Mary Charlebois (left), MGH Dietitian, configures a recumbent exercise bike for one of Manny’s cardiac rehab exercises.
Manny Vigil, 61, of Little Lake, was the first patient from the Marquette General Hospital Outpatient Cardiac Rehab program to test the new Cardiac Monitoring, Telemetry & Management System.
The new system is an upgrade to a dated and laborious system. It better monitors Manny’s exercise progress while he undergoes cardiac rehab at MGH. The monitor is worn around his neck and tracks changes of his electrocardiogram during pre-exercise, exercise and post-exercise.
“The data we receive shows the electrical activity of the heart,” said Larry Bergwall, MGH Cardiac Rehab Director. “It helps us in deciding when to increase or decrease the intensity of a patient’s program. And we are also looking to increase the cardiorespiratory fitness of each patient according to the goals set at the beginning the program.”
The new system is very important to Manny, especially since he has a history of heart disease. He almost didn’t join the Cardiac Rehab program when it was recommended by his doctor, Dr. William Jean of the Marquette General Heart & Vascular Institute, who has been managing his heart disease since 1997.
Jeff Kinnunen (right), MGH Exercise Physiologist, takes Manny’s vitals after a cardiac rehab session.
In February, Manny was visiting his brother in Roswell, NM, when he started feeling ill. He knew he needed to get back home and be seen by Dr. Jean. He caught a flight home the next day, and returned to work at Northern Michigan University where he is an electronics technician.
“I knew I was having a heart attack when I couldn’t walk by the end of the week and I was very tired,” said Manny. “I took a nap – and I never take naps – so I knew something wasn’t right.”
A visit to the MGH Emergency Room determined that Manny had several blockages around his heart. He underwent a quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery, performed by Dr. Doug Baldwin, MGH cardiothoracic surgeon.
Following surgery, Dr. Jean recommended that Manny join the MGH Cardiac Rehab program to help him recover. But Manny kept holding it off.
“I almost didn’t come,” said Manny. “But a phone call from Dr. Jean explaining to me the benefits and reasoning on why I needed to join really gave me the push I needed.”
Since April 14, Manny has been attending cardiac rehab three times a week. The MGH Cardiac Rehab program focuses on exercise, education and support to help individuals build a stronger heart.
During his therapy, Manny receives specific help from trained staff members, including dietitians and exercise specialists.
“Each patient who begins cardiac rehab undergoes an initial assessment that includes a nutrition report and exercise plan designed specifically for them,” said Mary Charlebois, MGH Registered Dietitian.
As each patient begins exercise, cardiac rehab staff monitors for safety and keeps track of their progress.
Liz Kinnart, MGH Exercise Specialist, monitors the electrical activity of Manny’s heart with the new monitoring system.
“Our new monitoring system tracks progress in real-time. This gives us the benefit of more hands on time with the patient and less paperwork,” said Jeff Kinnunen, MGH Exercise Physiologist.
Manny has been making great progress while in cardiac rehab.
“I hadn’t exercised in years,” said Manny. “It was hard to walk, I could barely bend over. Now I feel good. I’m more limber now, and relaxed.”\
When Manny was about half way through his 18-week therapy, he experienced a set-back – but it wasn’t with his rehab. The house he and his wife, Vera, owned for the past 20 years was destroyed in a house fire on June 7.
“We lost everything, including one of our two dogs. It was so depressing,” said Manny.
Manny wasn’t sure he would return to therapy, but he also didn’t want to give up after all the hard work he put in.
“I decided to come back,” said Manny, “I really enjoy being here. I enjoy all the staff, all the friends I’ve made. It’s a great community. I’m so glad I came back.”
As Manny slowly rebuilds his home, he will continue building his heart strength. He said he will continue on with cardiac rehab therapy even after his 18 weeks are up.
“For a small monthly fee, the program will allow me to continue to exercise and receive the support I need,” said Manny. “I feel motivated here. I have all the specialists I need to help me with my journey, and I know that I am safe. This is the best place to be.”