Rehab Becomes Regime

Program Helps Patient Put His Heart into Workout

The exercise program helped George Mary build his strength and recover from surgery in a safe, monitored environment.

George Mary entered NorthBay Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program following heart surgery. That was nine years ago, and he’s never left. Today he’s fitter than ever.

For George, cardiac rehab helped him return to a fitness regime that had stalled when he developed asthma at age 50. “I was a runner for 20 years, but I had to stop because I couldn’t breathe,” explains the 78-year-old retired Air Force dentist from Fairfield. As his lifestyle slowed down, so did his interest in health and fitness. It took a heart attack at age 69 to convince him that he needed to make some lifestyle changes.

NorthBay Medical Center didn’t have its Heart & Vascular Center when George needed it, so he was sent to a hospital outside Solano County for a quadruple bypass. Following his surgery, he came to NorthBay Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation department. The 12-week exercise program helped him build his strength and recover from surgery in a safe, monitored environment.

“Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program that helps improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems,” says Debbie Gordon, who has been manager of the cardiac rehabilitation program for more than 20 years. Each patient receives an individualized exercise routine that is carefully monitored by a cardiac rehab nurse.

In addition to building his strength and confidence, George has learned to control his asthma. “Exercise helps my lungs, because I’ve learned how to breathe,” he says.

And, after completing the initial program in 2002, he decided to stay. “Without this program, I would be in bad shape, because I wouldn’t do these exercises alone,” he adds.

He says the program has psychological benefits as well. “You’re surrounded by others who know what you’ve been through,” he explains. “We give each other a lot of support and encouragement.”

George has now developed a mitral valve problem that his cardiologist is keeping an eye on. While his condition is stable, it’s another reason to keep exercising.

“If my condition changes and I need to have the valve repaired, I want to be in the best condition I can be,” he says. “And now the NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center will have everything I need.

“I kid the nurses that there’s a high price for admission to this program,” he chuckles. “You have to have a heart attack to get in!”

George attends cardiac rehab three days a week. On the other days, he walks at the mall.

“Now I’m in much better condition than before the heart attack,” he adds. “I have no intention of stopping this program, ever!”

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