Published on March 2, 2023
Read Time: 4 Minutes
Last year, while walking in a Halloween-themed 5K in Rolla, Bob Morrison suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, for the retired Rolla pastor, a nurse was nearby and administered CPR. Bob was then flown to Columbia, where he underwent a triple bypass surgery.
The heart attack came without warning for the 86-year-old man, who is otherwise healthy.
“I was in really good physical shape,” said Bob, who would later learn that the main artery in his heart was 99% blocked. “I worked outside in my yard, taking care of 3 acres. I’ve also walked about a mile a day for the last 10-15 years, but all of this didn't keep my arteries from getting blocked.”
Bob’s doctor in Columbia didn’t mince words about the severity of the situation.
“He told me, ‘You've got two strikes against you. You're 86 years old, and you've already had a stroke.’”
Thankfully, though, Bob made it through the triple bypass surgery on November 2, and on November 10, he was released from the hospital. Upon discharge, his doctor told him he would need cardiac rehab.
“They wanted me to come to Columbia,” remembered Bob. “But I said, ‘No, there's a rehab program right here in Rolla, so I'd like to go there.’”
Luckily, Bob’s Columbia care team was receptive to him completing rehab at the Phelps Health Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, close to home.
“They wanted to make sure I was in some type of aftercare, to make sure there would be follow-up,” said Bob. “You lose so much strength while you're in the hospital and from having a heart attack; you have to work to regain it.”
The Road to Recovery
The retired pastor now goes to Cardiac Rehab three times a week. The rehab is covered by Bob’s health insurance, which is often the case. During each session, the staff carefully monitor Bob's blood pressure and heart rate.
“When you come in each day, they take your blood pressure and your weight,” he said. “The whole time you’re working out, they have EKG (electrocardiogram) pads on you to monitor your heart rate. If your heart rate’s going too fast, they'll come over and tell you to slow down. They also take your blood pressure when you leave. And they greet you as soon as you come in the door. They’re always warm and friendly.”
Bob described a typical morning in the Cardiac Rehab gym.
“They start you out at a low stress level,” he said. “I start on the treadmill for about 4 minutes. Then, I’ll use the step machine and the bicycle, and so on. Now, I'm up to 20 minutes on the treadmill with a 6-degree incline, and I'm doing 5-6 minutes on the elliptical, 5 minutes on the rowing machine and more. Each time you're there, the nurses set the machines up for you. They're very supportive.”
A Heart-Healthy Diet
The benefits of cardiac rehab have extended beyond exercise for Bob. The staff also have helped Bob (and his wife) with their diet. The couple has special dietary challenges, as Bob’s wife has both celiac disease and the alpha-gal allergy. This means that gluten and red meat are already off the table.
“Our diet is chicken and turkey, and turkey and chicken, and occasionally turkey or turkey,” said Bob, laughing. “And occasionally some fish. So, we eat a fairly healthy diet. But yes, the team does stress [that diet is important]. They have a program in place to help you set a proper diet, and they encourage you.
“They want you to have a low-salt diet and eat proper meats. In my case, they said not to add salt to anything. And that's hard for me because I’m used to adding salt before I even taste something. I’m also a ‘sugarholic,’ and I know that’s not healthy for me.”
Steps in the Right Direction
Looking to the future, Bob and his son have set an important goal.
“My son, who came up while I was in the hospital, made a pact with me that this year we’ll walk the Halloween 5K again.”
Without question, the retired pastor would recommend the Phelps Health program to anyone going through a similar situation.
"The [Cardiac Rehab] nurses, Helen, Kate and Kelly, are phenomenal," Bob said. "They will ask me, 'Can you add one more minute? Can you bump up your stress level?' They're always pushing a little bit, but they check on you all the time. The quality of people here is amazing."
Rehab, With Heart
Have you or someone you love suffered a heart attack or heart-related incident? For more information on the Phelps Health Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation program, call (573) 458-3110.