Cardiac Rehabilitation Key For Heart Attack Recovery

Nick's Story

Nick Lefebvre was driving home to Warner after playing soccer in early April when he had a serious heart attack.

He didn’t want to believe it, even though as a nurse, he knew his symptoms left little doubt — chest pain, trouble breathing, and speaking, pain radiating down his left arm. With two kids in the car, he pulled into the Park ‘N Ride lot off Exit 2 of Interstate 89 to sort things out. Was it an asthma attack? The flu?

The pain got worse, so he drove to Concord Hospital, less than two miles away.

Stent Patient Nick Lefebvre

Nick Lefebvre

He was whisked to the Center for Cardiac Care Catheterization Suite, where Dr. Michael Ferguson inserted a stent to reopen a totally blocked artery, ending the heart attack and saving Nick’s life.

“I felt so much better, right away,” Nick said. “Since then, it’s been a journey of recovery.”

Nick, who is 39, tried walking for about ten minutes at a time while in the Hospital. It was tough. His doctors advised him to walk 30-60 minutes, several times a week until he was ready to start cardiac rehabilitation at Concord Hospital a month after his heart attack.

Nick didn’t walk as much as he should have but worked hard in the structured rehab classes and workouts.

“I do much better in a system like this, where I go to the class and I don’t have a choice,” he said following a session of vigorous weight training two months after his heart attack.

The 18-class rehab sessions include instruction on nutrition and stress reduction as well as physical workouts that increase in difficulty according to each patient’s ability and stage of recovery.

“You start slow, then they encourage you to build up,” Nick said. “If they don’t see you building up on your own, they will encourage you to build up.”

By the fifth week of rehab, Nick was running on the treadmill, a major improvement.

“When I first got into the class, walking up a flight of stairs here was difficult,” he said.

While regaining his physical endurance, Nick sought advice from the Rehabilitation Services professionals about managing his stress level, a difficult task in his high-stress job as a rehabilitation hospital nurse manager.

“Physically, I’m feeling much better, but the emotional stressors I have to deal with really affect me physically now,” he said. “I have to continue working, but my body is telling me that I need to manage my stress.”

Nick realizes he was fortunate to have suffered his heart attack so close to Concord Hospital and its cardiac specialists. He also is grateful for the comprehensive rehabilitation that helped his recovery.

His message: take care of yourself, to prevent a heart attack, “but if it does happen, stick to the advice of your doctors, your insurance company and the people who love you. Go through rehabilitation. Your life is going to change no matter what, but you can work your hardest to make your future outcomes better, and this is one way to really get you going in the right direction.”

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