Rock Island Man Uses "Second Chance" to Regain Strength and Add Years to His Life

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Russ Kennel ignored chest pains for weeks thinking a heart attack “couldn’t be happening to me.” The 76-year-old Rock Island man sluffed off nagging pains until a routine stress test landed him in the hospital preparing for open heart surgery followed by weeks of cardiac rehabilitation.

“I failed my stress test miserably,” says Kennel. “Then I went in for a stent a few days later but quickly learned it wouldn’t be enough and I never left the hospital.”

Trinity Heart Center teams prepared Kennel for open heart surgery. Kennel says he felt wiped out for two to three weeks after the procedure but knew he needed to start his recovery right away. His cardiologist recommended intensive cardiac rehab at Trinity Heart Center.

“We are skilled at fixing things in the operating room,” says Kathy Pulley, director of cardiology services at UnityPoint Health – Trinity. “But, then many people go back to the lifestyle that brought them to us in the first place. With Trinity’s program we’re giving people the support they need for long-term success.”

Thanks to Trinity Heart Center offering the gold standard Pritikin Cardiac Intensive Rehab program, more than 1,800 Quad Citians like Kennel have returned to their lives stronger and armed with the education and tools they need remain heart healthy.

“’I’ve seen others who do nothing after surgery and they are paying for it today still,” says Kennel. “That isn’t going to be me. I have a second chance and I’m taking advantage of it.”

As part of the Pritikin ICR program, supervised exercise sessions help rebuild strength and stamina, something Kennel needed help with since he hadn’t exercised in nearly 50 years. The team walked him through how to use the machines and monitored his vitals.

“The first day one of the instructors asked if I could you do 5 minutes? So, I puffed up and did it. The next day, she pushed me to go harder. Every time got easier,” says Kennel.

Alongside exercise, the Pritikin program includes healthy mindset and nutrition education.

“There’s evidence that continued heart health wellness reduces people’s risk for future heart problems.

This program focuses on supervised exercise, heart-healthy eating classes and reduced stress,” says Alyas Chaudhry, MD, Cardiac Surgery Associates, SC.

Trinity Heart Center first recognized the need for this approach five years ago and led the way bringing this life-saving resource to the Quad City community.

“We’re here so people aren’t doing it alone. Change isn’t easy,” says Linda Harris Teach, RDN, Pritikin dietician. “The effects of poor eating habits or lack of exercise can build for many years, so we don’t expect change overnight. We’re looking for small steps and gradual improvements toward living healthier.”

Facing heart disease can be scary and stressful but Trinity can help. If you had a heart event, ask your provider about a referral to Trinity Heart Center Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program today.

“I wouldn’t have done nearly as much or as well on my own. I was motivated by others in the same boat,” says Kennel. “And the staff were just so kind and helpful.”