Matters of the Heart: From Heart Attack to Senior Olympic Training

Feb 08, 2017
Photo by: Donated photo Darrell Douglas

It was a typical day for Darrell Douglas on Aug. 17, 2015. Douglas was enjoying a few games of basketball at his local church when suddenly he fell face first to the ground. He was experiencing a heart attack. Onlookers immediately started CPR, and he was then transported via EMS to the hospital where he subsequently had quadruple bypass heart surgery.

“I had just retired and was more active than ever before playing golf and basketball,” said Douglas. “It was one of those silent things I guess. I never would’ve thought.”

After his surgery, Douglas began to see David Peterson, MD, of Western Carolina Cardiology. Peterson recommended he begin cardiac rehabilitation at Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center (HRHFC).

The typical cardiac rehab day for Douglas would consist of checking vitals such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate, and then beginning exercising on a treadmill, elliptical or bike, depending on what was most comfortable for him.

“You were not a number on a treadmill and left alone, the attention to detail for each person’s needs is a priority for them and easily noticeable,” he said. “They made sure to not let me do too much too soon, and cause more damage to my heart.

He began the program slowly and ensured his heart rate stayed at the healthy level to gradually increase his stamina. Soon after, he started lifting light weights and stretching. After 36 sessions of cardiac rehab, he graduated with a certification, cow bell ringing and a celebration.

“It felt good; like you really accomplished something. They made it a big deal,” said Douglas.

After he graduated cardiac rehab, Douglas began the STEP program at HRHFC. STEP is a guided physical therapy evaluation to ensure you are ready to exercise. He had a personal exercise physiologist to develop his exercise program. He also received a 60-day membership for $60 and two training sessions per week in small groups with exercise specialists, nutrition education, and full fitness center access.

“I used to think I ate healthy, but realized I actually didn’t after meeting with Lauren the nutritionist. Now I stay with a diet that is little to no sodium and cholesterol,” said Douglas.

He now considers himself to be a better swimmer, stronger lifter and faster runner due to a 15- pound weight loss. He is now training for the Haywood County Senior Olympic Games in 2017. He strives to be active every day, and his typical workout routine consists of weight-lifting, swimming laps, sprints and running.

Douglas says he would recommend all the services he experienced at Haywood Regional.

“A big part of what I can do today is due to the programs and people at Haywood Regional, and for that I am eternally grateful,” he said.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Week, Feb. 12-18, focuses attention on cardiac rehabilitation’s contribution to improving the health and physical performance of people at risk for heart disease as well as those who have been diagnosed with heart disease or dysfunction. Haywood Regional wants to honor, congratulate and thank Darrell for choosing us to care for him.

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