Suzanne Riley used to love spending her days off as an Intel engineer cycling over scenic wooden bridges along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.
But as Suzanne started to reach retirement, she noticed it was becoming harder to complete this 42-mile routine route.
“I could see my health declining,” recalls Suzanne.
Eventually, she lost the ability to ride her bike as it became too tolling on her body.
Then the worst happened. While on a trip to Napa, California in June of 2022, Suzanne suffered from a heart attack.
She fortunately survived, but her doctors recommended that she focus on restrengthening her heart.
In August of 2022, Suzanne went to her first session with Hillsboro Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program,
Walking in determined with “lofty goals,” Suzanne’s main objective was to get back to riding her bike 21 miles. That’s the exact distance it takes to go up the Banks-Vernonia Trail, with a rewarding 21-mile trip back downhill.
Suzanne also had an even bigger goal in mind—to hike the notoriously difficult Dog Mountain Trail featuring a 2,800 foot elevation gain.
“Each patient has a program that’s customized to their goals,” says Amber Sanguinetti, Hillsboro Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation program Lead Exercise Physiologist. “It’s our job to help them get there in a safe way.”
And that’s exactly what Suzanne’s cardiac rehabilitation team did.
Her team began by having Suzanne work with a stationary bike to help increase her cardiovascular strength.
“It was incrementally planned by the staff there and it worked out perfectly,” explains Suzanne. “In pretty short order, I got to 21 miles; it was an amazing thing.”
Her team then designed an interval training program on the treadmill to help prepare her for Dog Mountain.
By Halloween of 2022, Suzanne completed her program having reached the maximum incline level on the treadmill.
“These women [her care team] just bent over backwards to make sure that every day I walked in there, I was challenged,” Suzanne reflects. “I was always reminded of the goal and how we were going to get there.”
Suzanne plans to hike Dog Mountain in the fall of 2023, and will use the interval training guidelines her care team gave her to help prepare.
Hillsboro Medical Center looks forward to seeing Suzanne achieve her final goal of summiting Dog Mountain later this year.
Writer & Photographer: Natasha Lesch