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Firefighter overcomes heart health challenges with the help of cardiac rehab
Mike, a firefighter captain with the Minneapolis Fire Department, has dedicated his career to saving the lives of others. After suffering a heart attack in 2018, Mike knew he needed to make some changes to save his own life.
The cardiac rehabilitation staff at Hennepin Healthcare met with Mike and provided him with resources to help him improve his diet and exercise, and more importantly, help him quit smoking.
At first, Mike was impatient to get back to work and wasn’t sure if cardiac rehab was for him. However, he decided to attend after learning that the multi-session program has been proven to help patients recover faster and prevent a future heart attack or stroke. The program focuses on several benefits to cardiovascular patients, including managing stress, moving more, and adopting healthy eating habits. Research has also shown the more sessions a patient attends, the better their outcomes.
Daunted but undeterred, Mike committed to cardiac rehab and his recovery. To go back to work, Mike was required to lift between 30-110 lbs. and reach an 11 MET (metabolic equivalent) level, which is similar to the energy required to run a 9-minute mile.
Mike quit smoking. With the help of cardiac rehab staff, Mike began a program of lifts that were specific to firefighting activities. A month into the program, he started a walk/jog program on the treadmill. Everything was progressing well.
On the day before graduation, Mike experienced vague shoulder discomfort during exercise while at a cardiac rehab session. Again at the next session, he reported this same sensation. Suspicious that this could be an indicator of angina, the cardiac rehab team reported his symptoms to his cardiologist and it was determined he needed coronary artery bypass surgery.
Two weeks later, Mike restarted his cardiac rehab program. This time around, he was plagued by pain, fatigue, financial stress of being out of work, and fear of not being able to return to work with full capability of performing required elements of his position. He was depressed and discouraged and sought counseling to help in the emotional recovery from heart disease.
“I just have so many things I’m trying to improve on,” Mike said. “It’s tough.” Ultimately, however, Mike completed the full 36 sessions of cardiac rehab. He lost 23 lbs., remained tobacco-free, and reached his goals to be able to go back to work “I pay so much more attention to my body now.”
Now back at work at the Minneapolis Fire Department, Mike shared his new heart healthy lifestyle with his co-workers, where he has helped implement an exercise program and plan nutrition-packed meals. He is also back to running a small side business and coaching his grandson’s little league team. His recovery was definitely a home run!
Learn more about how MDH supports cardiac rehab.