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February 23, 2015
Celebrating Cardiac Rehab: Be Good to Your Heart!

In January of 1978 the late Dr. Robert M.A. VanVooren began an exercise program at the Tri-Community YMCA in Southbridge, MA for his patients with heart disease.

Dr. VanVooren, an Internal Medicine Physician at Harrington Hospital, had heard of programs in Israel and Canada where individuals with heart disease exercised in a group three times a week. Benefits were expected, but not proven yet. Therefore, with a nurse, a physical therapist, himself, and eight patients, Dr. Van’s Cardiac Gang was born. Now, 37 years later, the program has grown into a three-phase program at Harrington HealthCare System. It now resides in the Cardiac Care Center on the Southbridge Campus.

Harrington’s Cardiac Rehab has the distinction of being one of the longest- running programs in Massachusetts, with Dr. John Tumolo, cardiologist and Medical Director of the Cardiac Care Center. The program now has two outpatient phases. “Phase II” is a program for the individual who is newly diagnosed with coronary artery disease, had recent heart surgery (angioplasty & stent, coronary artery by-pass, valve replacement or repair, heart transplant) or has a recurrence of symptoms. We also now accept individuals with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) that meet prescribed criteria. Along with exercise, they receive with weekly education classes on medications, diet, stress reduction, treatments, and risk factor modification. Spouses and significant others are encouraged to attend the sessions also as they are important part of the recovery process.

The Maintenance Program is for the individual whose heart condition has stabilized and who has completed Phase II, They participate in a program that is specifically designed for them with a combination of aerobic exercises that can include walking, stationary biking, and strength training. We hope the Maintenance Program will become a lifelong program for our members.

Recent studies have shown that participating in a Cardiac Rehab program improves a person’s chances of surviving heart disease by 25-30%. Cardiac Rehab benefits also include improved quality of life, decreased cardiovascular events and mortality, improved exercise capacity, and improvement in modifiable risk factors.

As we celebrate Cardiac Rehab this month, learn more about our program and how it can help you or a family member. Most health insurance companies provide coverage for Cardiac Rehab. For more information, call us at 508-765-2295.

Judy Flannery, RN, BSN, is the Cardiac Rehab Coordinator at Harrington HealthCare System. She attended Newton Wellesley Hospital School of Nursing, and received her bachelor’s degree from Assumption College. She has been working at Harrington for more than 30 years. To contact Judy please call 508-765-2290 or email