Today we went to my husband's first Cardiac Rehab appointment. We were greeted by a really nice receptionist who had us fill out a lot of paper work on medications, personal and family medical history, feelings, stress levels, pain levels, just tons of stuff.
Then we were introduced to an angel of a nurse, Carol, a very classy and professional nurse who listened very well, and answered every question both my husband and I had without trying to make us feel like we are a waste of time.
Somebody somewhere must have done a lot of research on healing rates for heart patients that are treated with kindness and respect, because that is the only type of treatment we have gotten from the Iowa Heart organization. Somewhere someone learned that judgement, harsh words, cristicism, and apathy do not contribute to the healing process, and of course, we have gotten none of the negative treatment in any of our reactions with the Mercy Iowa Heart staff.
After talking to Carol awhile about my husband's stress and pain levels, she took us for a tour of cardiac rehab, showing where free classes are held, where to hang our coats, where the drinking fountain and restrooms are. Then she showed my husband how to put on a heart monitor, which he will do for a heart rebuilding exercise program in which he will be participating in the next few weeks.
His rehab consists of walking on a treadmill weekly for 30 minutes while the nurse monitors his heart on a computer screen and blood pressure, which she goes over to take every few minutes while he's working on the treadmill.
Spouses are aloud to come and are encouraged to come if they want. I love the welcome feeling they give to the caregivers.
I developed a tear in my eye as I realized that there were four men who looked to be under 55 years of age in the program, and one that was clearly in his 30's, working out on the treadmills. I wanted to know each of their stories, how their wives and kids were doing, how things were going for them at work, what their prognoses were. The human factor and the potential stories we might hear of someday brought a human and empathetic element to me. I felt, for the first time in three weeks, that I was in a safe place, where there were others to carry some of my burden as a caregiver, and even though this is going to cost us some money, the human touch, and the support was a brief and healing break for me. I am very glad they offer this program. I only wish that they could direct me to some more spousal support like a group or training class of some sort to attend. Like I would like to know, is it common to have sympathy pains for your spouse, because every twinge in my chest and my stomach, or left arm and jaw, makes me feel wigged out, like I'm developing a heart problem myself. I would be nice to talk to someone about that. I did ask Carol my question and she said, yes, it is very common and she suggested I take their stress management class. I'm seriously thinking about it.
My husband wasn't interested in the cardia rehab service at first because he was feeling that he was being told he had to do it and didn't have a choice, but when we got there, the chance he had to receive feedback his pain levels while walking on the treadmill added the value of the service to him. The genuine, and not bossy, but kind focus they gave him, I think was also relieving for him. I am very glad that it did. It causes me to think how much less a program like this was needed if we as communities, families, and church members could be less judgmental, more kind, and more available to lend an ear, although our church family and my mom, who has been through this has been great, I might say. I guess cardiac rehab was just a bit more helpful because of the specialization they have on our problem.
Heart disease is a teacher of reality. Or, should I say reality is a great teacher. When a highly driven person doesn't take time for him/herself, someday the time comes when it becomes a requirement. Cardiac rehab takes the person from where they are and gives them the support and exercise that the heart patient needs to become fully functional again, and it does happen, as I could see with the patients that were able to run on the treadmill. Watching them I was encouraged that my husband will be able to do that again soon.
I need to take that into consideration for myself, how much I should take the time to focus on exercise. I am working on the diet end of things, but I think I would greatly benefit from arranging my time to do some dedicated aerobic activity, and I hope that I will never had to use the services of a cardiac rehab department, but I am glad it's there nonetheless.