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Cardiopulmonary Rehab Alaskan Distance Challenge Invigorates Participating Patients

Kenny, Bill and Duane are friends when they aren’t competing. “Ask Kenny about creative accounting,” Bill calls out from the stationary bike. Laughing, Kenny replies, ”They are accusing me of creative accounting.” It is a September morning at cardiac rehab at Hillcrest Hospital Claremore and all three are celebrating the end of summer and the end of the Alaskan Distance Challenge. Kenny, the victor, logged 435.91 miles during the cardiac rehab summer challenge, claiming the title of “King of the Mountain.” “There wasn’t any of that going on,” he assures the room once again of any hint of unfairness with the challenge. In second place, with 424.97 miles covered, Bill nabs “Winner-Winner Chicken Dinner”, while Duane secures the title of “All Around Good Guy” with 345.46 miles biked, walked and rowed.

“It looked like a good challenge and it’s fun when you are participating with your cohorts,” shares Kenny. “They set a high bar and I kept trying to achieve the same thing they were doing. One thing led to another. It’s a good way to spend the summer.”

Kenny started cardiac rehab at Hillcrest Hospital Claremore after retiring from a career as a computer programmer. “I was always chained to my desk,” he says. Within a few months of retirement, Kenny was diagnosed with heart disease. “Come to find out I was 90 percent blocked in three main arteries.” He underwent triple bypass surgery then started on the road to recovery with cardiac rehab.

“After the surgery I didn’t realize how weak I was, but I could hardly lift my finger,” Kenny recalls. “The more I came and exercised, the stronger I felt.” For those anxious of beginning cardiac rehab after a heart attack or heart surgery, Kenny offers this encouragement. “Slowly but surely your strength will build up. Your endurance will build up and you’ll feel better about yourself and think, ‘Yeah, I can do that.’”

Today, Kenny returns regularly for cardiac rehab as part of the maintenance phase. He is still under the care and management of cardiac rehab nurses Angela Messimore, RN, and Marilyn Loersch, RN. “I feel good and my strength is back. My endurance is back. I attribute cardiac rehab and the people to helping bring me back.”

In the room filled with treadmills, bikes, NuSteps, heart monitors and a few television sets, a sense of accomplishment is matched only by better health and great attitudes. The trio who competed all summer to see who could go further, realize being in the challenge is an accomplishment in and of itself with the help of their team. “We think a whole lot of them, that’s for sure,” Kenny adds. “They are one of the reasons we are still here.”

Photographed left to right bottom picture: Kenny Ralph, Bill Hurd and Duane Kyler.