March 29, 2024

Faster recovery: From cardiac scare to exploring Italy

Virtual cardiac rehab helped Mike Kelly heal at home after a life-threatening heart event. He regained his strength and his sense of adventure.

Expert treatment and at-home rehabilitation from his Kaiser Permanente cardiac team gave Mike Kelly the chance to scale the heights of Italy.

Mike Kelly was looking forward to celebrating his daughter’s college graduation. But for 2 weeks, he’d been experiencing pain on the left side of his upper chest.

“I’d never had it before and thought maybe it was indigestion,” said Kelly, 54, who is from Portland, Oregon.

He planned to make an appointment with his doctor after the graduation. But the following Monday, he felt sharp pain in his chest and arms, so he and his wife went to the emergency room.

Tests showed he hadn’t had a heart attack. He went home and worked with his primary care doctor and cardiologist, Daniel Lavery, MD, for follow-up tests, which came back normal.

Kelly was still experiencing pain, however, and a CT scan showed an 80% blockage in one of his arteries. After a successful stent placement procedure to open the blockage, Kelly was ready for his next challenge: cardiac rehabilitation.

Comfort and familiarity of at-home care

After a significant cardiac event, it’s often necessary for patients to make changes to improve diet, increase exercise, and start new medications. But those changes aren’t always easy.

Kelly’s care team suggested Kaiser Permanente’s virtual cardiac rehabilitation program. The program brings rehabilitation into a patient’s home without the need to physically visit a clinic, which has been shown to be a barrier to recovery.

One advantage of participating in this program is that if your rehab is home-based, it’s more baked into your day-to-day life.

Kelly began wearing a fitness device that tracked his activity and heart rate. This data, along with blood pressure readings, was securely transmitted via a mobile app to his nurse, who met with him virtually to discuss progress and give guidance about nutrition, exercise, and other factors for heart health.

Although Kelly has had to cut down on red meat and his favorite candy, the program helped give him the confidence to know he could exercise safely. Three weeks after having a stent placed, he and his wife were able to travel to Italy’s Amalfi Coast and walk for miles each day.

Higher completion rates and healthier patients

“Cardiac rehabilitation gives people a specific exercise prescription and educates them about heart health, medications, diabetes, and lipids,” said Siobhan Gray, MD, medical director of the virtual cardiac rehabilitation program at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Oregon.

“One advantage of participating in this program is that if your rehab is home-based, it’s more baked into your day-to-day life,” said Dr. Gray.

This translates into higher completion rates and healthier patients. Since Kaiser Permanente began offering virtual cardiac rehabilitation as an option, the completion rate has risen to 80% — 4 times higher than the facility-based program.

That success rate shows that sustainable change and healthier habits bring people like Kelly long, heart healthy lives for years to come.

Learn more about heart health and recovery.