by Sarah Luna
July is moving super fast. I finished up my rotation at inpatient and have now moved to the outpatient rehabilitation center at St. Joseph’s. Inpatient was a really poignant experience for me because I got to see the (unfortunate) endpoint of a lifetime of unhealthy eating and activity habits. I saw patients who couldn’t walk because of the excess weight on their joints, patients who became short of breath just walking across the room, patients ravaged by the invasive corrective procedures of coronary artery bypass grafts.
Most of the conditions I saw could have been delayed or even prevented by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding cigarettes.
After walking with a patient in the hospital, we counseled them to sign up for cardiac rehab. Now I’m here in the rehab center seeing some of the very patients I had walked with.
One patient in particular stands out to me. When I first saw this lady, she couldn’t even walk twenty feet. She had intense hip pain, chest pain, and severe shortness of breath. All of these symptoms were caused by morbid obesity. I had watched the doctors perform a cath on her a while back and heard the debate between the surgeons whether or not she could be candidate for bypass surgery. Because of her extreme obesity, the surgeon could not physically get to her heart. It was a struggle for them just to do the cath–they had to tape up her abdominal fat in order to access her femoral artery. The surgeon told her in so many words that she needs the bypass surgery (her coronary arteries are clogged), but that they can’t operate until she loses 50-100 pounds. I basically heard that as a death sentence because this woman literally could not support her own weight. We had to pull her up when we walked with her. How was she going to lose weight when she can’t even walk?
As Cardiac Rehab, it was our job to encourage her to come to our outpatient program. And she did! I saw her yesterday. She was moving from station to station with comparative ease doing weight training exercises and seated cardio (on the bike and seated elliptical). She had a huge smile on her face. I was so happy. Exercise changes lives.
No matter how unhealthy you are, you can always start doing the right things for your body.