Cardio rehab “graduation” has arrived!

As the days of December wend their way toward year’s end—rather quickly, it seems—so, too, are many events in my life reaching some sort of conclusion. For instance, the cardio rehab program which I’ve been active in since mid-September wraps up this coming Monday when I’ll “graduate.” 

Sitting here on this cloudy and soon-to-be rainy Friday afternoon, I find it hard to believe that I’ve made it through these months and have felt so much better—physically and mentally. What has made it so hard to believe is that when I entered the rehab program, following several weeks of recuperation at home, I was in no way in any condition to do much moving about on a treadmill for any period of time. My entire body was way out of sync, having lacked the needed conditioning and care—even long before my surgery in August. I had put on excess weight over the last few years as well as totally ignoring a routine of some sort of exercise on a regular basis. Yes, I always used the convenient excuse that it was my deteriorating aortic heart valve, which was the biggest factor for my lack of energy or interest in doing much of anything.

Ultimately, open-heart surgery and an implanted pacemaker back in August took care of that excuse, and the rehab program at the hospital these weeks and months has changed my outlook on most things. Things seemed to be racing away from me and my life lacking needed direction. Now, after a good forty-minute workout on a recumbent cross trainer and treadmill, I feel as I haven’t felt in such a long, long time! I no longer dread the thought of something so basically simple as walking. 

For the most part, my mind is now free of fears and “what ifs” about my state of health, and I now actually smile more. My wife and others even go so far as to say, “You’re a different person!” My weight is significantly lower than it was prior to this year of aortic stenosis, A-fib, surgery, and an endless cavalcade of appointments and doctor visits. And, of course, not to forget the COVID pandemic that has forced us all into a different way of living with altered outlooks on such a calamity and our seeming need to be extremely cautious about everything amidst lockdowns, quarantines, and closures. Even so–knock on wood!—I have made it through unscathed thus far.

And now I have one more cardiac rehab session facing me. I’ll check in at 9:15 a.m. next Monday, hook up a heart monitor, rest quietly a few minutes, and then have my blood pressure taken. After that, I’ll get started for my twenty minutes on the NuStep recumbent cross training machine, providing me a solid workout for the legs and arms and overall cardio factors. Next, I’ll get on the treadmill (that thing I dreaded at the beginning of all this!) and walk comfortably for another twenty minutes.

When that part is over, I’ll once more sit in my assigned seat and wait to get the “OK” that my heart rate has calmed back down and I’m free to unhook my monitor and leave just as I have all those other times. Of course when this happens on Monday, I know I won’t be returning, and these four nurses and techs who have become my constant encouragers and helpers (friends?) these many weeks, will no longer be a direct part of my healing and well-being three mornings a week. And that makes me rather melancholy. Although I only know them by first name and the upper portion of their faces due to the required masking, I think of them as special people whom I’ll never forget. What I wouldn’t give to see them, however briefly, without a mask for the first time! Perhaps someday when we once again carry on in a normal manner…

We shall see…