Located in the ARH Outpatient Medical Mall on Black Gold Boulevard, the ARH Cardiac Rehab Clinic shares space with a number of other outpatient clinics and healthcare services, and provides community members battling with cardiac issues with an opportunity to receive the help they need to get back on their feet.
Heather Whitson has served as an exercise physiologist at the ARH Cardiac Rehab Clinic in Hazard for five years. Whitson and her coworker Larcena Evans, a registered nurse, said they serve approximately 80 to 100 cardiac patients per year.
The Cardiac Rehab Clinic treats patients with a variety of conditions, including those in recovery for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) surgery, heart valves and valve replacements, stents, heart attacks and stable angina. The ARH Medical Mall, Whitson said, is perfectly outfitted to address the needs of these patients. “There’s a cardiologist, a cardiac surgeon, a CV Imaging area and a pharmacy, so it’s very convenient for our patients,” said Whitson.
Whitson said the clinic sees patients for two phases.
“During Phase Two cardiac rehab, the patients wear a monitor and they come see us three times a week for 12 weeks, so 36 visits. Insurance helps pay for Phase Two Rehab treatments,” said Whitson. Phase Two, she said, starts out slowly, emphasizing cardiovascular exercise to strengthen the heart muscle.
In this phase, Whitson said she slowly increases patients’ time on machines like the treadmill, recumbent bike and elliptical, and sometimes she sends them home with a resistance band to continue exercising on their own.
During Phase Two, she said, patient vital signs are checked before and after each machine in order to make sure they’re remaining stable throughout their session. If anything were to happen, a physician is always on-site, Whitson said.
Along with the exercise program, Whitson said, new Cardiac Rehab patients are also given a one-on-one pharmacy consultation.
“The pharmacist is in the building, so we just walk them down the hall,” said Whitson. “They go over their medications, and basic things like not to eat grapefruit when taking their cholesterol prescriptions.”
Patients also have access to a nutritionist who comes from the Hazard ARH Hospital quarterly to discuss healthy eating in a group setting, Whitson said. “We plan those quarterly so that we can try to capture as many patients as possible. Last week we had about ten patients in that group,” said Whitson.
Once patients complete Cardiac Phase Two, they move on to Phase Three, she said, which is an ongoing, self-pay program.
“When Phase Three patients visit Cardiac Rehab, we check them in and they can stay and exercise for as long as they like. As long as they think it will benefit them,” said Whitson. “Phase Two is about education, lifestyle changes and getting started. Phase Three is about maintenance. We do still check their vital signs before and after exercise, but not before and after each machine. So, they’re on their own, but not totally.”
The clinic, Whitson said, can see up to 40 Phase Two patients per year, and around 45-50 Phase Three patients, some of whom have been visiting the clinic for years. Whitson said she is proud of her patients and how they progress under her and Evans’s care.
“We see quite a few patients each year, and our patients do really well with the exercise and educational program,” she said.
Paul Hall is Hazard’s longest-standing continual patient for the Cardiac rehab program. In 2007, Hall got an aortic valve replacement and began attending cardiac rehab for Phase Two monitoring three times a week. After completing his 36 initial Phase Two visits, Hall enrolled in Phase Three monitoring and has stayed on his three-visit-per-week schedule for over twelve years, logging over 1,500 visits at the clinic.
“I rarely miss. They do a good job there, the staff is great, and they’re reasonably priced,” said Hall. “Keeping my regular schedule there is the healthy thing to do.”
Hall’s cardiologist is in full agreement with Hall’s decision, as Hall hasn’t had a single cardiac problem since beginning at the clinic in 2007.
“I see my cardiologist once a year, and the last time I went, he said if I continue doing this well, I might only need to see him every two years,” said Hall. “I have no plans to stop visiting ARH Cardiac Rehab. As long as I’m able to go, I’ll keep it up. There are a number of patients like me who’ve been in the program for a long time, and I’d recommend it to anyone.”