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Mary Ellen Smith

Mary Ellen Smith

Scrapbooking Enthusiast and Cardiac Rehab Patient

Midland, Michigan

"Exercise was new to me, but cardiac rehab not only helped me recover from heart surgery, I also got my endurance back and lost a whole clothing size. Everyone is telling me how good I look, and that really made me feel better!"

Cardiac Rehab Started Her Fitness Habit 

Mary Ellen Smith always stayed active and in good shape, but never worked out at a gym. Having surgery to repair her heart’s mitral valve, followed by cardiac rehabilitation, changed her approach to exercise and fitness.

“I knew it was important to get out of your chair and get moving again,” said the 64-year-old Midland woman. “Going to rehab was an easy decision, especially after I learned my insurance would cover it.”

Mary Ellen and her husband, Vern, have two daughters, in Kentucky and Grand Rapids, and a son who owns a local health club. She loves creative scrapbooking and also cleans house for a man who is elderly and wants to live in his own home as long as he can.

“I wanted to get back on my feet so that I could enjoy my family, my hobbies, my work and my life,” she said.

A Prescription for Exercise

About six weeks after surgery, Mary Ellen started the cardiac rehabilitation program at the fitness center, located at MidMichigan Medical Offices–Campus Ridge 1.

Cardiac rehabilitation is literally a doctor’s prescription for exercise. Three times a week for about 12 weeks, Mary Ellen used several pieces of aerobic exercise equipment under the supervision of trained exercise physiologists and registered nurses. The staff kept Mary Ellen’s doctor informed about her progress and also gave her information about medication, diet and other topics important to her recovery.

At first, Mary Ellen found it difficult to be motivated, but the supportive environment kept her moving.

“The staff members are all great mentors. When you go in, whatever kind of day you’ve had, they are smiling and encouraging,” she said. “They’re genuine, and they give every individual the same amount of attention and concern.”

While exercising, Mary Ellen wore a monitor to continuously report her heart rate and rhythm. The staff could then customize her exercise routine for maximum effectiveness and safety. She started out slowly and worked harder as her endurance improved.

Working Out to Make Life Better

“Exercise was new to me,” she said, “but cardiac rehab not only helped me recover from heart surgery, I also got my endurance back and lost a whole clothing size. Everyone is telling me how good I look, and that really made me feel better!”

With the encouragement of Vern and their kids, Mary Ellen decided to pick up the family tradition of regular workouts at their son Matt’s health club, Smitty’s Iron Works. Her MidMichigan specialists were glad to help with her transition to long-term exercise.

“They provided information about my blood pressure and heart rate, the equipment I was using – and at what level – so the fitness coach at the gym would know where to start and how best to help me,” she said.

Mary Ellen found it interesting that less than half of women who are candidates for cardiac rehabilitation are likely to take advantage of it.

“As women, I think we have a tendency to shelter ourselves from change, especially if we haven’t exercised before,” she said. “But my advice is to give it a try. For someone who needs cardiac rehabilitation, I recommend it highly.”





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