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Former fire chief works it out at Mercy cardiac rehab

Clinton Herald - 2/16/2017

Feb. 16--Editor's Note: February is American Heart Month. Throughout the month, the Clinton Herald is publishing a heart-related story each Thursday.

CLINTON -- If you could give Russ Luckritz the day to talk about his experience with the Mercy Medical Center cardiac rehabilitation department, he might be able to use all of it.

For 33 years, Luckritz was a Clinton Fire Department firefighter, with 14 of those years spent as fire chief. That time serving the Gateway area has taken a toll on his body, including his heart. Now with five heart attacks under his belt -- three in 2010, one in 2014 and the most recent in 2016 -- Luckritz has spent his fair share of time in the cardiac rehab department.

The circumstances that landed Luckritz in cardiac rehabilitation have introduced him to people and technology aimed to change his life.

"The cardiac rehab program here at (Mercy) North is every bit as good as anywhere," Luckritz said. "Maybe the best part about the rehab here is that they teach you, 'Hey, you can survive these things. You can rehab yourself.' It takes a very unpleasant situation, and it eases your mind a little. It shows you that yes, you can be rehabbed."

Amy Alton-Stonebrook and Laura Norman head the cardiac rehab department at Mercy Medical Center -- North. They monitor participants through 36 rehabilitation sessions, meeting with patients three times per week for 12 weeks. Using various monitors and machines, they're able to intensively track heart activity and trends during exercise, slowly working the heart back to health throughout the sessions. Patients that come through their doors have all had some form of cardiac intervention, be it a placement of stents, angioplasty or other procedure.

Just as important as the physical rehabilitation the patients receive is the education provided to them throughout their sessions. Things like nutrition, exercise, and medication compliance education can go a long way in keeping patients from having to return to cardiac rehab in the future.

"We have some classes that we offer things like the benefits of exercise, and Amy offers a great anatomy class. There are some basic things that people can do to benefit themselves in the long run," Norman said. "Stress management is also something we can help with that's very important."

Luckritz, now a former cardiac rehab patient, logged lots of hours on the treadmill and picked up a wealth of knowledge from the sessions.

But he learned some things on his own in his experiences -- things like dialing 911 at the first signs of discomfort, rather than waiting for the symptoms to worsen. Going hand in hand with that, Luckritz now urges those with symptoms to call 911 rather than assuming they're OK enough to transport themselves to a medical facility. In his words: "Who knows what can happen on your ride over?"

Luckritz also was able to learn firsthand about the doctors, nurses and staff members at Mercy and in the facility's cardiac rehab department.

"Am I a cheerleader for everyone here? Yes. I've been through it," Luckritz said. "I know what they do, and I know that I don't want to have to go through it again. But if I do, I want to come here."

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(c)2017 the Clinton Herald (Clinton, Iowa)

Visit the Clinton Herald (Clinton, Iowa) at clintonherald.com

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