Bob Stephens thought he knew what he was in for when he began the Preventive Cardiology Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Domino’s Farms, part of the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center. After all, he was no stranger to rehab, having suffered a heart attack years before the stroke he endured in 2012. But the 69-year-old grandfather of five found a completely different kind of rehab facility when he became involved with the U-M program.
“It was a wonderful experience,” he says, noting that his prior rehab facility didn’t come close to the University of Michigan’s program. “The staff at U-M really cared about me — about my well-being. The equipment was taken care of and I was monitored all the time when using it. I can’t give the program a high enough rating,” Bob says.
Cardiac rehab team helps patients make lifestyle changes
The cardiac rehab team, which consists of nurses, exercise physiologists, dietitians, a social worker and medical director, helped Bob realize that he could make the lifestyle changes he needed to regain his health.
The 6- to12-week program teaches patients how to exercise at the proper intensity and duration for their age and fitness level. Patients also learn how to eat in a heart-healthy way, with weekly guidance from U-M dietitians. Each person’s treatment is based upon his/her individual cardiac risk factor profile. Education is aimed at helping patients improve their lifestyle to change those risk factors. Perhaps most important, they learn that others have been through similar experiences. The cardiac rehabilitation team supports patients through all phases of recovery.
Friendships made in rehab an added bonus
For Bob, the friendships he made during rehab were an added bonus. “Three of us really connected. We looked out for one another and supported one another,” he says. The trio also helped support and motivate newcomers to rehab.
According to Theresa Gracik, director of the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, the cardiac rehabilitation Patient and Family-Centered Care (PFCC) group meets monthly to devise ways to help cardiac patients understand the psychological stressors that can often arise after a heart problem. “One of the focus areas is to establish a strong social support system for others in the program,” says Gracik. “Patients are introduced during orientation, welcomed by past participants and encouraged to talk about their experiences with others they meet in the program.”
By far, Bob says he’ll remember the wonderful people he met during his two months in rehab. He goes back for periodic visits to say hello to the staff and anyone else he might recognize from the program. “I learned a lot and have incorporated the majority of what I learned into my lifestyle.”
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on UofMHealth.org.