Aggie Casey, MSN, RN
Manager, Cardiac Rehabilitation Program
The BWH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, located at BWFH and Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center in Foxborough, is a 10–11 week medical program certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). It is designed to improve physical and emotional well-being and provide assistance to each individual in making positive lifestyle changes. The program includes weekly monitored exercise sessions tailored to each individual’s needs, nutrition counseling, health education and a comprehensive stress management program that focuses on learning positive coping skills and relaxation techniques. A board-certified cardiologist provides program oversight, along with an expert interprofessional team of specialists that includes cardiac nurses, a physical therapist/exercise specialist and a registered dietitian, all working together to provide high-quality, relationship-based care.
Roy Prout, 57, had always been in good health. He exercised regularly, followed a healthy diet and enjoyed life. He had a very stressful job as a regional manager working 55–60 hours a week. Three years ago, his life changed forever. He noticed that he was becoming short of breath every time he exercised. Initially, his primary care physician thought he had asthma, but when a chest X-ray revealed an enlarged heart, he was sent to see a cardiologist. Multiple tests at BWH soon revealed the problem. He was diagnosed with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, a condition that severely limits the heart’s ability to function properly.
Although Prout felt much better for a couple of years with medical management, in the spring of 2014, tests indicated that his heart function was beginning to deteriorate. While sitting at home one day last summer, Prout experienced a sudden onset of his heart racing and severe chest pain.
“I thought I was having a massive heart attack,” he said. He called 911. He was found to be in ventricular tachycardia (VT) and was defibrillated by paramedics on the way to the BWH Emergency Department. “I remember telling the paramedics that I was too young to die,” he said. “My good friend had just died the week before from a heart attack.”
Prout had several more episodes of VT at the hospital and ended up receiving an ablation and was put on a balloon pump for his hypotension.
“I was told I was a great candidate for a heart transplant, but there wasn’t one available,” he said. “I remember I was so sick, I couldn’t even get out of bed. All I could think about was that I was going to be a burden to my family. I couldn’t go home like this.”
Then, Prout was told about a left ventricular assist device (LVAD). LVADs are mechanical devices that assist the pumping function of the heart. About 50,000 people need a heart transplant in the U.S., and there are only about 2,000 donor hearts available each year. In June, Prout was admitted to BWH and underwent implantation of a LVAD as a bridge to cardiac transplantation.
Although grateful that he was feeling better, Prout was anxious about how much activity he could do and how to adjust to his new lifestyle. He decided to enroll in the BWFH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.
“This was a great decision; I am able to slowly regain my strength in an environment where my blood pressure and heart rhythm are closely monitored by knowledgeable staff,” said Prout, who attends the Cardiac Rehab Program twice a week, where he exercises for 30–40 minutes on the treadmill and recumbent bike. “The education part of the program has been great and reinforces the importance of following a low-sodium diet. I am also learning relaxation techniques and strategies to better manage my stress.”
Prout says he is enthusiastic about his future and hopes to receive a heart transplant in the coming year.
“My wife and I love to travel, and once I get my transplant, we hope to visit the national parks,” he said. “Everyone at the BWH has been great. I am grateful for all of the exceptional care I have received from such a dedicated group of professionals. BWH is my hospital. It saved my life.”