Cardiac Rehab Brings Jenny Back to Life

The story of Jenny Volland

Jenny Volland is as upbeat as they come. At age 50, she is also healthy and relatively young to have suffered from heart disease, especially since she had no prior symptoms and no family history. But after waking up and feeling a little "off," Jenny says her optimism was tested in the days and weeks to come after her heart attack. 

"I felt like I had gulped too much soda," Jenny says of the pain in her chest. "Both of my upper arms were hurting, and I actually thought it was from the way I had been sitting at the computer. So, I got up started to move around, and I got dizzy. I thought, 'you're getting the flu, you need to go back to bed.' So I went upstairs and it was only about 30 seconds later when I woke my husband up and said, 'nope, we've got to go, but I don't know why'." 

Jenny displayed a few of the classic signs of a heart attack with discomfort in her chest, discomfort in parts of the upper body and dizziness, according to the American Heart Association . Other symptoms include nausea or vomiting and breaking out in a cold sweat. The time to get help and call 9-1-1 once these signs are present is immediately. 

Once at a local hospital, Jenny was identified as a good candidate for the minimally invasive robotic heart surgery, which was available at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital . Once at Sacred Heart, Jenny says, "Dr. Branden Reynolds touched my heart and saved my life." Jenny ended up having surgery by the more traditional method of going through the sternum. But, she says the staff and doctors at Sacred Heart were excellent. 

Eleven days after her heart attack, Jenny was back at home. And, at her 30-day checkup, she was cleared to begin outpatient cardiac rehabilitation at St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute. The cardiac rehabilitation program is a comprehensive, medically monitored exercise and education program, emphasizing disease prevention and management, education and support. In addition, physical therapy, certified dietitian and psychology services are available when indicated.

"I walked in [St. Luke's] and felt like a baby," Jenny says. "Emotionally, it's the weirdest thing ever. Coughing makes you want to cry-no, crying makes you want to cry. I'd cry because I desperately wanted to be healthy. The thing about cardiac rehab is that it not only takes care of the physical piece-you start very slow and can't even sit up-but it helps with the overwhelming emotional fare, which was something I wasn't prepared to experience." 

"They were so amazing," Jenny says about the therapists who helped her regain confidence and strength. "I noticed with every person, they tailored everything to what the patient needed."

Jenny says the process begins slow, doing as much as she could handle with encouragement and challenges along the way. "I needed to know that I was going to run. I'm not even a runner but I wanted to know that I could."

After three months of rehabilitation, Jenny returned home doing just that-she could run on the treadmill. Jenny also returned home with newfound knowledge of what it means to eat heart-healthy meals, read food labels and "be smart," as she puts it, about new eating habits.
"The tools they gave me," Jenny says, "I can use for the rest of my life. I said that the doctor at Sacred Heart touched my heart and saved my life, so did St. Luke's cardiac rehab. He was the immediate fix, and they fixed it for all time." 

Jenny is now back at work full-time and says she's able to do everything that she was doing before her heart attack. She's also joined an organization called Mended Hearts, which is a cardiac support group with 300 chapters across the country. With the support and guidance she received at St. Luke's, Jenny is able to assist other patients and caregivers with heart disease. 

"The first thing I'd tell women is to listen to your body," Jenny offers as advice. "One of the things they told me in the ER was that I very lucky because most women would just go back to bed thinking they had the flu, which is what I started to do. They don't wake up. If your body tells you something is weird, don't fight it-because we're tough, right?"

 "I can't say enough about the therapists at St. Luke's," she adds. "I don't know if they really know the lasting effect they leave on people. I think about them every day when I first get on the treadmill. They are in my heart and will be for the rest of my life." 

St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute, the largest free- standing rehabilitation hospital in the region, treats people of all ages. To learn more about St. Luke's outpatient rehabilitation services, click here .
 

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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute
711 S. Cowley St.
Spokane, WA 99202-1330
509.473.6000

Inpatient Information: (509) 473-6058
Outpatient Information: (509) 473-6869