Local Woman Adjusts to Life After a Heart Attack

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Having a heart attack can be life changing. With modern medicine more and more people are surviving and can go on to live long lives. However, recovering from it can be a long process.

Just over three months ago, Penny Trudeau drove herself to the emergency room with what she initially thought was severe indigestion.

"I came in with my chest pains and they said it had been about a year probably that I'd been having heart attacks and they gave me three bypasses and fixed me up," Trudeau explained.

Ten minutes later she would be having open heart surgury to save her life.

"I didn't wake up for 2 days. I mean there are just some vague memories."

The 71 year-old had been active her whole life, but getting back to her daily four mile walks wouldn't happen overnight.

"I knew that I had to force myself to eat. You don't want to eat. So you just swallow because you know it's going to make you better."

The little things, like coughing and sneezing hurt and she couldn't lift more than five pounds.

"You can't pick things up and you can't move around extensively.  You have to be around people and keep your life going."

Now, Trudeau comes to cardiac rehab at Mercy  three times a week. Studies show it makes a difference. People who go through a rehab program are 25 percent less likely to die or end up back in the operating room.

"It's reassuring to know that you've got nurses and a medical staff to watch your heart rate, your blood pressure. It's critical for the first few weeks to have that instead of doing it on your own so if there is a problem, we can catch it before something bad happens," said Jane Marotti, R.N.

Cardiac rehab also has benefits for people who have never had surgery, but have risk factors for heart disease. Trudeau says going through cardiac rehab has taught her more than just a workout routine, but a new lifestyle.

"When they said no salt, I did not touch a salt shaker. I was somebody when you gave me a steak I salted the steak and each piece, laughs and I don't use salt now."

Two months and two weeks after bypass surgery Trudeau is back doing her four miles. This time, she is on a treadmill with someone watching her every move and that's OK she says. It's motivated her to get her heart in shape.

"You get out of it what you put into to it. If you're going to lay back and be terrified that's it's going to happen again, you will never enjoy your life. "

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