Heart and Vascular

Cardiac rehab helps Carmel volunteer regain heart health

Cardiac rehab helps Carmel volunteer regain heart health


It was late last year when Barbara Hitchcock began experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath, unusual for the Putnam Hospital volunteer who logs thousands of steps five days a week, walking patients to their appointments, delivering mail, screening visitors for COVID-19 and more.  

She thought losing 10 pounds would help but it didn’t. Her symptoms persisted.


Hitchcock’s cardiologist recommended she have tests including a cardiac catheterization that revealed she had a blockage in her coronary artery. On Feb. 25, Hitchcock had a stent placed in the narrowed artery that has helped bring her back to her active state.


As part of her recovery, Hitchcock takes part in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Putnam Hospital. The one-hour sessions, three times a week, include supervised workouts and consistent monitoring of her blood pressure and oxygen levels.


“I feel like I have more energy when I leave here,” Hitchcock said. “This is a happy class. We have fun here.”


Cardiac rehabilitation is a vital part of a patient’s healing process. A team of specialists works with each patient to develop an individualized program tailored to his or her needs, assisting them in medically supervised exercises safely and slowly to improve strength and energy.


The rehab team also acts as a liaison, keeping the physician informed of their patient’s status and helping the patient know what to look out for and ask their doctor.


“Cardiac rehab helps a person recover both physically and psychologically from a cardiac event,” hospital Coordinator Catherine Ahern said. “It lets them know that they are not alone in this journey and that we are here to support them.”


Following her 18th session of 36, Hitchcock is making progress with no plans of giving up her fierce independence and fighting spirit, she said. She has volunteered at Putnam Hospital for more than 24 years and recently turned 80.


“Her overall fitness has greatly improved since she started,” Ahern said. “We still have some work to do, but hopefully by the time she’s done with the program, we’ll have made positive strides toward wellness.”


Learn more about Cardiac Rehabilitation at Putnam Hospital and Nuvance Health.


*This story is one patient’s experience, recounted here for educational and general informational purposes only.