I'd like to thank you for the incredible Cardiac Rehabilitation program at Palmetto Health Heart Hospital. Under the direction of Sandra Dickson and her incredible staff, this program may not have saved my life, but it has certainly improved it by making me stronger mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, and giving me my energy and my life back.
I am not the typical cardiac patient in the program. My diagnosis was "sudden cardiac death," my heart muscle failed, and according to the two school nurses and the resource officer who revived me with CPR and an AED, I actually died twice. I was given less than a one percent chance of surviving, less than 1 in 200 of not having brain damage. I had a defibrillator implanted. I was told I had a low ejection fraction (20 percent), and I'd be a lot "safer if you can get to 30 percent." I asked how and was told about cardiac rehab. In fact, the program made an immediate difference medically and my physician is amazed at the improvement.
I know that I am very lucky to be alive, and everyone told me I was doing well, but I was dealing with having practically no energy. Under the guidance of the wonderful exercise physiologists (Amy and Tamisha), and those incredible nurses, I immediately felt better just exercising and being in the program, and about half way through, I noticed a definite increase in my energy level. Lisa Akly, the dietitian, met with me individually, because my nutritional needs were different than everyone else's. I think my progress has been nothing short of amazing. I can literally do twice as much as I could when I started, both in and out of the gym. I know that I am much stronger, and I was telling Sandra I think I've reached 30 percent in my ejection fraction. While we can't confirm without an echo cardiogram, Sandra thinks I'm at at least 40 percent.
There's been another benefit as well. The other patients, as well as the staff, have all become friends. Sandra immediately introduced to fellow writers, so I felt right at home. The atmosphere is absolutely marvelous, and I have felt so much empathy and support. 
I think everyone should know about this program, and every heart patient needs to take advantage of it. Every single person, staff and patients, has been absolutely wonderful, and I think they've all contributed to my recovery. Maybe it's because they're "all heart!"
Francee Levin
Columbia, SC

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