Gordon works with physiotherapist Karen Uy to measure his breathing
Cardiac rehabilitation patient Gordon Shawanda works
with physiotherapist Karen Uy to measure his breathing
using an incentive spirometer. Breathing exercises were
a part of Gordon's specialized daily therapy regime during
his stay at St. John's Rehab.

When it comes to matters of the heart, St. John's Rehab teaches valuable life lessons

As a retired Ojibway language teacher, Gordon understands the importance of education. But, the most life-altering lessons he learned began during a fateful day at a Toronto mall.

While shopping at a Toronto mall, Gordon felt a sharp pain in his chest and back. With a family history of heart disease, one thought flashed through his mind - heart attack.

Two hours later at the emergency room, Gordon learned that the trouble was worse. Not only had he suffered a heart attack but he also had a growth on his heart that needed removal.

A week after surgery, Gordon came to St. John's Rehab. Being barely able to walk on his on without experiencing shortness of breath, he had major concerns about how to continue living alone at home. His worry lasted shorter than the 11 days he spent in our cardiac rehabilitation program.

Working with an interdisciplinary team of rehab professionals, Gordon developed a customized rehab plan to reclaim his independence by once again dressing himself, sitting up on his own, walking and climbing stairs. Gordon's therapy team created a regime of daily activity sessions including short walks, breathing exercises, stair-climbing, stretches and a diet program - all things he would be able to continue doing independently at home.

St. John's Rehab is home to Canada's largest inpatient cardiac rehabilitation program. It is the only hospital in the Greater Toronto Area that offers short-term, in-hospital rehab care to patients recovering from heart surgery. St. John's Rehab also partners with other rehabilitation hospitals to develop an integrated spectrum of care. Patients can go for inpatient care and then be transferred directly to Toronto Rehab Institute or other rehab centres for outpatient rehabilitation if required.

The St. John's Rehab cardiac program includes extensive medication, nutrition and diabetes teaching. Group education sessions are held every day from Monday to Friday so that recovering patients really understand how their hearts benefit from rehabilitation.

Having already personally witnessed the loss of close friends, family and community members to heart disease, Gordon understood the importance of the heart health education. What he appreciated most was what his therapy team taught him about prevention and mitigating risks for another attack.

Gordon now watches what he eats including red meat, coffee and foods that are high in fat. He knows when he needs to exercise and he knows when his body needs rest. " />

For cardiac surgery survivors, prevention of future health problems starts with knowledge. Integrated therapy combining physical exercise and patient education sets a foundation for the best possible long-term results. Saving lives doesn't stop with the surgery - providing information to patients about what their bodies have been through as well as providing them with a long-term treatment plan can also be life-saving.

Today, Gordon is back at home feeling confident and living independently. "I think back and I really don't know what I would have done if I didn't go to St. John's Rehab," he recounts. "They taught me so much about my recovery that I never would have known on my own."

Using the lessons he has learned, he stays healthy with regular walking, proper nutrition and adequate rest. His worry about living independently after his heart attack and surgery is gone. This is a celebration that he can put his whole heart into.

Learn more about our cardiac rehabilitation program