At 56 years old, Mike Abdou enjoyed an active retirement with his wife, Abby, and their three teenage daughters. But a routine visit to his primary care doctor threatened to put his energetic life on hold.
During an annual checkup in 2016 with Dr. Basil Abramowitz — Mike’s primary care doctor at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group — Mike discovered he had a heart murmur, a swishing sound heard when there is abnormal blood flow across the heart. Dr. Abramowitz referred him to a cardiologist for further tests.
The cardiologist monitored his heart for two years, but the murmur grew worse. Further testing revealed a torn mitral valve that needed to be replaced.
In February 2019, Mike had surgery at Sharp Memorial Hospital to replace his valve. Additionally, he had a pacemaker installed to help control his heart’s abnormal rhythm.
Before his heart surgeries, Mike enjoyed walking 3 miles in the morning and sometimes another 3 miles in the afternoon. After surgery, his activity level drastically declined.
“I became anxious and afraid of working out after surgery,” he says. “It would take me an hour and 20 minutes just to walk half a mile because I was scared my heart would stop, and I would end up back in the hospital.”
Mike wanted to get back the quality of life he had before surgery. His cardiologist referred him to the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Sharp Memorial.
The program is recommended for patients with a history of chest pain and for those who’ve experienced angioplasty, heart attack, heart surgery or heart failure. Patients who participate in the program lower their risk of future cardiac events and can improve their stamina and strength, as well as increase their quality of life.
Patients start with a health evaluation, and the results are used to create a personalized exercise plan. Participants have the support of doctors, nurses, exercise physiologists and nutrition specialists throughout the program.
At cardiac rehabilitation, Mike met exercise physiologist Mary Miller, who helped put him at ease.
“She sat down with me, explained the program and showed me some exercises I could do to strengthen me physically and mentally,” he says. “I knew I was in good hands.”
Weekly exercise sessions helped empower Mike to stay dedicated to improving his health. He now works out at the cardiac rehabilitation gym three days a week, for 90 minutes a session, and never misses an appointment.
At the end of the 12-week program, Mike plans to join the cardiac rehabilitation Fit for Life Program in order to stay active. This way, he can keep up his exercise routine with limited supervision from an exercise physiologist.
“I want to be here for my three girls and my wife,” he says. “I will do everything I can for my health to make sure I am on the right track.”
Mike says cardiac rehabilitation has helped his outlook on life. “After heart surgery, patients may feel depressed or sad, but there is hope in cardiac rehabilitation,” he says. “The program has changed my life; my confidence has increased, and my mental and physical state has greatly improved.”
For more information about the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Sharp HealthCare, visit sharp.com/cardiacrehab.