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Heart Attack Survivor Makes Strides Through Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab

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Woman standing in Cardiac Rehab room.

There was little warning before Pam Garcia suffered a heart attack. At 66 years old, the mother of three and grandmother to 13 knew she needed to lose weight but overall felt okay.

Everything changed one night in October of 2018.

“I was so tired but I didn’t have any other symptom other than fatigue. Then I fell asleep and woke up at midnight and didn’t feel right at all,” says Garcia. “I said, ‘honey, I think I might be having a heart attack.’”

Once she and her husband arrived at the emergency department, her suspicion was confirmed and hospital staff got her the care she needed right away.

“I was 99% blocked in my main artery, so the widow maker,” says Garcia. “I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t wrap my brain around it.”

After that, Garcia knew she needed to make lifestyle changes. Her nurses advised her about the Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation program offered through the Heart Center at the UnityPoint Health – Trinity Rock Island campus. Referral-based patients who enter the program can attend 72 sessions providing them with the resources and education to carry out a healthy lifestyle.

Wanting to do whatever it took to strengthen her heart and get healthy for her family, she was onboard. Sessions include heart monitoring, exercise and blood pressure checks. Much of the guidance participants receive helped ease Garcia’s anxiety over her recovering heart.

“The nurses and the therapists are super great. Then after exercising, we’d go into the educational video room. Those were so informative.”

She especially enjoyed learning how to sustain a heart-healthy eating plan, with regular lessons in the Cardiac Nutrition Center kitchen.

“I really did think I was eating pretty healthy, but this program is just amazing. I’ve lost a lot of weight by following it.”

As of February 2019, Garcia was down more than 50 pounds and feeling great. She says losing the weight has led to so many positive changes, including improvements with a bad knee. Garcia graduated from the Pritikin ICR program after completing all the sessions. While the work and dedication came on her end, she’s extremely thankful for the support from the cardiac rehab staff.

“I couldn’t have done it on my own. I could not. Everybody was so terrific. I always say, ‘you’re my guardian angels,’” says Garcia.

She’s proud of the transformation she’s already achieved and plans to continue her journey to a healthier lifestyle in order to be there for her family for many years to come.

“The small things in life mean so much more to me.”

For additional information on UnityPoint Health – Trinity’s heart care program, contact (309) 779-5340.