardiac Rehabilitation is an important tool in the fight against heart disease. Rehabilitation involves monitored exercise, nutritional counseling, emotional support and education about lifestyle changes to reduce risks of heart problems.

Cardiac Rehabilitation is designed to help patients improve their health and recover from a heart attack, surgery to treat heart disease or to help manage other forms of heart disease. Patients are referred to Cardiac Rehabilitation by their physician following one of these events. The goal of Cardiac Rehabilitation is to develop an individualized plan for regaining strength, managing heart conditions, reducing risk of future health problems and improving overall health and quality of life. Cardiac Rehabilitation is designed for outpatients who travel to the hospital three times per week for a one-hour session of supervised, monitored exercise and education sessions.

Veterans Memorial Hospital continues to see patients through this pandemic with COVID-19 precautions in place such as wearing masks, handwashing, sanitizing between patients and having only one patient present in the department at a time. Cardiac Rehabilitation nurses Amy Rolfs, RN and Diann Weymiller, RN oversee individualized cardiac rehabilitation programs for their patients at Veterans Memorial Hospital.

The heart needs to exercise in order to regain strength following the cardiac event, but patients need close supervision due to the heart’s delicate condition. In Cardiac Rehabilitation, the patient’s heart is continually monitored by a telemetry unit that traces the heart’s activity. The nurses supervise each session documenting all activity, checking blood pressures, measuring improvement and patient’s response to activity.

A Cardiac Rehabilitation program is essential for the fullest recovery of a victim of a heart disorder. Again this year, many new patients were referred to the Veterans Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation program. VMH averages over 40 new patients each year. These patients come from Allamakee, Clayton, Winneshiek and Fayette counties, and sometimes even further. Without this local Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Veterans Memorial Hospital, many heart patients would need to travel a great distance, three times per week, to attend another program, or go without proper rehabilitation.

Each Cardiac Rehabilitation session lasts approximately one hour and consists of a five-minute warm-up, 30 minutes of aerobic activity, strength training, and a five-minute cool down. Each patient also receives education on stress reduction, nutrition, medications and exercise during each session.

The Cardiac Rehabilitation unit at Veterans Memorial Hospital is fully equipped with a computerized treadmill, weighted pulleys, steps and a NuStep machine. For more information on the Veterans Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation department, call Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.