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Marking Milestones after Two Heart Attacks and Cardiac Rehab

As the doors of the elevator open on the second floor of the Bell II building, where Hillcrest Exercise and Lifestyle Programs is located, Carol Lambert carries a platter of fruit and a heart of gratitude as she encounters familiar faces. She is returning for her normal workout at 4:00 p.m. and greeted by Supervisor Chris Bousum and others, who welcome her with hugs and words of encouragement. On this day, at this time, Carol celebrates a special milestone with the people who understand it as much as she does. “At about 4 o’clock on Sunday two years ago, I drove to the minor emergency center hoping to get medicine for the heartburn I had been having for a few days,” she explains. “I was told I didn’t have heartburn. I was in fact having a heart attack.”

As the weight of the news set in, Carol texted her only son, who was in Mexico at the time. She wanted him to know she loved him, “not knowing if I’d ever see or talk to him again.” As the ambulance arrived to take her to the Emergency Room at Hillcrest Medical Center, Carol realized she had overlooked the signs of a heart attack. “I, like so many women, didn’t have the typical signs of a heart attack,” she admits. “My only symptom was indigestion.”

Following treatment at Oklahoma Heart Institute, Carol was referred to the certified cardiac rehab program offered by Hillcrest Exercise and Lifestyle Programs. “When I first started, I was scared to death,” she says. Lacking confidence in her health, she admits the thought of starting an exercise program was terrifying. However, after meeting the staff and understanding what she could expect from the program, Carol knew she was in good hands with a caring, capable and supportive staff.

In addition to learning about the procedures she had undergone, to medication, diet, exercise and nutrition education, Carol says the people make the program all come together. “From the ones who answer the phone to the cardiac nurses, everyone involved provides so much support, kindness and care,” she says. “They have helped me to learn to control what I can, like, what I eat, how to exercise properly, how to manage stress, and to take my medicine and keep my regular doctor’s appointments.”

Carol credits the cardiac rehab program for helping her get her life back, not once, but twice. After suffering a second heart attack in July 2012, she returned for further rehabilitation. A two-time graduate, Carol continues to return for exercise at least three times a week at HELP. She takes everything she has learned from the program to continue to work on her heart health. “I have no illusions: I am a woman living with heart disease,” she adds. “The program has helped me be less afraid and to get my confidence back and to learn not just how to survive, but to thrive despite my heart disease. For that and for everyone involved, I am truly thankful.”