Susan Brickey’s happy place is heading into the pitch-black darkness of a lava tube with just a headlamp and a backpack.
“Sometimes you have to put your pack through first because the caves are so small,” explains Susan, a retired healthcare administrator who enjoys cave spelunking (exploring).
Despite being born with a congenital heart condition, the 75-year-old says she has always lived an active lifestyle with passions of hiking, biking and kayaking.
But after getting a necessary heart valve replacement in the summer of 2022, Susan felt at a loss. “My endurance, speed and ability to be active had gone backward,” she remembers.
Just one month after her heart valve replacement, Susan says she was “knocking on the door” of Hillsboro Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program.
“I wanted to go to cardiac rehab,” says Susan. “It was important to me because of the things I love in life.”
“We’re here to help our patients get back to doing the things they love,” says Amber Sanguinetti, Hillsboro Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program Lead Exercise Physiologist. “We show them how to do so safely and what to watch out for.”
Susan met with her cardiac rehab care team twice a week for hour-long sessions. They worked mostly on the arm bike and the treadmill, increasing Susan’s speed and incline each time.
“The team was supportive and energetic,” recalls Susan. “They like to do exercise-oriented types of things so they could understand the importance to me.”
After a small setback due to a change in Susan’s medication that affected her heart, Susan and her team started to see significant progress.
“In three weeks, I was back to doing activities like caving and hiking,” notes Susan. “It made me feel great.”
Since completing her cardiac rehabilitation program, she has returned to playing pickleball, hiking with friends and restoring hiking trails.
Susan says she encourages others to seek care at Hillsboro Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program.
“It helps build confidence,” she notes. “It provides new opportunities to try things you’ve never tried before.”