The Life-Changing Benefits of Cardiac Rehabilitation: A Nurse's Personal Story

Joanne and Dave
Joanne and Dave Privett

As a cardiac nurse for more than 20 years, I’ve cared for thousands of patients with heart disease. In 2014, I was faced with a new challenge when my own husband had a heart attack.

Coming home from our local hospital, Dave struggled with simple tasks. A flight of 13 stairs to enter our house soared like Kilimanjaro before him; our usual walk along the seashore produced fear and trepidation rather than joy and tranquility. He couldn’t concentrate on anything except how he felt. Every pain or change in breathing made him question if he was having another heart attack. 

At 53 years old, his young life was now focused on pills, side effects, and amounts of sodium or cholesterol in his favorite foods. On the calendar, doctor’s appointments replaced cultural events and weekend getaways. Worst of all, he began to feel useless and burdensome. Of course, he wasn’t a burden—I was so thankful that Dave had survived—as a cardiac nurse I knew the statistics and how blessed we were. I also knew that many patients lose confidence and experience anxiety and depression after such a serious, life-threatening event. 

I began to worry if I would ever get my husband back. I thought about cardiac rehab, and, like a good nurse, began to do some research.

The literature showed that cardiac rehab patients are less likely to get readmitted to the hospital, have a much better quality of life, and even live longer than those who don’t attend cardiac rehab.

I found other advantages like weight loss, lower cholesterol, less risk of depression, and successful stress management. With all these benefits, I was a little surprised that no one had mentioned it to us, but then I read that only one in five candidates are actually referred to cardiac rehab by their doctors.

Two months after his heart attack, Dave began cardiac rehab—more appointments on the calendar, but these soon became something he looked forward to. He found it comforting—a safe place to be, as he knew he was being monitored by experts. Now he had goals to achieve and a course to follow. I was really impressed as he reported all he learned in the education sessions.

Gradually, his despair turned into hope, and eventually his strength returned with renewed confidence. Today, Dave still works out at the gym three days a week, he’s lost weight, improved his diet, and feels he is in the best shape of his adult life. 

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to use my cardiac knowledge in a way that helps people in a positive way and that I strongly believe in. I took a position at South Shore Hospital cardiac rehab—a certified program, and one of the busiest in the greater Boston area. 

We have a great team of exercise therapists, dieticians, nurses, and physicians dedicated to helping patients get their lives back—just as Dave did—after various types of cardiac events. Daily, we help people of every fitness level through the process of achieving cardiac health and reducing the risk of future heart disease. So if you, a family member, or cherished friend have survived a cardiac event, know that you are not alone; the team at South Shore Hospital’s cardiac rehab program is trained to help and provide care with compassion, humor, knowledge, and expertise. 

South Shore Health's Cardiac Rehabilitation program is overseen by a board-certified cardiologist on staff at South Shore Hospital. Cardiac Rehabilitation is either fully or partially covered by many insurance providers. For more information about our life-changing rehabilitation program, and to see if you may be a candidate, please call (781) 624-8824.