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Women’s Heart Trouble Signs Often Subtle 

 Maniaci-McMillan and Hall
Tami Maniaci-McMillan, at left, talks with Judy Hall during her cardiac workout at the UVMC Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation unit.
When Judy Hall wasn’t able to walk as fast on her jaunts and didn’t have the energy to ride bicycle with her grandson, she thought it was a sign of aging.

When she told her family physician about those concerns and shortness of breath she was experiencing, he thought otherwise, referring her to a cardiologist.

Hall underwent open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve in 2011 and today said she feels both younger and healthier.

Like many women, Hall did not exhibit signs often associated with heart problems such as sweating and aching in the arm, said Jean Heath, Director of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC).

“With women, signs of trouble may be a bit more subtle,” Heath said. “Women need to listen to their bodies and have check-ups with their physicians. Don’t be afraid to mention concerns, and don’t think it is old age.”

Following surgery, Hall was referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program.  A Troy resident, the certified public accountant chose to participate in the program at nearby UVMC.

After completing the rehabilitation phase, she now visits the center voluntarily three times weekly for her cardiac workouts. She recalls the early days following surgery were a scary time. 

“You don’t know what’s going on in there so you have a fear something is going wrong,” Hall said, pointing to her chest. She found comfort, though, in the checks of rehab patients during their workouts, including the nurses explaining what they see on monitors hooked to each patient.

“You are just so closely monitored, but it is not like it is medicinal. It is not institutional.  It is individualized, and I appreciated that,” Hall said.

Once she settled in to her rehab program, Hall said she started meeting others visiting the rehabilitation exercise room. The participants, she said, support each other and over time build camaraderie.

“I told my husband it is like ‘Cheers’ with no alcohol,” she said with a smile.

The UVMC Cardiopulmonary Rehab unit offers an atmosphere of reassurance and support, said staffer Tami Maniaci-McMillan, RN, MS. She noted that the unit staff is in contact with referring physicians, all nurses are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and the unit is just down the hall from the Emergency Department should it be needed. 

“Participants are safe in our environment,” Maniaci-McMillan said. “We are a family here.”

“I can’t say enough about the nurses here,” said Hall. They don’t hover, but they’re definitely easily available for any questions.”

Elaine Bohman, RN-BC, BSN, CTTS, said the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation staff engages in a lot of teaching of patients as they work to recover, regain confidence and continue to exercise.

“I think people learn here that they can live again,” Bohman said.

For further information on Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at UVMC, call 440-4740 or log on to