Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Program

MPMC’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program has recently expanded to include a phase III cardiopulmonary program.

Journey to recovery begins and ends at home

Middle Park Medical Center’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program offers top-notch services in Granby

GRANBY, COLORADO ― As Kathleen Szalkowski sets a steady pace on the treadmill, she laughs and reminisces about the journey she’s been on and the new friendships she’s developed.

“I just know that I feel about as blessed as anyone could feel,” Kathleen, of Grand Lake, said. “You look at everything differently.”

Kathleen’s perspective has changed over the past several months as she’s worked diligently to recover from a heart attack that caught her completely off guard in August 2013. Thanks to the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at Middle Park Medical Center, Kathleen has a renewed outlook on life.

Kathleen said. “The rehab program has been an incredible experience. It has been a lifesaver for me”.

MPMC’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, managed by Tash Amick-Sullivan, registered nurse, has recently expanded to include a phase III cardiopulmonary program, which will allow patients to continue their progress at their own pace under medical supervision, after completing the initial phase of treatment.

Randy Schmuck, of Granby, who is recovering following his triple bypass and aorta surgeries in February 2014, is among the first to take advantage of the extended program.

“Coming to our local rehab program in Granby is the best thing I ever did,” Randy said. “I don’t regret a minute of it. I’m really glad they’ve got this third phase going. I’m not strong enough to go out and exercise regularly on my own.”

Recovery regimen

Tash said the key to MPMC’s program is to give patients the information, skills, and confidence they need to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“We all take an active role in the patient’s health,” Tash said of her team. “We really treat the whole person – body, mind, spirit, everything.”

Kathleen stated, “I felt the encouragement and support from a spiritual perspective also through my church community and felt that support helped me along the way. It made all the difference”.

MPMC’s program focuses on exercise, healthy habits, proper nutrition and developing support systems and nurturing hobbies. The team also includes Medical Director Dr. Mark Paulsen, Exercise Physiologist Cordie Steele and Registered Dietician Jean Anderson, all of whom play a unique role in the program’s overall approach.

“We want patients to be an advocate for their own health. We’re just here to foster that,” Cordie said.

Tash said the first visit with her following a qualifying cardiac event or pulmonary disease – such as heart surgery or chronic bronchitis or asthma – is spent explaining the patient’s condition and medical treatments, answering questions and familiarizing the patient with the equipment.

Tash uses easy-to-understand language and keeps a watchful eye on the patient’s disposition at all times.

“How the patient is feeling is everything,” she said.

As a cardiac rehab patient continues in the program, Tash and her team create an individualized plan and exercise prescription for each patient. The team keeps tabs on each patient’s heart rate, rhythm and weight – the data from which is shared with the patient’s primary care provider – and track the patient’s perception of exertion.

“That’s really the trick of this, we want to make sure patients are progressing without pushing them past their comfort level,” Tash said.

Kathleen felt that being able to set her pace and progress at her own rate was a key for her in her recovery.

“The environment at rehab is so safe,” she said. “They have monitors that show you about where you should be. They will let you push it if you want to, but they’re watching to make sure everything stays safe”.

For pulmonary rehab patients, the program looks a bit different. While the general aspect is the same as cardiac rehab, Tash and her team also teach patients proper breathing techniques and monitor how out of breath the patient feels.

In complement to the exercise component of the program, patients are offered an opportunity to meet with MPMC’s registered dietician, Jean Anderson. Healthy eating habits are a strong component to recovering during cardiac and pulmonary rehab and Jean is there to help patients understand those new habits and changes.

“I try to encourage dietary changes that they can live with,” Jean said.

Jean said the key for many patients is eating lean proteins and vegetables. But she encourages patients to allow themselves sugar and alcohol in moderation for special occasions.

“They can make those choices and feel good about the decisions they are making,” Jean said. “Many times, small dietary changes can lead to major lifestyles improvements over time”.

Support systems

One of the keys to making lifestyle changes and keeping a positive attitude is a strong support system along the journey. Tash, Cordie, and Jean include family members in rehabilitation and nutrition counseling to promote inclusion and understanding.

Randy and Kathleen – married 50 and 48 years, respectively – agreed that their spouses were critical in their recuperation. Receiving encouragement from MPMC’s team and forming friendships with others who have had similar experiences was also a major contributor.

“There’s something about coming here and being with everybody, you get to build new friendships and it becomes a big support system. And to think we don’t have to drive to Denver for this, we get to stay right here at home and see our new friends outside of rehab” Kathleen said.

She and Randy also noted that MPMC’s Granby facility, with large windows offering views of the mountains and wildlife, is inviting.

She said having MPMC’s top-notch rehabilitation program right at home made her recovery treatments convenient and easy to follow through on. Now she’s one of the program’s biggest advocates.

“I tell everybody, ‘Whatever you do, if anything happens, go to rehab. It will change your life,’” Kathleen said. “I would encourage anyone to take advantage of it”.

Randy agreed. He continues to utilize MPMC to get the exercise he needs and the support he wants. He said his experience with cardiac events and recovery over the past six months has changed him.

“I can’t say I’m happy I went through the experience, but I can say I’m glad with how it turned out.”

For more information about MPMC’s Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program, please visit or call (970) 887-5800.

Keep your heart health in check

Get active

The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Parents: Young children need 60 minutes a day! Nearly 70% of Americans do not get this much-needed physical activity. Make time in your life to be active.

Control your cholesterol

When you control your cholesterol, you lower your risk of developing blockages in your arteries.

Eat better

A heart-healthy diet includes foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Bring into your diet foods that are high in whole grain fiber and lean protein as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Manage your blood pressure

An accurate measurement happens over time. Normal blood pressure in adults over 20 years of age is 120/80. About one in three adults has high blood pressure. Talk to your physician about your readings.

Lose weight

About two-thirds of the adult U.S. population is overweight, and about one-third of those is considered obese. The best way to lose weight is not through fad diets, but to keep track of the food you eat and know your calorie intake for your age, sex and level of activity. MyFitnessPal is a great, free website and app that can help make this easy.

Reduce your blood sugar

When your glucose levels are under control, it greatly reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Stop smoking
If you smoke, quitting is the best thing that you can do for your health!

Source: Tash Amick-Sullivan, registered nurse, and American Heart Association

Just Get Started-Tips for Long Term Success

Walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, skiing, aerobic dancing or any of dozens of other activities can help your heart. They all cause you to feel warm, perspire and breathe heavily without being out of breath and without feeling any burning sensation in your muscles.

Whether it is a structured exercise program or just part of your daily routine, all exercise adds up to a healthier heart. Take the first step by walking. It’s free, easy to do and when you have a walking companion, you’re more likely to stay motivated.

Visit to find American Heart Association-designated Start! Walking Paths, personalized walking plans, an online community of walkers and more!

Here are some tips for exercise success:

Dress for success: Wear comfortable, properly fitted footwear and comfortable, loose-fitting clothing appropriate for the weather and the activity.

Make the time: Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week (or whatever your doctor recommends). Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.

Keep reasonable expectations of yourself: If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, see your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a physical activity program. Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator or take 10–15 minute breaks while watching TV or sitting for walking or some other activity. Don’t get discouraged if you stop for a while. Get started again gradually and work up to your old pace.

Make it fun: Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Add variety. Develop a repertoire of several activities that you can enjoy. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine.

Track and celebrate your success: Note your activities on a calendar or in a logbook. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session. Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!

Source: Cordie Steele, exercise physiologist, and American Heart Association

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet:

This is an eating pattern/ guideline that uses foods high in minerals – specifically calcium, potassium and magnesium – to help lower blood pressure. The added bonus is these foods also are high in fiber, low in saturated animal fat and/ or lower in sodium. It is similar to the Mediterranean Diet.

Here are some examples from the main food groups:

Vegetables: Greens, squash, broccoli and sweet potatoes

Fruits: Bananas, berries, citrus, melons, apricots, figs and prunes

Whole grains: Oats, wheat, quinoa, millet, brown rice and ground flaxseed

Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and mixed nuts

Beans: Lentils and barley, kidney, navy and black beans

Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocado, walnuts, almonds, flaxseed oil and cod liver oil

Meat: Lean meats, poultry and fish

Dairy: Low-fat dairy or non-dairy alternatives

Source: Jean Anderson, registered dietician

About Middle Park Medical Center: Middle Park Medical Center (MPMC) is a 25-bed critical access hospital system serving patients in Grand and northern Summit County, Colorado, since 1933. Both hospitals in Kremmling and Granby are designated as Level IV Trauma Centers. MPMC also operates three family practice clinics, in Kremmling, Granby and Walden. MPMC is committed to Keeping LIFE Grand and providing the highest quality community care. For more information on MPMC’s health care services, visit