A Healthy Surprise

At age 70, Bill Hume feels better than ever.

He’s dropped 20 pounds over the past eight months. His back hurts less than it has in years. He’s out running his mower to bag up leaves, cleaning the house and keeping up with everything on his schedule.

Bill says his life changed because of the work he did to come back from a heart attack. Sanford cardiac rehabilitation services have not only helped him make his heart stronger, but have improved every area of his health. And he did it all without having to leave town.

“I never thought I’d be doing this kind of thing, but I feel so good I don’t intend to quit,” says Bill, taking a break before an afternoon of trying to keep up with the cottonwood tree leaves that blanket his yard. “I’m still there and that’s not going to stop anytime soon.”

Slowing down

For more than 10 years, problems with degenerative disc disease in his back have limited what Bill could do. He used to put in 12 to 14-hour, physically taxing days working for a cigarette and candy wholesale supply company.

When his back forced him into a disability retirement at age 62, he tried to stay active, walking every day, but he knew that he had gained a few pounds. He expected to always have to deal with chronic back pain, a constant ache that would get worse when he didn’t move around enough.

In December 2011, he was taking his usual morning stroll at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls when he could tell something was off. Normally he did three miles, 18 circles around the arena floor.

He had “one heck of a cold” that morning, but he felt even worse than just a runny nose or cough. There was pressure in his lungs with every breath. After two circles around on the floor he went home.

“I was so tired I could barely lift my feet,” says Bill. “I just couldn’t do any more.”

A heart in distress

A visit to the urgent care clinic at Sanford Thief River Falls Clinic soon led Bill to the Emergency Center, where doctors said a blood test showed signs that he had been suffering a myocardial infarction, an episode where the blood flow to his heart was blocked. Soon Bill was in an air ambulance to the Sanford Heart Hospital in Fargo.

“It was pretty scary, but it turned out I had a mild heart attack,” says Bill. “If you’re going to have a heart attack, it’s a good kind to have.”

After five days of diagnostic tests and treatment, Bill got to go home. His cardiologist suggested that he start outpatient cardiac rehab right away. He was a little worried about his back, but the exercise physiologist explained that he would gradually work into customized exercises that could be adjusted to fit his needs.

Throughout the process, his heart would be monitored and he would have plenty of help from trained exercise physiologist who would consult with his cardiologist to coordinate his care. Since the therapy would be right in his hometown, he could easily make it to every appointment, he said.

“If my back started hurting, I could cut back or a take a little longer,” Bill says. “What I wasn’t expecting that the back pain would get better.”

Over the course of his rehabilitation, Bill not only found his heart getting stronger with his increased exercise level, but his chronic back pain improved. He was able to go from four or five pain pills a day to just half a tablet.

Choosing a better path

“There are so many people like Bill who come out of the hospital and are given an option to recover and to take a more healthy path toward life,” says Jordan Koland, exercise physiology lead at the Sanford cardiac rehabilitation program in Thief River Falls. “Exercise, in general, helps you increase your strength and endurance.”

Bill said he likely wouldn’t have gotten involved with a cardiac rehab program if he had to drive out of town to do it. But once he got started, he noticed his program of cardiovascular exercise and strength building was helping him drop weight, build muscles and feel better and stronger every day.

When he got done with his outpatient rehabilitation program, he signed up for “phase three,” a follow-up program that brings him back to the cardiac rehab center to work out three times a week. He also still walks regularly, making sure to get in exercise on the days he doesn’t go to the center.

“I really enjoy it now,” says Bill, with a laugh. “What I needed before was something to drive my butt out of the house. Now I’m wanting to lose another 20 pounds.”

His exercise physiologist says that it’s important for patients like Bill to have easy access to care that improves their recovery from a heart attack. Cardiac rehabilitation seriously reduces the risk of future heart problems and pays dividends in daily life.

“It is a great accomplishment for every patient to improve their cardiovascular health and feel better again” says Koland. “We’re helping them do what they need to do to get back to what they enjoy doing. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Posted Date: September 2012

A Healthy Surprise

After a mild heart attack, Bill Hume decided that his doctor’s suggestion of cardiovascular rehabilitation made sense. He never expected that his customized workouts with exercise physiologist close to his home in Thief River Falls would make him feel better in every way.