The Satilla Regional Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center is a fitness center that caters to the needs of those recovering from recent cardiac-related events.

SATILLA REGIONAL CARDIAC AND PULMONARY REHABILITATION CENTER

Waycross, Ga.; 912 284-2410; www.satilla.org

People recovering from a serious cardiac event can benefit from a well-designed exercise program. However, such exercisers require special attention and monitoring. The Satilla Regional Medical Center, which serves a nine-county region of southeast Georgia, created a fitness center to serve this special population.

The Satilla Regional Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center, a freestanding facility, is a fitness center that caters to the needs of those recovering from recent cardiac-related events. The center also serves those who suffer from chronic lung conditions.The program offers three outpatient phases of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation (Phase II, III and IV), as well as an in-patient (Phase I) program within the hospital. Electrocardiogram (ECG) telemetry monitoring allows staff to monitor patients' hearts throughout their exercise sessions.The Phase II program, which is covered by Medicare and most insurance companies, is a 12-week program that involves individual exercise prescription and instruction, explains Deana Tanner, director of marketing for Satilla Health Services.

The facility itself has three main exercise areas: two cardio areas (one for Phase II and one for Phase III/IV patients) and a newly expanded resistance-training room. There is also an exam room that has emergency medical and monitoring equipment, and two kitchens (located in each cardio room) that offer heart-healthy snacks and drinks, as well as a place for socializing.

Patient exercise programs are routinely updated to meet their goals. Individual resistance-training programs are designed with one-on-one instruction by an exercise physiologist.

To complement the exercise sessions, educational classes are offered on a weekly basis. Topics include stress management, nutrition, understanding medications, coronary artery disease, cholesterol-level management and a diabetes class. Yoga and CPR classes for patients and family members are offered on an intermittent basis.

What sets this hospital facility apart from others "is the sense of family amongst the patients and staff," says Tanner. "We want patients to feel at home and relaxed when they are here." Tanner continues: "Many of the patients who come to us have a secondary diagnosis of depression. Our staff regularly surpasses their medical duties to include entertainment for the patients; getting them to laugh is part of the job."

Staff members provide entertainment in many forms, such as dressing up for Halloween and the Christmas season (as elves). The building is always adorned in some kind of theme: New Year's, Valentine's Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. "And probably our most important theme," explains Tanner, "is the opening of college football, and our support for the Georgia Bulldogs."

Twice a year, patients are treated to an evening dinner party. During the party, staff members give out awards to the patients, such as five-year participants, 10-year participants, and silly awards such as "Cutest Couple" and "Most Sweaty," says Tanner.

Staff interaction with patients is important, but probably equally important is patient interaction with each other. "Patients learn from being at rehab that they are not alone with their medical problem. They find there are others who experience the same problems that come with their conditions, like fear, depression, loneliness, etc.," Tanner explains.

Many of the patients at the Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center have been with the center for 10 years. "In fact," says Tanner, "four of our patients have been with us since our doors opened 13 years ago."

Success for this fitness center is different than that for a traditional facility. "To us, success is seeing patients getting back on their feet, and overcoming the problems associated with heart and pulmonary disease...," Tanner says. "Patients feel comfortable exercising in our facility knowing they are under the care of highly trained staff, capable of handling any emergency situation. These are amenities they would not have exercising at home or at the majority of most fitness centers." Most of the patients come into the center with a low functional status and, by program's end, "they have regained their independence and confidence," says Tanner. Now that's success.

Facility Stats

* Date fitness facility opened: May 1992; expanded June 2002
* Fitness facility size: 9,200 square feet
* Number of members: 300 currently active Phase II, III and IV patients
* Strength equipment: Dumbbells ranging from 1 to 35 pounds, wall pulley stations, a five-station multi-gym (ProMaxima), a Biceps/Triceps Combo Machine (Duo Tek/Tuff Stuff), weight bench, Therabands, Therabars
* Cardio equipment: 24 Schwinn Airdyne cycles, 11 Quinton Medtrack treadmills, six NuStep recumbent steppers, two Schwinn stair steppers, three Concept2 rowers, two Schwinn recumbent cycles, four Schwinn cycle ergometers, two Cybex upper-body ergometers
* Group exercise classes: Patients are grouped into hourly classes, and begin as a group with stretching and warm-up exercises before breaking off into their individually designed routine; group yoga classes are also offered