Not only is this National Heart Month, it is also National Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. Cardiac Rehab involves a closely monitored exercise program after a coronary procedure. We met a young woman in Aberdeen who had just started as a physical therapist in Avera St. Luke's Cardiac Rehab Unit, when out of the blue, ended up needing open heart surgery and going through the 12 week program herself.
Laura Huber is a Physical Therapist in Avera St. Luke's Cardiac Rehabilitation Unit. What makes her a great PT is her empathy for patients. She knows what it's like to recover from open heart surgery. Her heart started to give out 3 years ago just days after the birth of her daughter Maddie.
Laura tells us, "I had a baby in April and went home and a couple days later I developed symptoms of pneumonia. I was hospitalized, well first they put me on antibiotics, and then I was hospitalized, but I wasn't getting better."
Instead of relishing in the joys of motherhood, at the age of only 26, she was diagnosed with Postpartum Cardiomyopathy which is essentially heart failure.
Laura says, "I didn't feel that sick. I didn't realize how sick I was until the day the cardiologist came to me and said you are in multiple organ failure. You need an LVAD and without it I don't give you more than 2 days. Then it hit me and I said ok let's go. "
That afternoon she had surgery.
Laura explains how the LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) works. She says, "Essentially it's a heart pump. It's sewed to my left ventricle to keep a continuous flow of blood so you won't feel a pulse on me. A tube goes up to the aorta pushes the blood to the rest of my body and electrical cord comes out me and is connected to the computer."
When Laura had open heart surgery to have the LVAD implanted her doctors were calling it a "bridge to recovery", but 3 years later her heart still hasn't shown much improvement.
Laura says, "I will need a transplant at some point, but I'm postponing being put on the list because I feel so good with the LVAD and I'm so young (she is now 29). I'm not ready to give up my own heart yet."
For the patients she helps in rehab and the nurses who work beside her they understand completely. They all say Laura truly has a heart of gold, and as long as she feels good, they would hate for her to be without it.
Laura suspects a virus during her pregnancy is what caused her heart to stop working like it should.