Local man credits cardiac rehab for quick recovery after heart surgery

A Brazos Valley man says a trip to the doctor last year turned into a life-saving surgery followed by months of recovery. Now he’s running two miles a day.
Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 11:07 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) - A Brazos Valley man says a trip to the doctor last year turned into a life-saving surgery followed by months of recovery. His rehab stretched over a three-month period and during that time he learned a lot of valuable lessons.

Dale Underwood is a father, grandfather, husband, and community leader. The 55-year-old from Huntsville has no family history of heart troubles but in August last year, he went to his doctor after experiencing chest pain. He was told he would need a quadruple bypass.

“At that moment, right before surgery, one of the little nurses just took my hand and said ‘let’s pray,’” said Underwood.

The surgery at Baylor Scott White Health in College Station was a success but Underwood would require weeks of rehab to recover. Something he wasn’t exactly thrilled about in the beginning.

“I wasn’t really concerned or scared about where I would be if I didn’t make it. My relationship with the Lord is solid. I had never had that fear, but I was really worried about and dreading the recovery.

Underwood elected to do what doctors suggested. He went to rehab.

“Lots of people get signed up for rehab mainly to get confidence back in their heart, being able to do the things they were doing before their major heart surgery,” said Ana Villa, an Exercise Physiologist at Baylor Scott and White.

Anyone who has had a heart problem, such as a heart attack, heart failure, or heart surgery, can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation. Studies have found that cardiac rehabilitation helps men and women, people of all ages, and people with mild, moderate, and severe heart problems.

Here’s why the recovery process is so important:

Staff will work with patients to help achieve personal goals, help them recover from their procedure, and it can help patients improve mentally, physically, and socially.

“Lots of patients get to interact with people who have gone through the same thing and it helps them get them to talk to them, know their experience, and to share and reflect on that,” said Villa.

It can also identify any other risk factors. Click here for additional benefits of cardiac rehabilitation identified by the CDC.

Underwood completed his 35 visits and is now back at work and with the ones he loves, and if you’re wondering how he’s doing physically:

“I jog two miles a day. Five and a half months later. I started as soon as I got home walking to the mailbox. Part of this is your mindset, right? They can do all they can do physically but you have to have that mindset to recover as well.”

Some programs are done in a hospital or rehabilitation center, and other programs can be done in your home. Cardiac rehabilitation may start while you are still in the hospital or right after you leave the hospital.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs usually last about 3 months but can range anywhere from 2 to 8 months.

Talk to your doctor about cardiac rehabilitation. Many insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover it if you have a doctor’s referral.

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