Cardiac nurse Virginia Bailey talks to a patient about blood pressure. Bailey, who has nearly 40 years of experience, has headed the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno since 2011. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on January 23, 2018 - 10:35 AM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

After nearly two years, Eluterio “Teddy” Fonseca finally has his life back. He’s working again, he’s run (half) a marathon and he’s rebuilding a house in the Mayfair District of Fresno.

“I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and I’ve always wanted to build a house,” Fonseca said. “And I don’t know why, but after all this happened to me, I’m building a house and I ran a marathon.”

When his medical problems began, however, running and building were the last things on his mind. Starting with appendicitis in April 2016, Fonseca was diagnosed with diabetes shortly after and within a month, he had his first heart attack. A stent was put in, but he suffered a second cardiac incident and had to be put on an external defibrillator vest—a devise used to give patients an electric shock when they go into cardiac arrest.

Fonseca entered the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Kaiser Permanente, headed by cardiac nurse Virginia Bailey. He spent a year and a half working on his heart.

“They gave me Virginia Bailey to coordinate what’s happening to me and she put the program together for me,” Fonseca said. “And then she gave me classes—nutritional classes and just ‘how to live’ classes—a lot of education. I think that really helped us.”

Kaiser Permanente’s Cardiac Rehab program sees approximately 100 patients a month. With classes held every Monday, Bailey works with patients on self-management. Everything from cholesterol and blood pressure and home exercise are covered, along with blood sugar in diabetic patients.

“They’re going to learn to listen to their bodies and they’re going to learn to set the pace,” Bailey said. “[Those are] the first two rules of cardiac rehab they’ll leave with today.”

Bailey, however, stressed that no two patients are ever completely the same. Some have different heart conditions and health problems, emotional states and levels of stress. As a result, programs and paths to recovery must be taken on an individual basis.

“Everybody is an individual. Yes, maybe all my whole group is going to be stents, or maybe they all had open heart, or maybe they all just had heart attacks, but they are individuals,” Bailey said. “And that’s how they need to be looked at, and that’s what we work towards.”

An important factor in recovery is to then get the patient’s family involved. This includes nutrition as the number of cardiac patients coming to Kaiser Permanente is increasing, many of them younger with a higher prevalence of diabetes, Bailey said.

Typically, the process will last about six months. The results, however, can go much further.

“I feel very fortunate,” Fonseca said. “I do have to say I was in some bad places, but it just so happened I was at the right place here.”

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