the torch Summer 2015, Issue 2 - Page 11

Return to Work lab helps cardiac patient return to his active lifestyle It was summer 2013, and Nick Weber had just finished his junior semester at The University of Texas at Austin. The 22-yearold was in Dallas for the summer, spending time with his family, taking pre-med courses in summer school and cycling as often as possible, an average of 200 to 500 miles a week. It was during a weekly ride with a group of other cyclists at White Rock Lake when the young, high-performing athlete had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. “It started as a tingling sensation in my collarbone and progressed from there, traveling to my neck and left arm,” remembered Nick. “It was the first really hot day that summer, and I thought maybe I was dehydrated, pushing myself too hard or had even been stung by a bee.” Nick managed to push through the rest of the ride before calling a friend to pick him up. By the time he was home, he began feeling severe pain in his sternum. After arriving at the Riggs Emergency Department at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, Nick underwent an EKG, numerous blood tests and a CT coronary scan before his physicians found a tear in his coronary artery wall, an incredibly rare phenomenon. A competitive athlete for as long as he could remember, Nick was concerned about what his life would hold for him going forward. “I was told by my doctors that physically, I was ok, but it’s almost like I had post-traumatic stress disorder, and I was scared to do anything, especially cycle at the levels that I had previously.” Thankfully, with the approval of his physicians on the medical staff at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital, Nick was approved to work with Jenny Adams, Ph.D., research associate, and Tim Bilbrey, cardiac research manager at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital’s Return to Work cardiac rehab lab. Dr. Adams and Tim were prepared to build a cardiac rehab program that would allow the young athlete to safely test the bounds of his highly physical lifestyle in a safe, controlled, data-driven environment. Nick goes to Baylor three times a week for high-intensity exercise on a high-tech bike trainer. During the 60-90 minute sessions, Dr. Adams and Tim constantly monitor Nick’s EKG, blood pressure and heart rate to allow him to safely push himself and Nick Weber confidently return to the sport he loves. The bike trainer and monitoring equipment were purchased thanks to generous donations to the Foundation. “The easy answer for Nick’s physician and for us here would have been to prescribe the standard cardiac rehab for Nick that patients in any other rehab would have been given: three pound weights, a half mile walk on a treadmill, etc.,” said Dr. Adams. “It’s up to us to figure out what is in the best interests of each of our cardiac rehab patients and design a program that’s best for them, both physically and for their quality of life. That’s what patient-centered care and innovation is all about, and that’s what drives us.” Thanks to generous donor support, Baylor is advancing treatment and care through the Return to Work lab and other innovative cardiac research projects. For more information on how you can support heart and vascular research initiatives, contact Elizabeth Denton at 214.820.4070 or Elizabeth.Denton@BaylorHealth.edu. 11