While the national Wear Red Day focusing on heart health awareness was the first Friday in February, staff and patients of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital choose each year to wear red on the Friday during Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, which was last week. Annually, those who want to participate show up in the hospital’s cardiac rehab center for a large group picture.
This year, that gathering included cardiac rehab program participants Maude Brown, who is 98, and Hessie Church, 96, as well as new and long-time staff of the program and hospital.
Also joining in the celebration was HCMH CEO Paul Hammes, who said the hospital takes advantage of the whole month of February to raise awareness for heart health in the community and shed light on the importance of a balance and healthy lifestyle.
“Here at the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Cardiac Rehab Center, we take a holistic approach to prevention and heart health, taking into consideration each individuals’ needs, circumstances and goals,” said Hammes.
He has a personal interest in encouraging a heart-healthy lifestyle. “Both my own family history and having served on the board for the North Carolina Stroke Association for a number of years helped me to appreciate the impact on families in society at large of cardiovascular disease, specifically the importance of knowing your numbers and taking action to make positive personal changes one day at a time,” he said.
Dr. Steve Isaacs, medical director for the cardiac and pulmonary rehab division at HCMH, said the center’s work is really helping people, including his own father-in-law, who had two heart attacks in eight months and now travels up to Elkin from Cornelius to participate in HCMH’s cardiac rehab program.
“He likes the security. He feels watched,” said Isaacs, of what he described as a bright and open rehab center where staff continuously monitors the patients as they exercise. “It is a great social atmosphere. You are with a bunch of people who have been through it, and they bond through it. We have people who don’t stop coming, even after their rehabilitation is complete.”
Ali Wood, clinical coordinator for the cardiac rehab program, said there are some patients who have been coming to the center since the 1990s. “We catch complications early, so we save their lives,” she said of another benefit of patients participating in the program and being monitored.
“I see people when they are hurt and sick, so it’s great to see them be successful,” said Isaacs, who works in the emergency room at HCMH.
Wood said the rehab center sees about 140 to 150 patient visits a month, and has between 35 and 40 active cardiac patients. Of its patients, she said about 50 are maintenance patients who continue to come after being rehabilitated.
Those patients who are younger and more flexible with their workouts may choose to continue maintenance through the hospital’s Wellness Center, which is open to the public for a fee.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States,” Hammes said. “We help people reduce the risk factors for heart disease, so they not only recover from a heart incident, but change their lifestyle.”
“We do dietary and psychological rehabilitation, not just exercise,” said Isaacs.
Another benefit of the hospital’s rehab center is the social aspect to help patients pull out of depression and fear following heart incidents. Wood said it is beneficial for them to see other patients being successful, because then they can realize they can get back to their normal life.
“Cardiac events increase awareness of your vulnerability and we see so many depressed,” said Isaacs, adding that the social aspect has made a difference with his father-in-law.
Red Dress contest ends Thursday
As part of Heart Health Month, each division of Hugh Chatham’s medical services were given the opportunity to pick up a cardboard cutout of a woman wearing a dress and decorate it creatively for a contest.
The decorated dresses are hanging lining the hallway outside of the cafeteria at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, where staff and the public can view them and then donate funds to the dress they believe is the most creative and their favorite.
The money raised during the contest will be used for the cardiac rehab’s Step-by-Step program, which helps offset costs of patients to participate in the rehab center since it isn’t always covered by insurance.
Voting is open through Thursday, and funds can be contributed at the front desk of the hospital’s main entrance or during lunch time at a table in the cafeteria.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.