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Princess Alexandra Hospital’s (PAH) Cardiac Rehabilitation Program is helping hundreds of patients each year to return to work after a life-saving procedure for heart attack.
Almost 4000 patients underwent an interventional procedure in the PAH cardiac catheter lab in 2018 to open a blockage or insert a pacemaker with 1921 of those referred to Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs at their closest Metro South Health Community Health Centre.
Andrew McKenzie, a TAFE teacher from West End, became one of 1222 people so far this year to have an interventional cardiac procedure at PAH after he suffered a heart attack in February.
“At first I thought I had indigestion so had something for heart burn which seemed to settle it enough to eventually get some sleep, but I woke early with shakes and sweats and I knew it was a heart attack.”
The ambulance brought Andrew straight to PA Hospital, the Cardiologist met him on arrival and they headed directly up to the catheter lab to find the source of the heart attack.
“I was awake and watched the whole thing on the screen, it was amazing!” Andrew said.
In the days of medication management that followed, Andrew said the next challenge was the rollercoaster ride of emotions that come with a major health scare.
“They said to me on the first day in hospital that I may experience some depression which I quickly dismissed but sure enough, I went through the journey of ‘why me?’, ‘gee I dodged a bullet’, and the ‘what-if stage’,” he said.
Being at home, not working, not able to drive, bouncing off the walls from boredom, combined with the reality that friends stop calling to check on you after a while, made the camaraderie of Cardiac Rehab in the weeks following his heart scare more valuable to Andrew.
“The calls I keep getting from the hospital are really supportive and sharing rehab with others who have experienced the same heart scare creates a bond regardless of whether they are in their 40’s or considerably older, male or female, and with varying degrees of fitness.”
PAH Cardiac Rehab Physiotherapist, Leah Vegh said that all patients have different goals depending on their age, previous exercise and also their return-to-work plans.
“Our program helps patients to regain their confidence, their independence and have them back exercising or working again with a healthy lifestyle to support their ongoing health.
“Many people are a little bit fearful of any exercise after a cardiac event,” Leah said. “What we are working to achieve over eight sessions of cardiac rehabilitation is that our patients can exercise in a safe environment and know their exercise capacity for longer term health.”
As a diabetic, Andrew kept an eye on his diet and knew the signs and symptoms of a heart attack which helped save his life: shortness of breath, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, jaw, neck and arm pain, sweats, and light headedness.
“It is no irony that all four of us in my hospital room were diabetics so that rings an alarm bell for all diabetics to be alert for changes in your own body as well as the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
“My advice is to heed the small voice at the back of your mind telling you to call the ambulance even though it is the middle of the night and don’t overlook the warning signs thinking it is simply indigestion,” he said.
“A heart attack is serious, act quickly – it could save your life.”