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Published on August 21, 2017

Lois Turnipseed

Cardiac Rehab gets to the heart of care

Until recently, Lois Turnipseed, 68, had never exercised on an elliptical machine.

"That was tough," Lois says, recalling the experience with a smile. "But you've got to challenge yourself to keep your body in shape."

Lois understands the importance of working to improve heart health: On Dec. 12, 2016, she underwent cardiac surgery to repair her mitral valve—part of the heart between the left atrium and left ventricle that controls blood flow. The procedure was recommended after Samantha Erie, PA, diagnosed Lois with a heart murmur during an exam at Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics Wonewoc.

Cardiac care close to home

In addition to cardiac rehabilitation, Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics also offers stress testing and heart monitoring. To learn more about these cardiac services, contact your primary care provider.

Lois' doctors later prescribed her cardiac rehabilitation. The supervised exercise program aims to strengthen a person's heart, especially following heart surgery or a heart attack.

Learning that she would be able to work with a therapist at Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics, a 10-minute walk from her home in Hillsboro, Wis., Lois didn't hesitate to enroll.

"When I started, I had to take it easy," Lois says. "They had me begin by walking slowly."

Lois since has completed cardiac rehab and is continuing to strengthen her heart through a session of free fitness classes offered to patients who finish the program. She exercises twice per week at Gundersen St. Joseph's, using the treadmill, recumbent bike, elliptical and other equipment.

Without a cardiac rehabilitation center close to home, though, Lois isn't sure that she would have been as dedicated to making such a strong recovery or be taking advantage of the free exercise classes.

"If I had to travel an hour, I probably wouldn't do it," Lois says. "It's great to have the facility in your hometown."

Caitlin Benbow

Caitlin Benbow

Gundersen St. Joseph's cardiopulmonary coordinator, Caitlin Benbow, agrees that it's vital to her patients' health to have a cardiac rehab center nearby.

"A lot of our patients are older and don't necessarily travel very well, so if they didn't have access to this facility, they likely wouldn't get the rehabilitation they need," Caitlin says.

Plus, there's an added bonus of having such care close to home.

On a recent day, Lois walked down the halls at Gundersen St. Joseph's, waving hello to the nurses and patient liaisons she encountered and greeting them by name.

She embraced Caitlin with a hug.

"I've become so comfortable around them," Lois says. "I'm not always good at meeting new people."

The convenience and camaraderie makes a difference, Caitlin says.

"Patients get to know everyone," she explains, "so it's enjoyable."