Recovery Stage 2 – outpatient rehab

Hospital based rehabilitation programmes in NZ

In New Zealand we are very fortunate to have a fantastic hospital based rehabilitation programme. These are publicly funded and available to anyone who has had a cardiac “episode”. For more information about cardiac rehabilitation as well as contact details have a look at the Heart Foundation’s webpage on rehab.

For me this part of my rehab started at about 4 weeks after my surgery. The programme is 6 weeks and is made up of a 1 hour exercise class followed immediately with a 1 hour information session on various aspects of heart health -nutrition, exercise, stress management, medication – were among the topics. Patients attending the classes ranged in age and degree of severity of illness. All classes were supervised by cardiac nurses, hospital physiotherapists and students from Massey University’s Exercise Science programme.

This programme really gave me the confidence to start exercising again. Up until that point it was a little scary going for my regular walks on my own, wondering what would happen if I keeled over in the street. I found being surrounded by a bunch of highly competent health professionals very reassuring and it meant I could push myself physically again.

The first session was quite slow and easy. I was still getting used to how far I could push my body, given my bones were still knitting back together again and there had been a lot of muscle damage to my chest wall from harvesting arteries, and of course the grafts. My lungs were still getting back to capacity to, so I was out of breath quite quickly. After a 2 or 3 weeks I was starting to feel stronger and exercising harder. It felt like I’d be back on my mountain bike in no time!

Over the 6 week programme I lost about 10kg (22lb) – a combination of the exercise, eating ridiculously healthily and not drinking any alcohol. I never thought I had that much to lose – but there it was (or wasn’t!). Having a record of my “vital stats” at the beginning of this programme was hugely motivating and kept me on track for sometime afterward. And now that I think about it, it has taught me a heap about the importance of benchmarking, setting goals and monitoring progress. It’s not rocket science, just discipline 🙂

If you’re reading this and have the option of attending one of these classes, I highly recommend doing and sticking at it for the full 6 weeks. You won’t only benefit from the exercise, the information sessions will give you a good understanding of how to better manage your heart disease. You may also hook up with others in your area that can help keep you motivated when if things get tough further sown the track.

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