Exercise, hard work help rehab patient meet goals

Jan 26, 2013

Searsport — Norma Sawyer, 71, of Searsport is a self-described workaholic. In most situations that didn’t serve her particularly well.

“Someone has to tell me to stop. In fact, that’s why I started smoking. I would sit down and have a cup of coffee and a cigarette as a break,” she says, adding that she worked mostly factory jobs. “I spent 40 years smoking a pack a day. I quit two and a half years ago.”

But, her work ethic served her well in the cardiac rehab program at Waldo County General Hospital.

When Norma joined the cardiac rehab phase II program in August, her goals were to have a straight back and be able to walk without her cane for a long distance. She was suffering with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, high blood pressure, dizzy spells and osteoporosis. She’d had one kidney removed due to stage 3 cancer and the second one wasn’t working very well, and she’d had two cardiac stents inserted at different times due to her clogged arteries.

By the time she finished the program, Norma was walking without pain and was breathing better. And she’d gained back an inch in height. Norma explains that she used to be 5’ 5” tall. Then five years ago, she started losing about an inch a year and was down to 5’ 1”when she started the cardiac rehab program.

“Now I’m 5’2” with eyes of blue,” said Norma. “I used to have a cane that I depended on and I would have to stop and rest often. I even used a walker sometimes. Not now. And I’ve kept my weight down a little and I’m breathing better.”

So how did she accomplish all this in just 12 weeks? Norma says it’s mostly about exercise. “I come to the program and exercise for an hour three days a week and I swim at the Y for an hour five days a week. I used to be twisted like a pretzel, but now I’ve straightened up my muscles.”

She explains that on the three days when she goes to cardiac rehab, she weights in, signs in and gets hooked up so the nurse can monitor her heart. She then bikes, lifts light weights and stretches for an hour.

Norma says she has also learned that she needs to drink 32 ounces of water per day and “go easy on the salt.” That is not what she had been doing prior to cardiac rehab. In fact, at one point she thought she was having a heart attack but it turned out that she was severely dehydrated.

Norma has now finished the program, but she says she plans to keep on going to the Y and swimming, exercising, drinking water and not using too much salt so she can return to working on the gardens at the local campground this summer.

For more information about Waldo County General Hospital’s cardiac rehab program, call Mary Hanrahan RN at 930-2545.

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