A home for every heart

Donations fund cardiac rehab for underinsured and uninsured patients in Thomasville

Courtney Jalowitz remembers when she first visited the patient. The woman was in her early fifties and struggling with congestive heart failure. Uninsured and feeling hopeless, the patient had decided to be put on a do not resuscitate (DNR) order. Jalowitz, a clinical exercise physiologist, met with the patient to share the benefits of the outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center.

Outpatient cardiac rehabilitation helps patients improve their health by getting them on track for a healthy lifestyle with a combination of education and exercise. Because the program consists of numerous in-person sessions, underinsured or uninsured individuals may not be able to afford the much-needed rehabilitation.

But philanthropic dollars can open the door to healing. Scholarships are now available at Novant Health Thomasville Medical Center for those who qualify to participate. The program was funded in late 2020 with a $15,000 donation from the T. Austin Finch Foundation and $10,000 in funds from Novant Health Foundation. Together, the scholarships are expected to provide assistance for 50 to 100 patients.

As supervisor of the program, Jalowitz is now able to connect her patients with this newly funded opportunity. Within a week of being discharged from the hospital, the patient she recently met with was able to begin rehabilitation and now attends classes three days a week. Jalowitz and her team are on-site to monitor blood pressure and telemetry, a term for the heart’s electrical activity and a critical component of cardiac rehabilitation. The cardiac rehab team assists patients in following an individual rehab treatment plan including a personalized exercise prescription. The team also provides education on exercise, nutrition, stress and the many clinical aspects of coronary artery disease.

“A big difference that separates us from physical therapy or occupational therapy is our patients are telemetry monitored the entire time,” Jalowitz said. “In physical therapy, you tend to focus on a specific body part or issue. Cardiac rehabilitation is more of the whole picture. There is the monitored exercise and a ton of education. It’s very multidisciplinary.”

Since joining the program, her patient has made great strides. She has taken the education to heart and has much to show for it. She has lost weight, reduced her blood sugar levels and her blood pressure, and her outlook has improved tremendously.

“She has decided she is not a DNR,” Jalowitz beamed. “She has a lot of life left to live. We’re very proud of her.”

And there are many others. Roughly one-third of cardiac rehabilitation patients at Thomasville Medical Center receive some form of scholarship. Jalowitz enjoys seeing the relief on their faces when they find out cardiac rehabilitation is now an option for them.

“This effort is living out our mission to improve the health of our communities, one person at a time,” Jalowitz said. “Patients want to learn and they want to get better. There’s huge appreciation for Novant Health and those who support us.”

Over the course of the program, Jalowitz and her team assess a patient’s knowledge of cardiovascular disease and the associated risk factors such as diet, exercise and stress. Typically, individuals participate for three months where they learn insights from exercise physiologists, registered nurses and dietitians. The goal is to help prevent further hospitalization and to improve quality of life.

“We discharged someone today who scored a 60% on his first cardiac quiz and now he scored 100%,” Jalowitz said. “He went from a moderately healthy diet to a well-balanced healthy diet according to his nutrition assessments.”

Cardiac rehabilitation and behavioral health will be a primary focus of the planned Novant Health Wellness and Education Center, for which a capital campaign is underway. Featuring a teaching kitchen, classrooms and exercise spaces, the new center will allow more individuals to participate in cardiac rehab, physical therapy and similar programs.

Learn more about Novant Health Wellness and Education Center

Currently, cardiac rehabilitation takes place within Thomasville Medical Center, and patient volumes have continued to increase each year, even with COVID-19 precautions. A goal to invest in a larger space will allow the program to accommodate two to three times its current capacity.   

“We’re restricted by the size of our space and by COVID-19 guidelines,” Jalowitz said. “Right now, we can only have about eight patients in a room at a time and we’re running six classes a day. We’re looking to expand very soon.”

In the meantime, Jalowitz and her team will continue to help patients celebrate the little things, like cooking a meal for family and playing disc golf with children. Jalowitz enjoys being a part of each patient’s healthcare journey.

“When each patient walks in here, they feel important and they feel respected and cared for,” Jalowitz said. “We’re looking at each individual’s needs, what we can do to create a remarkable experience and we’re putting it into action.”

Make a difference today.

Now, you can play a role in providing others with access to remarkable care. Through a donation to the Wellness and Education Center, you help provide individuals in Thomasville with leading-edge resources in behavioral health, disease management and education. Make your gift today.

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