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July 23, 2010 > Healthy Heart Patient Is Now Helping Others

Healthy Heart Patient Is Now Helping Others

How Cardiac Rehabilitation Changed One Woman's Life

The Washington Hospital Cardiac Rehabilitation Program is celebrating its 25th year of helping heart patients return to an active lifestyle after experiencing cardiac events ranging from heart attacks to coronary artery bypass surgery.

"We have even had three heart transplant patients participate in our program," notes Cardiac Rehabilitation Manager Phyllis Fiscella, RN, who joined the program in November 1985 as a nurse clinician. "Over the years, we've worked with thousands of patients, some of whom have been in the program for more than 20 years. In any given month, we have between 800 and 1,000 patient visits."

Marjorie Korycinski has been participating in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program for six years and is a member of Mended Hearts. She was referred to the program by her doctor after she had surgery to implant stents to open up her arteries.

"I've been very faithful about going to rehab classes three days a week ever since my surgery," she says. "I used to have high blood pressure of around 185/85. Now it's down to around 110/60. I can walk without gasping for air. I can ride my bike around the neighborhood. The exercises have really made a difference."

Korycinski particularly enjoys working on the exercise machines in the program's new state-of-the-art facility in the Washington West Building across the street from Washington Hospital. "I really appreciate the way they show you how to use the equipment and do exercises that you wouldn't think of doing yourself," she explains. "I also enjoy the companionship of the other patients. It's a good group of people, and I've made some very good friends."

After spending much of her life raising five children (one now deceased) and caring for her late husband as he struggled with multiple sclerosis for 27 years, the 85-year-old Korycinski now finds herself in other "caregiving" roles.

"Now that I have all this energy, I had to find something to do with it," she says. So, because I have diabetes, I decided to volunteer at the Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center. I also volunteer to help people in my neighborhood and church, taking them to doctor appointments and other errands. It does my heart good to be able to help others.

"I've also found that I keep trying to talk my younger friends into being more physically active," she adds. "Some of the are more than seven years younger than I am, and they have to use walkers. People always assume I'm about 12 years younger than I am, which really pleases me. Cardiac Rehabilitation keeps the roses in my cheeks."

Korycinski recently sported those "rosy cheeks" at her granddaughter's wedding on July 9. "All eight of my grandchildren were there," she boasts. "Without the stents and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, I might not have been here to enjoy the wedding. I'm going to stay in the Cardiac Rehab program for as long as I can."

Washington Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program offers one-hour exercise sessions, with all exercises performed while the patient's heart is monitored by portable monitoring equipment under the close supervision of an exercise physiologist and registered nurse. Registered dietitians from Washington Hospital provide counseling in heart-healthy diets and managing diabetes, which can be a contributing factor in heart disease. A cardiologist who serves as medical advisor is also available as needed.

"The program can help improve overall physical condition, strengthen hearts, control blood pressure and blood sugar, reduce stress and anxiety and restore patients' self confidence," Fiscella explains. "It's very rewarding for us to see the dramatic difference in our patients, not only in terms of their physical health, but also in their mental outlook."

Learn More About Cardiac Rehabilitation

Participation in the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program requires a physician referral. Classes are held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at various times throughout the day. Most insurance providers, including Medicare, will cover 12 weeks (36 sessions) following an acute cardiac event. The program offers the option of continuing after insurance coverage has expired for a fee of $8.50 per visit. Mended Hearts membership is open to anyone who has had heart surgery, heart attack, angioplasty, angina or other cardiac conditions. Family members and loved ones also are welcome. For more information about the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program or Mended Hearts, visit or call (510) 494-7022.

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