The PRMC cardiac rehabilitation program helps restore health through exercise.

The road to recovery after a cardiac event runs through a small room in the basement of the Pratt Regional Medical Center. The Cardiac Rehabilitation room is a collection of treadmills, stationary bicycles and other equipment designed to help build strength and endurance.

Watching over the room is Belinda Galle ARPN, cardiac rehabilitation nurse. Galle, along with Jessica Martin, cardiac rehabilitation technician, keep an eye on a cardiac monitor as patients use the various pieces of apparatus. Patients come to cardiac after receiving stints, heart bypass, valve replacement or have a heart attack.

The goal of cardiac rehab is to help patients restore their health by exercising under safe conditions. Part of their rehab is education. The staff looks at the risk factors for each patient and they work together to reduce and minimize those factors for a safe recovery and to minimize the possibility of another event, Galle said.

While heart attacks are often associated with people over 65, Galle said that she is seeing a lot of patients under 65.

While the focus in cardiac rehab is returning people to good physical health, there is a social aspect of taking treatment in this small basement room. An offshoot of working with cardiac patients is the development of camaraderie between patients and staff and sometimes other patients.

For some older people who have no one at home and don't get out for interaction, taking treatment at the rehab center helps build those interactions, Galle said.

"New friendships are formed," Galle said.

So the rehab center focuses not only on exercise and education for health but also for social interaction.

The rehab center looks like a very small health and fitness center. There are stationary bikes, treadmills, recumbent steppers, arm ergometer and chairs for recovery.

The arm ergometer is used used either sitting or standing. The patient moves the handles that are like the pedals on a bicycle to build up their cardiac endurance. The recumbent stepper is used in the sitting position and patients use their legs to move the pedals that also helps rebuild cardiac endurance.

While the patients are using any of these machines, they have a wireless monitor that sends telemetry to a computer that gives real time readouts and displays heart rate rhythms, Martin said.

The exercise period lasts from 45 to 60 minutes but more time can be added if necessary. As the patient grows stronger, they increase intensity depending on the individual patient.

Just as important as the exercises is the cool down period that is also monitored.

"The patient has to warm up and cool down," Galle said.

Patient Gary Skaggs enjoys his time at the rehab center and said it has definitely helped him. After seeing the benefits of his rehabilitation, he said everyone should exercise.

Patient Brenda Campbell is the first patient to complete cardiac rehab treatment at the hospital. She said it was a very good experience and that the staff were very good teachers.

Patient Ross Hoener said the exercises had helped his recovery.

Currently, there are five patients in the rehab program.

While they are getting positive results for their patients, the staff would like to have more room. The equipment plus the nurses desk fills up the room. Galle said they would like to have a bigger space for the equipment and patients.

@GaleR_Tribune