Cardiac Rehab program at Alaska Regional Hospital builds confidence in patients

Cardiac Rehab program at Alaska Regional Hospital builds confidence in patients
Updated: Feb. 18, 2022 at 7:30 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When James Van Bakel began participating in the Cardiac Rehab program at Alaska Regional Hospital, he had one goal he was working towards.

“The goal was I needed to be able to go moose hunting and haul off the moose by myself,” Van Bakel said.

In May 2021, Van Bakel was grocery shopping when he started feeling sick. After his conditions did not improve once he left the grocery store, he called for help. Van Bakel learned a short while later at the hospital that he would require a stent due to a nearly complete blockage of his left anterior descending artery in his heart.

“We did it within probably 45 minutes of having that discussion, and I walked out of here a day and a half later,” Van Bakel said.

Just three weeks after Van Bakel was released, he began cardiac rehab, a physical therapy program at Alaska Regional Hospital that focuses on recovery after cardiac issues.

The program helps educate patients about their blood pressure, blood sugar, and helps them return to exercising.

“We work with them on all of their machinery for learning how to use it and get it them to their best outcome and goals for increasing their stamina and their endurance in getting that heart health back,” Registered Nurse in the Cardiac Rehab program Julie Dickerson said.

Van Bakel graduated from the rehab program in August.

“I actually got the point where I could run over 10 miles an hour on the treadmill, which is pretty fast for me,” Van Bakel said.

The program is not just a workout class, but a chance for patients to rebuild their spirits after a traumatic experience.

“A lot of times it’s a near-death experience for people, so I think it is hormonal. I think it’s neurotransmitter distribution, I think it’s a huge fear factor,” Lead Cardiac Physical Therapist at Alaska Regional Hospital Cheryl Myers said.

February is Cardiovascular Awareness Month and Myers said that the goal is to bring awareness to cardiovascular conditions. Helping patients regain their heart health, Myers said, brings their confidence back.

“I just love that first day when people come in and they are kidding around again, or to see their personalities come out, because they’re not out initially. And they see those personalities come out and people spread their wings and fly, and get ready to get back to their life,” Myers said.

Myers and Dickerson help their patients accomplish goals they have set at the beginning of their rehab just like Van Bakel, who in September 2021 was able to shoot and take home the moose he had been dreaming of.

Those interested in participating in the program must be referred by a physician, cardiologist or surgeon.

The program runs three times a week for an average span of three months.

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