Acadia University Kinesiology students are perhaps unsung heroes when it comes to helping Valley Cardiac Rehab Society program participants regain health and independence.
At the 21st annual Hearts on Ice fundraiser at Acadia Arena in Wolfville on Feb. 5, Valley Cardiac Rehab Society treasurer Susan Miles said the partnership with the Kinesiology program at Acadia has been very successful and mutually beneficial.
Both originally from Ottawa, Will Wojcik has graduated from the Kinesiology program while Annie MacArtney is in her final year. Both have been involved with the rehab society’s Extended Warranty program through Acadia.
Wojcik said the program helps people suffering from a wide range of health issues get back to exercising independently. Working with patients at Acadia is a great way for students to gain practical experience, not to mention other valuable life skills.
“You can learn whatever you want in the classroom but until you apply it you don’t actually know what you’re doing and that’s what’s incredible,” he said.
There are social benefits for the patients, as they have someone to talk to when they come to exercise on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Long-lasting friendships are often forged and Wojcik said, “You really get close to everyone.”
Following the 10-week lifestyle and nutrition program at Valley Regional Hospital, patients are given the opportunity to join the program at Acadia. MacArtney said they could work with Kinesiology students and take advantage of the university facilities. They typically have a one-to-one ratio with students and patients.
She said participants know that someone is there to support and encourage them while they exercise and to explain any adaptations needed.
“I think it provides a lot of peace of mind to participants,” she said.
MacArtney said you learn much more in practical, hands-on situations and the students have great support from their professors. She said participants do a lot for the students in terms of helping them bridge into the workforce.
She said many program participants are huge supporters of Acadia athletics and it was great to see so many members of the hockey and football teams helping out with Hearts on Ice.
Both MacArtney and Wojcik appreciate how the fundraiser draws the Acadia community and general community together.
Looking to expand programs
The Valley Cardiac Rehab Society has been able to raise nearly $600,000 through the Hearts on Ice fundraiser since its inception in 1997. Miles remembers wondering during the initial planning stages if they were going to be able to pull it off but she said the event is just as successful today as it was then.
Miles said the rehab society supports programming by providing equipment and funds for staff training. They’re hoping to support an expansion of programs into Annapolis County with the green light from the Nova Scotia Health Authority. This was something Miles advocated for in her past role as cardiac rehab manager.
“That’s key at this point, we believe, to making this program successful for all the people in the Annapolis Valley,” Miles said. “It costs a lot of money to support patients once they’re ill and it’s hard to find extra funds to start new programs, especially with the health care budgets today.”
The rehab society used to solely support the cardiac rehab program but the health authority now provides operating funds.Over the years, the 10-week course has grown and evolved into year-round programs for people with all forms of heart disease, people who have suffered minor strokes, people with COPD and “pre-hab” for people with diabetes.
Cardiac rehab program a “lifesaver”
Don Arenburg of Tupper Lake knows first-hand the importance of the cardiac rehab program, which he’s been a part of for the past decade. He describes it as a “lifesaver.”
Arenburg said the first night he spent in the hospital in his life was in the intensive care unit in Halifax following a heart attack on Jan. 17, 2007.
He took the 10-week cardiac rehab program and has kept up with maintenance classes since. He still attends exercise classes two days a week.
“I’m very fortunate and thankful to the program,” Arenburg said as he skated with six-year-old grandson Cooper at the Hearts on Ice skating party.
Did you know?
- Hearts on Ice has been the major fundraiser for the Valley Cardiac Rehab program, which has helped thousands of people with heart disease over the past two decades.
- The fundraiser featured a skate or walk, sledge hockey, a children’s scavenger hunt and turkey races.
- You can make a donation online by visiting www.canadahelps.org and donating to the Valley Cardiac Rehab Society. You can mail cheques payable to the Valley Cardiac Rehab Society to Valley Cardiac Rehab Society, C/O Cardiology Associates, 150 Exhibition St., Kentville, NS, B4N 5E3.