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Hearts on the Mend

Hearts on the Mend

Christine Ragusa has helped thousands of patients recover from heart attacks, heart surgery, stent placement and congenital heart failure. As leader of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Baton Rouge General, she understands the emotions that patients go through during recovery. It’s common, she says, to feel frightened, alone, anxious or uncertain about the future. “I think every patient has some degree of fear,” she said, “but if the fear is overwhelming, it can prevent them from getting well.”

Here are some of her patients’ most common questions:

I’m worried that my chest incision will open. Is rehab safe?
This rarely happens. To begin with patients are told to lift nothing heavier than a spoon for about six weeks. In other words, the weeks after surgery are a time to heal. “Once the incision is healed, it’s solid,” said Ragusa. “The patient can start doing cardiac exercises with complete confidence.”

How do I avoid “doing too much” during rehab?
“It’s true that some patients push themselves too far,” Ragusa said. “Some of them will go to their gym and work out too long or go too fast on the treadmill. Then they collapse.” Continuous monitoring is the key. Patients monitor their activity and are instructed to keep their heart rate just 10 to 20 beats past normal. This keeps them in a “safe zone.”

When is it safe to have sex again?
This depends on many factors, including your age, the medications you’re taking, and whether you are recovering from a heart attack, open heart surgery or stent placement. Talk to your doctor --- some patients can resume their sex life after about four weeks, while others are encouraged to wait longer.

Is it normal to experience depression and how can I get help?
“Yes, it’s normal. At Baton Rouge General, we have behavioral health counselors who are available to talk to patients and offer advice as they recover,” Ragusa said. “Never be afraid to talk about your feelings. We have many ways to help patients feel more positive and in control of their health.”

Christine Ragusa

Christine Ragusa, RN
Baton Rouge General Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Phone: (225) 763-4452