Cardiac rehabilitation: the patient’s view

Kofi Appau at a cardiac rehab session with instructor Nigel Edwards

Kofi Appau, 50, an operating department practitioner from west London, benefited from cardiac rehabilitation at Charing Cross Hospital after his heart attack in June. He says:

I suffered from chest pains in the early hours of the morning. It became not just a chest pain but pain in my left arm, back pain and my forehead was sweating. I now know I should have dialled 999, but after taking some painkillers I went to work. I work in the Western Eye Hospital, and when I spoke to one of my doctor colleagues she said I should call an ambulance.

Initially I didn’t think it was a heart attack. It wasn’t until I got to hospital that I realised the severity of it. In hospital they ran some tests and told me I had had a heart attack. I was really shocked when they told me that one of my arteries was 95% blocked and one was 100% blocked.

I had an angioplasty and started to feel better straight away – it was almost unbelievable. I went home the next day, but before I went home the cardiac rehabilitation nurse came to speak to me about my medications, how to take them, and making lifestyle changes. She said there would be more information about this when I attended the follow-up appointment.

I had a follow-up appointment where they checked me over and adjusted some of my medications. The nurse explained about all the different medications and I met Nigel, the exercise specialist. He went through some exercises with me and also invited me to the eight-week rehabilitation course.

The course includes education sessions, for example we had a pharmacist who spoke to us about the different drugs we take, and a session about diet. That was a really good, it was an interactive session where everyone contributed.

The exercise sessions have been much better than I expected

The exercise sessions have been much better than I expected. I thought it would be really intensive or aggressive exercise, but that wasn’t the case. I have really enjoyed the exercise sessions and I am looking forward to the rest of them.

Nigel has been really good. I was thinking that I needed to do much more exercise but Nigel has put my mind at rest.

I thought I had a fairly healthy lifestyle before – my problem is that I have a strong family history of heart disease – but I have definitely learned improvements I can make. I have cut back on the amount of fried food I eat, and I have less salt too. Walking is my main exercise and I take it much more seriously than I used to.

A year before this happened I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and I suppose that was a bit of a wake-up call. I joined a gym at that point, but I found it difficult to find time to go to the gym after I had been at work all day. I find walking easier to fit in.

The main thing I have gained from cardiac rehab is that they have given me more insight into the disease and how it can be prevented or delayed through making lifestyle changes.

The team are all so friendly, they are lovely people. They take their time in explaining things to you. They offer every support that you need in terms of medication and exercise.

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