Exercise Aversion Reformed by Cardiac Rehab

After undergoing a set of cardiac procedures at John C. Lincoln, one athletics director has learned to appreciate his time on the treadmill

For the first time in 40 years, Scott Geddis is looking forward to going to the gym. He actually is enjoying his crack-of-dawn hour-long workouts.

"You have to understand, it was never this way," said the former 25-year paramedic and 17-year Phoenix College director of athletics. "I never really liked exercise. I always got out of breath and it wasn't fun."

cardiac rehab
For the first time in 40 years, Scott Geddis likes going to the gym, even at the crack of dawn. Following surgery, John C. Lincoln's cardiac rehab team provided the support he needed to change is attitude toward exercise.

Looking back, he said, that might have been a clue. But nobody — none of his doctors or fellow paramedics, neither his wife nor his friends, and certainly not Scott, himself — picked up on it.

"There was no reason," he said. "I was in OK shape, maybe a little overweight at 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds, but not obese. And I felt good. I passed all my medical checkups, so why worry if exercise was never my thing?"

But hidden deep inside his heart were reasons to worry. First on the list was his congenitally defective aortic valve, the gateway that regulates blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Then there were the blocked coronary arteries, the inexorable cumulative consequence of all those cheeseburgers so disapproved by his marathon-running, diet-defending wife, Dianne.

Fortunately, Geddis said, he tore his rotator cuff, the group of muscles and their tendons that stabilize the shoulder. Fortunately, he said, because as part of the pre-operative preparation, his orthopedic surgeon sent him for a cardiac stress test. The cardiologist's staff looked at his results and called 911.

EMTs took him to John C. Lincoln's Emergency Department and Cardiac Cath Lab at North Mountain Hospital, where tests showed a 98 percent blockage in all four arteries leading out of the heart. That was in addition to his defective aortic valve, which only had two of the normal and necessary three cusps that seal the valve when it closes.

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It was also fortunate, Geddis said, that his cardiothoracic surgeon, Merick Kirshner, MD, was going out of town for a couple of days, delaying the surgery long enough for Geddis to read everything he could find about the surgery and postsurgical cardiac rehabilitation.

"If they'd done the surgery right away, I would not have understood the importance of rehab," he said. "And it made all the difference."

Surgery, he discovered, can fix your heart. But you have to fix yourself, change your lifestyle, improve your diet, get that exercise. That's where cardiac rehab comes in.

"I became a believer," Geddis said, "but let's face it: Change is never easy. Especially after 50."

In fact, he said, he could not have done it without his cardiac rehab team, head nurse Jeanne Flanagan, RN, gym nurse Linda Propper, RN, exercise physiologist Dianna Scaccia and monitor tech Kristi Paulsen.

"It takes a social structure — people who have a connection, compassion and knowledge, who care about your outcome. They created an environment where I wanted to go, even at 6 a.m.," Geddis said. "I don't think I missed a single session."

Proof is in the results. "When I started," he said, "I struggled to make 1 mph for 10 minutes on the treadmill. Now I'm up to 4.5 mph on an incline for 20 minutes. I've lost 50 pounds and my tight 40-inch waistband is now down to 36 inches — and it's falling off. That's progress."

Most importantly, however, is that he now has a heart that will keep beating with the rhythm of life for decades to come.

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