Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation….to many people, those words sound daunting—even scary, especially after a heart attack or pulmonary issue. But at UM Shore Regional Health’s Center for Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Chestertown, rehabilitation offers much more than exercise, healthy eating and counseling.
Sherrie Hill, clinical nurse coordinator for the Cardio-Pulmonary Rehab program at Chestertown, has led the program since its opening in 1994. Patients ranging in age mostly from early their 50s to 100-plus come up to five times a week to exercise using a variety of equipment, learn healthy habits, and work with Hill, Wendy Barnette, RN and Robin Parker, RN, with the goal of regaining their strength, improving their quality of life, and decreasing their chances of having another health crisis.
Beyond the many benefits of cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, says Barnette, “Our patients become our friends.” Robin Parker, another staff nurse working in the program, takes time to check in on missing patients in her spare time, encouraging and supporting them to get back on track with regular exercise.
“The Center is a source of encouragement, camaraderie and support—we are like a family,” says George Davis, now the Center’s longest attending participant. Davis, an 83-year-old cardiac bypass patient, has participated in the program for 23 years!
“We all help each other and look forward to seeing one another at appointments. We go through life’s ups and downs together,” explains Davis.
According to Kathy Crew, now a pulmonary rehab patient who spent some time as an inpatient at UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown during the pandemic, Sherrie Hill is “one-of-a-kind.” “She gives everyone the same amount of love. Everyone gets individual attention.”
Crew credits the entire Rehab team for her success recovering from major lung surgery at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. “They got me ready and fit for the surgery and helped me recover after it.”
Jim McNeal, an existing patient, was diagnosed with an aortic valve problem just as the Cardio-Pulmonary Rehab temporarily suspended its program due to COVID-19. Via weekly telephone calls, Hill and Barnette provided McNeal with the education and support he needed. Although he misses the Center, McNeal feels he’s learned a lot from the rehab team and has continued his weight loss and exercise routine.
Sheldon Murray, a 53-year-old patient, says he feels better and healthier than before his heart attack thanks to the support he has received at the Center. Murray explains that he was terrified after flat-lining for nearly 7 minutes during his second heart attack. “Thanks to Sherrie and her team, I learned how to eat right, exercise and manage my worry about another possible attack. With their help, I’ve been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even during the pandemic.” Murray, who began losing weight during his time at the Center, has continued to lose weight through walking, weightlifting, and healthy eating.
Throughout the pandemic, the team checks in on patients’ well-being. “Sherrie, Robin and Wendy are wonderful. They text and call to find out how we are doing. But I miss the social aspects,” says Jack Maguire, a patient Hill and Barnette fondly describe as “the official greeter and cheerleader” for patients beginning rehab.
The social aspects — including holiday parties and patient birthdays — are all part of the patient experience at the Center. The team bakes a cake for every patient celebrating a birthday of 90 or greater. “It amazes me that we have so many patients 90 and over; it keeps us baking cakes every couple of months! Ralph Thornton who started the program when he was 85, I think, has had 10 cakes baked by us!” laughs Hill.
Sadly, a celebration for Thornton’s 100th birthday in March was canceled due to the pandemic. But that did not stop the Rehab team, who came up with a “Plan B.” Barnette and Hill delivered a homemade cake and happy birthday poster signed by his rehab partners to his home to wish him well on his centennial milestone.
“We also introduce new patients to long-term patients or like-minded people. We try to help everyone enjoy their time here so that they continue caring for themselves and recovering,” says Barnette. They start the program not knowing anyone and graduate with a lot of new friends.
Wendy is a true professional, says Maguire. “She treats everyone as an individual, with individual strengths and weaknesses. Her attitude is ‘let’s see your weaknesses and work on them.’”
Patients show their appreciation in all sorts of ways, including thank you notes and tokens of gratitude.
Crew spent much of her time in the hospital crocheting button bands for masks used by the hospital and rehab staff. “The elastic behind their ears is bothersome after a while,” explained Kathy. “The button bands hold the elastic in place away from ears.” Crew also provides seasonal handmade wreaths for Hill’s office door “to bring a little cheer” to the Rehab Center; cheer that Hill and Barnette happily keep passing along. “We miss our patients and hope to see them back at the Center soon,” says Hill.
For more information about UM Shore Cardio-Pulmonary Fitness and Wellness Center at Chestertown, contact at email@example.com or 410.778-3300, ext. 2222.
UM Shore Regional Health also has Centers for Cardio-Pulmonary Fitness & Wellness in Cambridge (410-228-5511, ext. 8201 and Easton (410-822-1000 ext. 5208).
Trena Williamson, Regional Director, Marketing & Communications
Phone: 410-822-1000, extension 5507