By Denise Williams | News & Views
Unlike previously profiled CR participants Greg Ruf and Grant Snyder, who underwent repeat stints in rehab, rebuilding cardiovascular health after an acute event was a novel experience for Linda Roscioli. It also was a successful one: Just days before “CR Week” kicked off, she became a first-time rehab graduate!
Linda was referred to the hospital-based program after suffering a heart attack last September that she never even saw coming. Although the 64-year-old grandmother felt generally healthy, she hadn’t recognized the contributing factors for what they were: a recipe for disaster. It never dawned on her, for example, that her father who died three years ago had heart disease and that should have been a red flag. Linda meanwhile had played down the tremendous stress she had been carrying for years, working full-time at a fast-paced job and shouldering the responsibility of caring for first one, then the other, ailing parent. There was also the extra weight she’d picked up, compliments of what seemed to be everyone’s favorite new hobby during the COVID-19 pandemic: cooking and baking.
Just one month after losing her mother, Linda’s body told her what she had failed to notice herself: something was wrong. She was clammy, couldn’t shake off a headache, was light-headed and felt persistent and unexplained pain in her neck, shoulders and jaw. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, a heart catheter confirmed two blocked arteries—one fully compromised and the other at more than 75 percent. Two months into her recovery, Linda also suffered from potentially fatal ventricular tachycardia and wound up having a defibrillator installed. “That postponed by cardiac rehab for a while,” she says. “I had to go back and restart on a low level.”
Not Designed to Fail
Linda remembers her initial trepidation about beginning CR. Was it just going to be too much for her, she wondered? Would she be able to do it? What if she passed out? She eventually got answers to all of those questions, starting with the day she got dizzy while using an arm bike. It was only her first or second week of attendance, and she was on the verge of passing out. Linda was impressed – if a little embarrassed – by the response of staff who came to her immediate attention, cared for her and eventually turned her over to the hospital’s emergency room – which ultimately released, rather than admitted, her. When she returned for her subsequent rehab sessions, staff took their time easing her back into using the arm bike.
To Linda, the lengths that program employees go to in order to ensure the safety of their patients is nothing short of remarkable. “They evaluate you before you start. Every time you go in, you fill out a questionnaire: How are you feeling? Did you take your medicine? Have you seen your doctor? Does anything hurt?” she says. “Then they take your blood pressure, they hook you up to a heart monitor that you wear for the full session. They keep a close eye on you while you’re on the machines and watch your heart rate on the monitors.”
Linda soon got the answers to her other questions after getting into the “swing of things” and realizing that CR was not, in fact, too much for her. Importantly, she also recognized that the kind, caring and competent CR professionals working with her were not there to let her fail.
The day she graduated, she stopped at a nearby library sale that let buyers fill up a grocery bag for $8. Linda chuckles at how she left the sale with what she guesses was 20 pounds worth of books; but it’s no joke that CR probably had a lot to do with why she was able to carry them.
Now that she’s completed her sessions, the recently retired wife and grandmother is bent on keeping the momentum going and living a better life. Her parents are resting in peace, she’s given up her job at a food service for a local university and she is continuing on her fitness journey via the local YMCA. The free membership through Medicare, the close proximity to her house and the indoor walking track eliminate most excuses she can conjure up to justify skipping her workouts. “Now I have to be responsible and answer to myself,” she declares. She also is motivated by the desire be involved in the upbringing of her three grandchildren – and the fourth, who’s on the way. “As long as I can keep myself healthy,” Linda says, “I can be a help to their parents.”