Rehab goes real-world, getting people back to work - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Rehab goes real-world, getting people back to work

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(05/05/14) - Coming back after heart surgery is tough - but for people with very physical jobs, even cardiac rehab may not be enough- at least, not traditional rehab! A new program, is designed to get heart patients back to work, no matter how tough their jobs may be.

Scuba instructor Dennis Maurer is geared up for a dive, but this is not work, it is rehab for the 60-year-old, who recently had two heart surgeries.

"There was about an 80 percent blockage in one of the arteries," but Dennis says, instead of standard rehab, he chose something called "Industrial Athlete". It is a rigorous program, designed to help heart patients get back to their physically demanding jobs.  

"Basically, we're trying to make the exercise prescription as close to real life as possible," says Tim Bilbrey, the manager of Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital's Return to Work Lab.

They carry hoses up stairs, swing sledge hammers, shovel rocks, and even practice hitting dummies. Firefighters, police officers, athletes, farmers and auto workers regain the strength they need by doing activities they do in their jobs.  

"We believe that we need to see them at the level they are going to perform at their job or their sport," says Jenny Adams, PhD, a senior researcher at Baylor.

A recent study found attending rehabilitation is associated with a 46 percent lower risk of death. Unfortunately, another recent study found only 14 percent of heart attack patients use rehab.  Dr. Adams says that may be because traditional rehab is not personalized, "We have a 90-year-old woman in here. In the old days, we would give her the same prescription that we would give a 30-year-old firefighter, and we just want to stop that."
In the Industrial Athlete program, Dennis says, patient like him get a different workout, "after three months of working out and on rehab and after the surgery, I can walk on the treadmill. I can go up ladders. I can carry weights."

Right now, this program at Baylor Hospital is the only one of its kind in the country. It just won the Innovation Award from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
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