Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Gives Patients Second Chance at Health | MedStar Health

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Gives Patients Second Chance at Health

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A MedStar Health rehabilitation nurse helps a patient while he rides a recumbent bike in a rehabilitation gym.

Beyond the Heart Attack 

When you find something that works, you stick with it. Which is why when Lew Armistead needed cardiac rehab after his second heart surgery earlier this year, he returned to the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center (GADC) at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

Having participated in the center’s cardiac rehab program in 2014 following a heart attack and surgery to open a blocked artery, the 71-year-old Hollywood resident knew the program offered just what his doctor ordered to help him recover from surgery to repair an aortic aneurism.

“One of the things that really impressed me about the center was the staff,” said Lew, 71. “They have a lot of expertise in that room, and they are very committed to working with you. Usually, people who have to go to a workout don’t especially look forward to it. The people who staff the center have such a good attitude that I looked forward to going there much more than going to my regular health club.”

GADC’s program offers an individualized and personalized treatment plan, which incorporates evaluation and instruction on physical activity, nutrition, stress management and other health-related areas.  

“A lot of patients don’t know how much to push themselves after a heart attack,” said Pam Riley, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical leader of GADC. “They have lost their confidence and self esteem. We can bring them in and show them how much they can push themselves and we can educate them on the signs and symptoms to look for so they don’t push too hard.”

Lew says he has always been a person who believes in staying in good physical condition, and he attributes completing the GADC program and the education he received there in 2014 to the quick recovery he made following his second surgery.

 “I thought my heart surgery was much easier than I anticipated,” he said. “People told me I would be in a lot of pain and I would have a long recovery period, but I went into my second surgery in much better physical condition than perhaps other heart surgery patients might.”

A Life-Saving Connection 

When Lew Armistead suffered a heart attack in 2014 he had already been under the care of a cardiologist, and he had met with a surgeon just eight days earlier to discuss correcting his aortic aneurism. So when he arrived at the Emergency Department of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in April 2014, he already knew who he would call next.

“Many cardiac patients who come to our Emergency Department can be treated here and follow up with a cardiologist after they leave,” said Dawn Yeitrakis, MS, RN, CEN, director, MedStar St. Mary’s Emergency Department. “Individuals with more complex cases, however, may need expedited treatment.”

MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital works closely with the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute (MHVI) to ensure patients needing the highest level of care are quickly transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center or the new Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital, a state-of-the-art cardiovascular care hospital offering expert cardiovascular services utilizing the latest medical technology.

“Being able to connect our patients quickly to the type of care available through the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute can be life saving,” said Dawn.

Visit to learn more about MHVI and the Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital.     

Learn more about cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs offered at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital on our website or call 240-434-7143.