A heart attack occurs suddenly and intensely, and it can bring a variety of warning signs and painful sensations regardless of what activity you’re doing at the moment it strikes.
“I was running on a treadmill at my gym, getting my usual exercise, when I started to experience pain on the right side of my face, neck and torso,” explains Bruce Blackman, 58, of Severna Park. “It was a bit difficult for me to identify the symptoms as a heart attack, because I was exercising and the pain was on the right side of my body, but my family took me to UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center, where physicians confirmed my heart attack.”
Doctors in UM BWMC’s cardiac catheterization lab performed a procedure to open Blackman’s blocked arteries and restore normal blood flow. After a brief hospital stay, he sought out UM BWMC’s cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program to begin his recovery and strengthen his heart, so he could return to work as an English teacher at Severna Park High School and resume his regular workout routine.
“Rehabilitation is such a necessary piece of the recovery process,” says Blackman. “I knew if I was going to get back to my active lifestyle and enjoy life to the fullest, I needed to rehab my heart. I was excited to return to my students and take my dog on long walks again.”
Cardiac rehabilitation at UM BWMC helps patients with cardiovascular reconditioning after a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery. Patients make appointments at their convenience and work with therapists to develop personalized workout routines that fit their comfort levels, such as lifting weights, walking on a treadmill or doing light cardio. While they exercise, patients wear wireless monitors that send vital information to a computer, where it can be observed by the therapists to ensure results are achieved in a safe manner.
“Although every 34 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack, tens of thousands of Americans survive and can return to work and enjoy an active life,” says interventional cardiologist Ratnakar Mukherjee, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who performed Blackman’s procedure. “Heart attack survivors have every reason to be confident they will achieve a full recovery after proper intervention, and our cardiology and cardiac rehab programs help patients through that journey to become stronger.”
After his heart attack in October 2013, Blackman returned to work to finish out the school year. He feels strong and healthy, having lost a few extra pounds and making sure he reads food labels to make healthy choices that are low in cholesterol and sodium. He continues to participate in UM BWMC’s cardiac rehab program three times a week to get safe, effective exercise.
“You can’t beat the service at UM BWMC. The therapists and rehab staff are phenomenal people who take time to learn your lifestyle, figure out what makes you comfortable and educate you,” he says. “They actually make the recovery process enjoyable.”