Broken Hearts

On their first visit, most folks find a spot in the crowded parking lot down the hill and then lumber their way up to the entrance, breathing hard.  Others, who might be more familiar with the campus, use the free valet service located at the front door.  Those who seem less able are dropped off by a friend or relative. No matter, they all hesitantly enter the building and nervously stand in front of the elevator bank on their way to cardio rehab on the second floor.  Worry is etched deeply into their facial expressions.  They are unsure of themselves, and unsure of their future.   And all have a significant malady in common: their hearts are broken, and they’re scared to death.    

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing over 375,000 Americans annually. For people who’ve had heart failure, heart surgery, or a heart transplant, long-term studies clearly indicate that patients who participate in a cardiac rehab program recover more quickly and more fully; they significantly improve their fitness levels; and they dramatically reduce their cardiac risk factors.

However, not all cardiac rehab programs are alike, and one in particular—the Cardiac Rehab Program at Putnam Hospital Center—is considered “the jewel in the crown” in the Hudson Valley.  Cathy Ahearn is the long-time coordinator of this program and, along with her assistant, Liz, is credited with saving hundreds of patients’ lives over a nursing career spanning more than 30 years.   

Sign Up for E-News

Widely known for her professionalism and compassion, patients who’ve been with Cathy, and depend on her year after year to stay alive, tell stories of how carefully she listens, how closely she follows-up, and how much she truly cares. 

In a gym-like setting, heart patients use exercise machines and free weights to go through a carefully selected sequence of cardio and strength-building exercises.  Using cutting-edge technology, patients are closely monitored and stress tested. Their heart rate, heart rhythm, respiratory rate, blood-oxygen levels, and blood pressure are continually assessed, informing their exercise regimen. Most patients complete their cardiac rehab program in about four months, but some stay on for years. The length of the program varies according to medical condition and insurance coverage.    

Cathy provides critical advice to patients and, in her understated way, pushes them to develop better healthcare habits so they can lead healthy fulfilling lives. With an easy laugh and apple-pie charm, she encourages participants to make dietary changes and exercise regularly; discusses techniques for reducing stress; and demands that her patients maximize their rest, eat regularly, and dutifully adhere to their medication schedule.  Cathy believes that patients have been given a second chance to make lifestyle choices that are critical to their full recovery. 

Cathy and Liz are not just competent and kind; they are also extraordinarily persuasive. They educate, guide and support in such a low-key manner that patients find themselves enjoying a healthier lifestyle without having to be hit over the head with a hammer.   “Smile!” is one of her most frequent refrains. “Put a smile on your face, and get those endorphins working.”

For patients recuperating from cardiac surgery, regaining emotional strength is almost a tougher challenge than recovering physically.  Cardiac rehabilitation programs usually focus attention on rebuilding weakened muscles after surgery, not necessarily attending to the post-traumatic stress and depression that debilitates so many. However, under Cathy’s leadership, the Cardiac Rehab Program at Putnam also becomes a community of people enjoying each other’s company two or three mornings each week, and cheering each other on. Mental fatigue and the overwhelming sadness that strikes so many heart patients are openly acknowledged. And, if requested, a list of mental health practitioners experienced in dealing with post-operative cardiac depression is willingly provided and heartily encouraged.  

Mended Hearts is another fine program operating under Cathy’s sustaining leadership. This peer-to-peer support group, consisting of heart disease patients, their families and caregivers, meets twice monthly to inspire hope and improve the quality of life for all involved.  Members listen to each other, share their experiences and volunteer to talk to other heart patients about what they may face, including: recovery, treatment, lifestyle changes, and possible depression. 

Cathy Ahearn, through her hard work and dedication, has had a profound and lasting influence on innumerable lives. When she says, “I love this job!” it’s crystal clear how much she really means it.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


The DACA Dilemma and the Trick of the Trickle-Down Theory

Here is our very own Sen. Charles Schumer on the Senate floor last week: “President Trump has stood in the way of a bipartisan solution to DACA, a problem he created in the first place, and yet the president is in this dream world. He thinks, ‘Oh, I can blame Democrats for the impasse.’ As I said, only in the 1984 world where up is down and black is white could this be true.

Cuomo’s Frivolous Lawsuits Cost Us Money

Since Donald Trump became president, New York State has filed more than 100 lawsuits against the federal government. This includes those filed by both Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It does not include lawsuits filed by the City of New York. Most of them are political in nature, filed to please the plaintiffs’ voting base. In the real world, if we had filed ...

Big Brother Comes to Mahopac

High-tech, government-controlled, eavesdropping devices—listening and watching and prying into our everyday lives—are becoming pervasive. They are being positioned on the streets and highways we travel and they can be programmed to enter our homes and workplaces through the lenses and microphones of the PCs and smartphones we use.    

Of growing concern is the ...

Beautiful, 'Clean' Coal

After completing his first full year in office—an alarming year, at that— Donald Trump has concluded that climate change is not a significant national threat and that the sacred lands and waters of this country should be sold to the highest bidder. 

The Trump administration has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement; deregulated national landmarks; freed public lands for ...

I Love 'I Hate Hamlet'

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors. Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

He has just ended a star turn in the ...

A Trip to the 'Liberry'

Raise your hand if you didn’t—did not—call the library the “liberry” when you were little. I’m guessing not a lot of hands just went up.

Didn’t just about all of us say “liberry” when we were learning to read? (Well, whaddya expect when a place is named something way too easy for little kids to mispronounce?)

OK. Now, raise your hand if ...

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

When you have short hair, it is inevitable that you will spend an inordinate amount of time growing your hair out and then getting fed up and cutting it again. I have been down this hair-brained road several dozen times before, complaining for months until I am convinced my husband is going to cut it all off while I sleep just so he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about it one more ...

I'm Mrs. Heat Miser

To be perfectly honest, I did not need a large rodent with insomnia to convince me that we had six more weeks of winter. It’s been so cold outside lately that when I go out, my nostrils stick together. The dog is so hesitant to go out that he does his business right on the deck, less than five feet from the door, and then gives me a look of contemptuous indignation when he comes back in the ...

Upcoming Events

Wed, February 28, 6:00 PM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

Freedom from Smoking

Health & Wellness

Thu, March 1, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Fri, March 2, 7:00 PM

Kennedy Catholic High School, Somers

The Kennedy Catholic High School Players ...

Arts & Entertainment Other Religions And Spirituality

Bazzo Needs to Get His Facts Straight

February 15, 2018

To the editor,

Once again Mr. Bazzo, in his Feb. 8, column cherry picks facts, ignores other facts, passes along lies and spins so fast to the right that it’s amazing he doesn’t drill himself into the earth.

Bazzo is correct—the economy is doing well, and we should give credit where credit is due. Thank you, President Obama for taking the economy from the brink of another ...