Survivor profile: Cardiac rehab helps local man recover from open heart surgery

Courtesy of Bob Wicklund

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Last Halloween, Bob Wicklund parked his motorcycle, walked to work and climbed 11 floors for exercise at Penrose Hospital without missing a beat. He experienced an average workday in information technology, providing Penrose-St. Francis physicians with technical support. Penrose-St. Francis is part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care.

When Wicklund walked back to his motorcycle later that same day, he suddenly felt different. “My chest started aching and I was short of breath,” he said. “I knew if it didn’t go away, it was a sign that it might be a heart problem.” That evening, it turned to severe chest pain, and he found himself back at the hospital, this time, as a patient. John Frederick, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Penrose-St. Francis, performed open heart surgery on Wicklund on November 3.

After a successful surgery and one week recovering in the hospital, Wicklund started considering participating in the cardiac rehabilitation his physicians had so strongly recommended. “I got home and did some research on cardiac rehab and found that a high percentage of those who don’t go to rehab die within a year after open heart surgery,” he said. “Needless to say, I was pretty motivated.”

Wicklund attended rehab sessions two or three days a week for several months at the Penrose-St. Francis Cardiac Rehabilitation center on the Audubon Medical Campus and was back at work in just six weeks. He did routine bicycle, treadmill, weight and stretching exercises, but said the camaraderie was the most significant aspect of the recovery process. “It was nice to spend time with other people who were going through something similar,” he said. “We got to talk and share our experiences; everybody was very positive and encouraging through rehab.”

He credits the entire Penrose-St. Francis team and his rehab community with getting him back on his feet and back to work so quickly, despite the challenges that come with recovering from open heart surgery.

“Depression can hit heart patients strongly in the first few weeks of recovery,” he said. “The idea of getting out there and doing things helps combat the depression. It lets you know you’re not alone in this.”

Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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