Finding the Calm

SRobert-bike-therapistixty-year-old Robert Spell was visiting a friend at a nursing home when he started feeling ill. Robert said, “I felt a little nausea at first so I sat down. I asked my friend’s nurse if I could lay down. I felt like if I could just rest then I’d feel ok. But as soon as I lay down, I realized I wasn’t feeling any better. I got up and my arms started feeling heavy. I told one of the nurses to call 911. The response was quick since I was at a nursing home.” By the time the ambulance arrived, Robert felt classic heart attack symptoms. He said, “The EMS team worked on me all the way to the hospital. On a pain scale from one to 10, 10 being the worst pain, I was a nine.” Robert’s comfort improved after taking two aspirin in the ambulance.

At University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Robert’s cardiologist put a stent in his artery and referred him to the Daniel Drake Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at UC Health, West Chester. Robert said he received a lot of education in the cardiac rehab program, “I learned about heart disease, blood pressure, and limiting sodium, processed foods and caffeine. I also quit smoking and learned how to ease my stress level (I think that had a lot to do with). Looking back, I can see a number of things that contributed to the heart attack, but the stress of losing my mother suddenly not long before really did it.”

One of the key take-aways for Robert’s rehab program was that while stress is a normal part of everyday life, if left unmanaged, it can cause heart problerobert-treadmillms. He explained, “I think people know the natural things to do to prevent heart problems like eating healthy and exercising. But what’s equally important is to not allow yourself to get too stressed! Stress is something you can’t see—unlike a greasy burger and fries or cigarettes and alcohol. Stress is a silent killer. To calm myself, I now take a minute aside and count to 10.”

Robert says he goes about his day differently now than he did prior to his heart attack and rehabilitation. He said, “For starters, at the beginning of the day, I re-thank the Lord for letting me see another day! God didn’t have to let me live through this but He did, which has given me an overall better appreciation for life itself. In the past, I would have planned to work until age 65 just so I could put more pennies in my 401k. Today, I figure if I don’t get to it…so what?! It’s not what’s important. What’s more important is that I’m alive and I have all that I need.”

Robert gives the rehab program an excellent rating. He said, “They have excellent facilitators from the exercise physiologist, Dana Ruth, on down the line, everyone is pleasant. From the minute I walk in the door, even those who don’t work directly with me, the quality of the staff is A+. I would recommend it to anyone.”

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