“Gradually, though, I felt myself slowing down,” remembers Mr. Abraham, now 64. “I would cut the hedges, then take a nap.” He needed to have a damaged heart valve replaced. After the 2009 surgery, sore and shaky, he tried to ease back into exercise. But even five-minute walks exhausted him.
Now this grandfather of five feels like he could run a marathon. “Cardiac rehab gave me back my life,” Mr. Abraham says. “They do amazing work and motivate everyone — workers and whiners.”
“We motivate people beyond the fear and cautiousness that otherwise would make them sicker and more debilitated,” explains Mr. Ledyard. “Nearly all our patients will tell us how much better they feel and how much more they can do. But the biggest difference cardiac rehab makes is how long these patients live.”
A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that researchers, after tracking more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries over five years, found that those who used cardiac rehab lived longer than those who did not, regardless of their coronary diagnosis, gender, race, or socioeconomic background. Mortality rates were 21 percent to 34 percent lower for those using cardiac rehab, literally doubling the life-extending benefit they received from medical and surgical interventions such as stent implants or coronary bypass.
“If you’re lucky enough to get a second chance after a cardiac event, you need to make changes like starting a carefully monitored exercise program,” states veteran cardiologist James D. O’Toole, MD. “Many patients are so frightened after a cardiac event that they’re afraid to do anything. Cardiac rehab is critical to getting patients back on their feet and reassuring them that they can make a complete recovery.”
Now under way at the center are renovations, enhanced programs, and a new name: the Lawrence N. Adler, MD Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, in honor of its founder. Generous gifts to the Shadyside Hospital Foundation from Dr. Adler and the Hearst Foundation are helping to make these improvements possible, as are gifts from grateful patients.
One example is the Judge Nathan Schwartz and Louis “Pete” Schwartz Endowment for Cardio-pulmonary Rehabilitation. It was started by the Schwartz family in 2002 to provide financial assistance to patients, and the family continues to support this fund at the Shadyside Hospital Foundation.
As Nathan Schwartz, Jr. comments, “It used to be that when people had a heart problem, they were told to take it easy. But when my father and his brother needed state-of-the-art medical care, including cardiac rehab, they were able to avail themselves of this care at Shadyside. They were convinced that the care they received prolonged their lives. The goal of our program is to provide the same opportunities for those who might otherwise not be able to attend. It comes from our family’s heart.”
Stan Savran credits the Cardiopulmonary Rehab staff alongside his doctors with saving his life. In 2011, when he was “roasted” at the Jim Krenn and Friends Annual WDVE Celebrity Roast, he directed proceeds to the center to provide scholarships for uninsured patients or those who cannot afford to pay for rehab.
Gifts like these will ensure that more and more people have the chance to extend their lives and health through this Center’s very special services.