Recovering from triple bypass surgery is no picnic, and a cardiac rehabilitation program is often recommended to help patients regain their strength and endurance through exercise, education and encouragement.
Although recovery is not fun, Michael Perez, who turned 81 in April, decided to make lemonade out of lemons. “Cardiac rehab is a necessary thing to do,” he says. “I was weak and leery in the beginning, but I reached the point where I felt so lucky and I realized everyone else was going through the same thing, so why not have fun doing it?”
Thus, the Cardiac Rehab Tour de France was born. “It started with a running joke with the doc (another patient). He works so hard on the treadmill, and I do my best on the treadmill, bike and armroll. I told him 'I think I’m going to beat you in the Tour de France.'” On March 7, 2017, after his workout, Perez donned a bright yellow t-shirt and bike helmet and presented himself to cardiac rehab staff and other patients. “We just have a good time.”
“To see what all he does is inspiring on many levels,” said Jim Christensen, who has cardiac rehab at the same time as Perez. “It makes you look forward to coming and doing your workouts.”
Perez is nearing the end of his cardiac rehabilitation stint, and continues his own regime at home. He is an avid swimmer, currently working his way up to 20 laps, including freestyle and breast stroke, along with walking. He’s at home in the pool, having taught swimming to special needs students at Helen J. Stewart school for 20 years. School is also where he met his wife of 23 years, Jean.
“It’s a joy to go through cardiac rehab,” said Perez. “I can’t say enough about Sarah, Rachel and Rebecca. They are so professional but still have a sense of humor and ride along with my silliness. If I can make them laugh, too, why not?”
From a staff perspective, one of the best aspects of cardiac rehabilitation is watching their clients become stronger, according to Samantha Quinn, RN, who oversees the unit. “We’re able to watch them progress from their first workout until their graduation after 36 sessions,” she said. “Patients like Michael provide encouragement to others, and it makes it fun for everyone.”
Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Desert Springs Hospital
The Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Desert Springs Hospital helps patients continue to recover following a cardiac event like open heart, balloon angioplasty or other serious cardiac procedure. During rehabilitation, patients receive a customized exercise and education program to meet their needs. Participants are closely monitored during exercise and the team helps them progress based upon their abilities and medical condition. To participate in cardiac rehabilitation, a physician’s order is required and is covered by Medicare and many private insurance carriers.