When Ray Lepore suffered a heart attack last fall, he asked the same question as many other victims – “Why did this happen to me?”
Lepore, in the midst of moving from a home in Troy to a new residence at Wayne Lakes near Greenville, was getting ready for work one morning when it struck. “All of a sudden, it was like a pit bull just grabbed me in the chest,” he recalled. The pain went away briefly, but returned and was unrelenting.
A call to Troy paramedics landed him first in the UVMC Emergency Department, then at Good Samaritan Hospital, where two stents were placed.
“I was in good health, good shape and recovered pretty quickly,” Lepore said. “The first few weeks afterward were a very scary time. It is still very scary when I let myself think about it. Every sensation now that you have, you are wondering, ‘Is that related to my heart?’”
A short time after the attack he was back at UVMC, this time to participate in the CardioPulmonary Rehabilitation program at the recommendation of his doctor.
“I walked in here. Within five minutes I realized this is where I needed to be,” said Lepore, a sales engineer at Dickman Supply in Sidney. “You are here with people who all are in the same boat and all are dedicated to taking care of ourselves. There is a great staff here that helps us every step of the way.”
He participates in the program three days a week, with his physical activity monitored by center staff. “They watch my every heart beat. It is another comforting thing, if anything goes wrong here, they are watching,” he said.
“I call this my lifeboat because we all come at it from different perspectives, but you are scared, you feel kind of alone and kind of lost,” Lepore said. “They reach out a hand to us and say, ‘Come on, we know how you feel, what you are going through. Let us give you a hand. We will help right the ship, get you on the right track again.’”
The goal of the CardioPulmonary Rehabilitation program is to make the patient’s heart and lungs stronger and healthier, said Tami Maniaci McMillan, lead nurse for cardiac rehabilitation at UVMC. Those seen in the cardiac portion of the rehab program have had a bypass, heart attack, valve replacement, stents placed or angina.
“We try to educate them about heart disease so they don’t have to go through surgery again. We provide psychological support, to help them feel confident again,” Maniaci McMillan said.
Patients are supervised by a nurse, are on heart monitors and get frequent blood pressure checks. The rehab program lasts eight to 12 weeks and is followed by follow-up and maintenance programs.