Jacked up about his cardiac rehab

The road back after two strokes and a cardiac arrest in two weeks

Retired from the Dover Police Department, John “Jack” Foley always had good impressions of Bayhealth Emergency physicians and nurses he occasionally interacted with through work. Suffering a series of dire medical events over the course of two weeks — sudden cardiac arrest followed by two strokes — gave him firsthand exposure to Bayhealth’s lifesaving care and dedication to improving patients’ long-term health.

Almost three years ago, Foley had a near-death experience, as he describes it, when his heart stopped beating en route from the Emergency Department to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab to get a stent put in for a heart blockage. This reconfirmed not only his faith, but also his determination to do all he could to bounce back and avoid a family pattern of dying young from a heart attack.

The prompt care Foley benefited from has been nationally recognized by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Bayhealth has earned awards for consecutive years of quality improvement measures for treatment of ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack; cardiac arrest resuscitation; and the quality and timeliness of its stroke care. These measures include patient safety protocols, emergency team response and post-resuscitation care.

With more than 50 percent damage to his heart, Foley was initially told he wouldn’t be able to lift more than 25 pounds and would have a difficult road ahead. For the energetic 69-year-old looking forward to many activities in his new retirement, this was hard news to hear. “I’m used to being active and outside a lot. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” said Foley.

As soon as he could do so, Foley started Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation (Rehab). These medically supervised programs, certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR), are offered at both Bayhealth campuses to help improve the health and well-being of patients with heart problems. “The first few weeks were very hard. But my cardiologist had said my heart muscle would continue to atrophy if I didn’t work out, so that kept me motivated.”

Bayhealth’s Cardiac Rehab team provides assessment and individualized programs to help patients better manage their condition, make changes in diet and lifestyle, and follow monitored exercise plans. After program completion, patients are encouraged to continue a maintenance program with the team or on their own at home.

Foley attends Cardiopulmonary Rehab Maintenance twice weekly and his typical regimen consists of stretching and 40 minutes on the treadmill. As he progresses, Exercise Physiologist Devin Rhodes bumps up his workouts. “Jack’s journey has been a long process, but his progression in Cardiac Rehab was incredible,” Rhodes said. He’s now walking 3.8 miles per hour at a 3 percent incline, has a lot more energy and can run up and down stairs at home without a problem. The program also has provided him with a positive emotional support system, said Rhodes. “Jack has made many friends with the same heart conditions. He’s a great example of someone who turned a tragic situation into a positive life change.”

A recent follow-up cardiologist visit revealed significant healing on both sides of his heart — a result Foley and his wife consider “miraculous.” They know the care he received and his commitment to a rehabilitation program has dramatically improved his outcome.

“Bayhealth is top-notch,” said Foley. “Having been in the community a long time, it’s always been a good place. It’s changed a lot with the times, and has gotten even better.”

Visit Bayhealth.org/Heart-and-Vascular for more information on the comprehensive cardiovascular services that Bayhealth provides.

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