Husband, Father, Grandfather and Cardiac Rehab Patient
"There is no doubt cardiac rehabilitation saved my life. If I hadn’t gone there, I don’t think I would have made it."
After Surgery, He Could Barely Walk, but Cardiac Rehabilitation Helped Him Get Back on the Run
Dewey Mallory had never been a patient in a hospital until the day he went in with chest pains and ended up having heart bypass surgery.
After surgery to correct four arteries that were 99 percent blocked, the 75-year-old Breckenridge man had difficulty recovering. He could hardly walk, much less lift the big pumpkins he grows or the 60-pound machine he uses in his carpet-cleaning business.
Dewey had heard about the cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation program at MidMichigan Medical Center - Gratiot in Alma, just 12 miles from his home. A therapist who visited him after he came home from the hospital talked about cardiac rehabilitation, and his doctor advised him to go through the program.
“There is no doubt cardiac rehabilitation saved my life,” Dewey said. “If I hadn’t gone there, I don’t think I would have made it.”
Before his surgery, Dewey had loved cleaning carpet six days a week, a business he started years ago as a second job and expanded after retiring from General Motors in 1990. In his pumpkin patch, he would cut and load hundreds of heavy pumpkins and take them to market. He and his wife, Nancy, enjoyed their three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He wanted his life back.
Recovering His Strength
About six weeks after surgery, Dewey began going to outpatient rehab three times a week for a program that typically takes up to 12 weeks.
Each session included supervised, prescribed aerobic training on exercise machines specially designed for cardiovascular fitness. Dewey’s heart rate and rhythm were continuously monitored with an EKG lead on his chest. The staff tailored his exercise routine so he made progress at a safe rate, not too fast and not too slow.
“I never to had to worry about overdoing it,” he said. “I have a buddy who had heart surgery and told me he was going to a gym to work out, but you aren’t monitored there the way you are at Gratiot.”
Dewey remembers the first day of therapy. He was so weak that he had to sit down and rest on the way from the car to the fitness center.
“They were wonderful to me over there,” Dewey said. “They told me they would come and walk me back and forth to the car if I needed it; but before I finished, I could run.”
Improving His Outlook
After a little more than a week in rehab, Dewey noticed he had more strength and could breathe better. It was easier to walk. He also noticed a big impact on his outlook.
“For a while I was depressed. I was afraid to do things. I remember I was afraid to raise my hand over my head,” he said. “But they explained that depression is a process you can go through with this operation. They show you that many of the things you’re afraid of wouldn’t hurt you, and they tell you what to do to come out of it. That really helped.”
Dewey also began to learn about lifestyle changes that could make a healthy difference for him.“I learned what to eat and what not to eat, how it’s important to keep exercising.”
Returning to Work
After a few weeks, Dewey told his therapists he wanted to start lifting weights so that he could go back to lifting his carpet shampooer. Easter was coming, and one of his customers has a church that needed their carpets cleaned.
“My therapist told me it was too early yet to do the lifting,” said Dewey, “but that I could do the carpet cleaning if I got someone to lift the machine for me, so I got my grandson to help.”
Dewey graduated from the program soon after with a certificate signed by all his therapists. He continues exercising at the fitness center as part of a supervised maintenance program.
“I’m back on the run every day, ready to go at 6 a.m.,” he said. “This afternoon, I’ll probably go out and cut some more pumpkins.”
Dewey says anybody who has a heart operation should go to rehab. “I do anything I can to get people I know to do it,” Dewey said. “They don’t realize there are such good facilities right in Alma, and the people are excellent. Going to rehab definitely saved my life.”
Throughout MidMichigan Health, doctors have access to advanced tools and resources for better patient outcomes. By recommending cardiac rehabilitation as a tool for their patients, MidMichigan doctors see recovery from heart surgery differently. Learn more about how MidMichigan doctors see things differently at www.midmichigan.org/difference.