How Cardiac Rehabilitation Changed One Man's Life

Apr 01, 2013, 11:21 ET from Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program paved the way

CHICAGO, April 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Amar Vakil seemed to have it all: A rapidly growing management consulting business and a loving and supportive family. Vakil, 49, is a first-generation immigrant from India and was determined to take full advantage of the American Dream. He became so motivated and obsessed with taking his business to the next level that it began to take a toll on his health. He was traveling five days a week, sleep was a low priority, and as a young businessman, he thought he was invincible. In March of 2010, Vakil and his family decided to take a trip down to Charleston, S.C. Vakil was already suffering from exhaustion, but he desperately wanted to take this trip to spend some quality time together as a family. On the drive down to Charleston, his exhaustion quickly turned to severe chest pain and discomfort in his neck and entire body. At the time he didn't know it, but Vakil suffered his first heart attack. Only weeks later, everything came crashing down when he suffered another heart attack.

"This was the ultimate wake-up call," said Vakil. "I was lucky to be alive and had an opportunity to make things right. Others don't always get that opportunity."

After several weeks of recovery, Vakil was referred to Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program, a supervised program of exercise and education for cardiovascular patients. Exercise is done under the direct guidance of a doctor, specialized nurses and exercise physiologists.

"Amar was committed to doing the work and putting the time in to make sure he decreased his risk factors for any future cardiac events," said Rita Szymanski, BSN, RN, clinical coordinator at Northwestern's Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation program. "He was on a mission."

Cardiac rehab is an intervention for individuals who have experienced a heart attack, with research indicating the mortality rate is 34 percent lower for people who go through the program. Participation in the cardiac rehab program gives patients the confidence they need to recover and move forward with their lives. 

Vakil was involved with the early outpatient cardiac rehab program, which takes place three days a week for three months. This requires continuous electrocardiogram (EKG) monitoring while exercising with a physician or supervisor present. The outpatient sessions include tailored exercise programs, stress reduction classes and diet assessment.

"Taking a pill may fix things in the short term, but it's important to look at your overall lifestyle and make significant changes there," said Vakil. "Northwestern's Cardiac Rehabilitation program taught me to think in a different way. I want to be here for my family and see my two wonderful children grow up. The incredible team at Northwestern has me on the right path."

Even though Vakil graduated from the early outpatient cardiac rehab program, he has continued with the maintenance program, exercising three days a week for the past three years. Vakil is working on maintaining his own heart health, but he's also committed to giving back.

"Amar has taken it upon himself to be there for other patients who are going through this similar journey," said Szymanski. "He is someone who others can look up to and see that there's light at the end of the tunnel."    

For more information about the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, or to schedule an appointment, please call 312-926-0779 or visit the website or Facebook.

About Northwestern Memorial HealthCare
Northwestern Memorial HealthCare is the parent corporation of Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an 894-bed academic medical center hospital and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, a 205-bed community hospital located in Lake Forest, Illinois.

About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial is one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.  Along with its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry, the hospital has 1,705 affiliated physicians and 6,769 employees.  Northwestern Memorial is recognized for providing exemplary patient care and state-of-the art advancements in the areas of cardiovascular care; women's health; oncology; neurology and neurosurgery; solid organ and soft tissue transplants and orthopaedics.

Northwestern Memorial has nursing Magnet Status, the nation's highest recognition for patient care and nursing excellence.  And, Northwestern Memorial ranks 12th in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report 2012 Honor Roll of "America's Best Hospitals." The hospital is ranked in 12 of 16 clinical specialties rated by U.S. News and is No. 1 in Illinois and Chicago in U.S. News' 2012 state and metro rankings, respectively. For 13 years running, Northwestern Memorial has been rated among the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" guide by Working Mother magazine. The hospital is a recipient of the prestigious National Quality Health Care Award and has been chosen by Chicagoans as the Consumer Choice according to the National Research Corporation's annual survey for 13 years. 

SOURCE Northwestern Memorial Hospital