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Cardiac Wakeup Call: October 22, 2012

Working as a cardiac exercise specialist gives George Hays motivation. He helps people regain their health.

“Oh yeah, it’s wonderful to watch them to get stronger. Especially people that come in and don’t want to do it. They absolutely don’t. They don’t think it’s necessary or they got the attitude. And to see them slowly do it and coming in everyday and getting better and in a couple of weeks they’ve totally changed their tune,” says George Hays, cardiac exercise specialist.

Alexis Collins is a registered nurse at Cape Coral Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation department. Together they guide and monitor patients following a major heart event.

“From heart attack, angina, stent, heart transplant, open heart surgery which can include the bypass graphs or valve repair, so a variety of things,” says Alexis Collins, registered nurse with Lee Memorial Health System.

This chest x-ray is pretty typical. The before image shows a severe blockage, a 90% blockage. This is the same heart after a stent was put in. Both x-rays belong to Hays.

So, in a strange role reversal, George ended up somewhere familiar and foreign at the same time. He became a patient in his own rehab center.

“There were probably some incidents that I think didn’t related. Shortness of breath, palpitations. I started feeling some on exertion so it became classic. The pain had gone straight across the chest,” says Hays.

Like many heart patients before him, Hays had trouble facing the truth. Following stent surgery, he became one of them. Recovering right alongside them.

“Now I can empathize with people. Before I could only sympathize. They always have that thing where ‘you never went through this so you don’t know’ Yes I have,” says Hays.

“I think probably the biggest struggle for a health care professional and certainly in his case, is admitting that we need help,” says Collins.

Hays experience served as a cardiac wakeup call. A reminder that heart disease can happen to anyone.