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I was recently asked to present to the Victorian Cardiac Rehabilitation Association and giving them a history of my cardiac rehabilitation experience.

Doing so was quite interesting as I had never really spent much time thinking about it. It was interesting exercise because I have seen quite amount of change in the way rehab takes place. It was also interesting as it highlighted some of the gaps in the cardiac rehab space.

Post surgery, here’s my history of rehab experience:

  • In 1985, I was sent home with an A4 sheet of paper with a list of stretching exercises and told to walk regularly.
  • In 1989, I was sent home with an A4 sheet of paper with a list of stretching exercises and told to walk regularly. I recall the exercises being slightly different to the previous ones.
  • In 2001 I attended one (1) cardiac rehab class. I felt like I didn’t fit in. Everyone was “really old” and I could already do all of the exercises that were set out over the 6 week rehab process.
  • In 2011/12 I attended one (1) cardiac rehab class. I felt I was already beyond the levels that they were training at.
  • In 2014/15 I was sent home and told that I had no rehabilitation goals. Ongoing rehabilitation was not offered. I was considered an “expert” at recovery from open heart surgery.

I was asked to suggest what cardiac rehabilitation would look like in a perfect world. One of my main points was that we seem to have a rehab system in Australia where we are taught how to “lift heavy things”. Throughout all of my contact with rehabilitation services, not once has anyone discussed other areas of my life that might need attention – all the focus has been on physical recovery. As I have discussed in a previous blog, we need to look at ways that open heart surgery affects people other than in a physical sense. We need to attend to the memory loss, the cognitive change, the emotional challenges, the sadness and we need to look after the people who were involved in caring for us.

I was given feedback after my presentation that it was well received. I can only hope that as we continue to talk, develop and change, those in the future who have open heart surgery will have a broader opportunity to recover from a more rounded view and not just the “lifting heavy things” approach.

With heart thanks for reading,

That Heart Guy

Pete

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