Heart Awareness Month at Rotary


BUCKHANNON — February is Heart Awareness Month, and President of St. Joseph’s Hospital Skip Gjolberg and Annie Thorne, a Registered Nurse at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, came to Chapel Hill United Methodist Church Tuesday afternoon to educate Rotarians on cardiac rehabilitation.  

According to Gjolberg, cardiac rehab can be prescribed from a physician/cardiologist.  It could be prescribed for several reasons, which may include but are not limited to the following: controlled heart pain, congestive heart failure (CHF), cardiomyopathy, a heart attack, predisposition, a heart catherization, bypass, a transplant, etc.   “Nowadays, cardiothoracic surgeons preform bypass with the heart still beating,” explained Gjolberg in amazement.  

Gjolberg explained cardiac rehabilitation is divided into three phases.  Most patients begin phase one as an inpatient and they will walk down the hallway with telemetry to monitor the heart.  During this time, a cardiac rehab staff member will visit the patient’s room and explain the program.  Phase two occurs approximately two weeks post-discharge and may continue for 12 weeks. Phase two consists of three visits a week for 12 weeks – during this time EKGs, exercising, strength training, education instruction on nutrition and stress management, and development of personal exercise and nutrition programs will occur. Gjolberg explains that during rehab, they take the patient’s blood pressure while exercising, utilizing telemetry, and there is typically an aerobic component as well.  Phase three is a continuation of supervised exercise by a cardiac rehab nurse, such as Annie, in hopes to maintain a healthy lifestyle for just $4 a session.

Most insurance carriers will reimburse for phase two, but not phase three.  “If you’re younger than 65 with Blue Cross-Blue Shield or Humana, within a certain amount of time, they will likely cover you as well,” explained Gjolberg.  If not, phase three is $4 a session.  

Gjolberg educated Rotarians on what their cholesterol should be, as well as their high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).   “200 is the rule of thumb for cholesterol,” according to Gjolberg.  Your HDL is your good cholesterol and should be around or above 70 and your LDL, or bad cholesterol, should be a lower number,” he explained further. 

St. Joseph’s received program certification through the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehab last summer.   They certify programs that have met a certain level of expectation and competency, explained Gjolberg.  “We are really proud we got that certification,” he stated.  

Cardiac rehab sessions are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Thorne explained the facility will sometimes have 40 patients in one day.  She explained, “They like it so much they want to continue to phase three.”  Thorne said, they will typically be there from 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  

Gjolberg explained that the cardiac rehab facility is in the process of expansion plans. “I’d like to get more space and more equipment,” he continued.  “Hopefully by the end of next year or beginning of next year, I will be going to the big cheeses to get some approval,” concluded Gjolberg.  

St. Joseph’s Hospital Foundation is currently doing a fundraiser for cardiac equipment through a campaign titled “Every Heartbeat Matters,” according to Gjolberg. The funds will be used to purchase a cardiac rehab treadmill and NuStep exercise machine, GE Bike Stress Echo Tilt Table for imaging and a transesophageal probe to allow physicians to view the back of the heart. According to St. Joe’s newsletter for Heart Awareness Month, “West Virginia has the highest rate of heart disease in the nation and these funds will help to address this disease that claims many of our family and friends’ lives.”

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