It took a while for patients in Lake Regional's Cardiac Rehab program to realize Jeslyn Schillinger was one of them.
"One man came up to me and said, 'I am so sorry,'" Schillinger said. "He had asked one day how much longer I was going to be on the elliptical. He said: 'I thought you were an employee working out. I didn't know you were a patient here. I couldn't tell at all.'"
At 39, Schillinger has a hard time seeing herself as a heart attack survivor, too.
"It came from out of the blue," she said.
A Stabbing Pain
Schillinger, a mother of two, had no family history of early heart disease, no high blood pressure, no known health problems — no warning at all before her heart attack. Even during the attack, she didn't feel chest pains. Her upper back hurt off and on for a few days, and then suddenly, on her way to work the morning of Dec. 13, 2017, the ache became a stabbing pain. She got inside her office, but soon both of her arms were weak. A friend drove her to Lake Regional Emergency Department.
"I seriously never would've thought I was having a heart attack," she said.
But an EKG revealed her heart was in trouble. Lake Regional Cardiologist Muthu Krishnan, M.D., FACC, was on call and immediately took Schillinger to the cardiac catheterization lab, where he placed three stents to restore blood flow to her heart.
"Everything was a whirlwind," Schillinger said. "It took several weeks for things to sink in."
Prescription for Support
Dr. Krishnan's orders for recovery included a prescription for cardiac rehab, an exercise-based program that helps people who have faced a serious cardiovascular event improve their cardiovascular fitness and reduce their risk for future health problems.
The program at Lake Regional has three phases. In the first phase, an educator visited Schillinger while she was still hospitalized and discussed how she might need to change her medications, diet and exercise routine. The real work began in the second phase, which requires three sessions a week for 12 weeks. Staff evaluated her responses to various exercises by monitoring her blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels. The results determined which exercises she needed, as well as how intensely she should do them and for how long each time.
The evaluation was not too challenging, Schillinger said, but once her workouts began, she was thankful to have nurses monitoring her.
"That has been comforting," she said. "I'm learning how to listen to my body, and it's very helpful to have nurses telling me when it's OK to push through and when I need to slow down."
Schillinger added that at first, she questioned whether she really needed cardiac rehab, but Dr. Krishnan insisted.
"If I had said, 'No, I'm going to work out on my own somewhere,' I would not be as far as I am now," she said. "They are building me back up with a purpose and watching me to ensure I'm safe."
And even though it took a while for her fellow patients to realize she was one of them, once they did, they offered her full support.
"We get to know each other, and it's a little community," she said. "We share stories, figure out connections, and we all just laugh together. It's been really nice."
Benefitting from HK's
Schillinger is one of more than 3,000 patients who will benefit from the Lake Regional Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation department in 2018, and this year's HK's Hospital Benefit Golf Tournament will support them all by raising funds for a new heart monitoring system. With the new system, the department will be able to accept twice as many new patients into the program. Plus, the new system monitors oxygen levels more comfortably and consistently during exercise, and it includes hand-held technology, so nurses will be able to monitor their patients while standing next to them. Currently, nurses must monitor patients from a central station.
The 40th Annual HK's Hospital Benefit Golf Tournament is set for June 1–3 at The Lodge of Four Seasons. It will be a memorable weekend of golf, sports celebrities and a not-to-be-missed auction. See an event schedule and register for the tournament at www.HKsGolf.com.