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Cardiac rehab patients celebrate “birthdays” before returning home

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Once a month for the past 15 years, cardiac inpatients at Weiss gather in the exercise room on the 6th floor for a birthday party. They snack on fruits and vegetables and laugh together as one of the department’s nurses leads the room singing a round of “Happy Birthday.”


“To another healthy year!” said Virginille Palella, RN, at the conclusion of the song this past Friday.


The cardiac rehab patients and clinical team celebrate the day together to symbolize the patients’ new chance at life, their re-birth after a major cardiac health event. “It’s good luck for them for next year. They’ve been through a lot.”


Many of the patients have survived life-threatening experiences and undergone open-heart surgeries. Some have the support of their families along the way. Others gain the support of the friends they make in the cardiology department.


Once the patients leave the hospital, they return as outpatients to use the exercise equipment in the cardiac rehab center. For three months, they can come in three times a week, covered by health insurance.


With sweeping views of the lake, the patients walk on treadmills, ride exercise bikes and keep careful track of their blood pressure and heart rates with the help of the nurses on hand and exercise physiologist Paul Radzki.


“It’s nice to see them get better, stronger,” Palella said.


Many patients continue to use the center even after three months. They pay their own way (at $6.50 a day), and some have come in regularly for the past 12 to 15 years.


“They feel safe here and feel they’ve made a lot of progress here. If we see problems, we trouble shoot right away and report to their doctors,” Palella said.


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