For professionals bent on improving the health of the community, it’s not enough to save someone’s life through angioplasty, bypass surgery, valve repair or stent replacement. Patients need a path back to recovery, and they need to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle that will keep their heart problems from recurring. That is the mission of TMC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
The 5,000 square-foot facility, located at the El Dorado Health Campus, offers state-of-the-art equipment – including treadmills, cross-trainers, recumbent bikes, row and Biodex machines – plus expert supervision and monitoring by a staff dedicated to helping cardiac patients move forward. “We provide a top-notch program from start to finish,” says Mark Gaxiola, supervisor of TMC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. “Our goal is to first make sure the patient is safe. We utilize exercise and education as the primary interventions to improve the functionality of the heart and give the patient the ability to combat heart disease.”
Once authorized by a patient’s physician, cardiac rehabilitation can start in the hospital, as soon as the patient recovers from the acute phase of illness. Staff members educate the patient on coronary-artery disease, risk factors and important lifestyle changes. A prescription for home exercise and activities is also presented to the patient and family members at the bedside.
In the next phase, patients can attend one-hour exercise sessions at the El Dorado facility two or three times a week for up to 18 weeks. Sessions are vigorously monitored for heart rhythms and blood pressure, as the staff continues to tweak and adjust the intensity of each workout. Patients are ecstatic about their results, and many become life-long fitness enthusiasts.
A 2010 Mayo Clinic study of 2,400 stent-procedure patients found that cardiac rehabilitation reduced mortality rates by 46 percent! That’s results! “Improving patient health and quality of life through exercise is what our team lives for,” says Gaxiola. Unfortunately, while the services are beneficial, he says the El Dorado facility only sees about 30 percent of patients who could benefit. The problem? – Awareness. “I think the most important thing we can do as a department and hospital is to communicate the benefits and accessibility of cardiac rehabilitation services to our community and its physicians. We are here for you!”
Many patients who have seen the benefits firsthand have started a Friends of Cardiac Rehab program, under the auspices of the TMC Foundation. They help support the facility and bring more people through its doors. The group has already raised $30,000 for new equipment, and has a goal of putting a team together to ride in the annual El Tour de Tucson race. “They have supported us in so many ways,” says Gaxiola. “They volunteer their time and effort and help create awareness in the community for what we do and who we are.”