When Bob Kovaleski joined the staff at Day Kimball Healthcare more than two years ago he had just made a career change and was looking for a new lease on life. He didn’t know then the extent to which his experience at Day Kimball would change his life, or that it would be in more and deeper ways than just his job.
After the company where Bob and his wife Sue worked cut both their positions, they decided to train together to become pharmacy technicians. A resident of Thompson, Bob had a goal to work as a pharmacy technician at Day Kimball Hospital. It was close by and he thought it would be fulfilling to work at his local community hospital. But there weren’t any positions open in the pharmacy, so instead he took a position in the hospital’s housekeeping department.
“It was a way to get my foot in the door,” Bob says. “I just kept going back to the pharmacy, checking in, letting them know how interested I was. I knew eventually something would open up.”
And after just six months, it did. Bob has been a pharmacy technician at Day Kimball Hospital ever since, working second shift. He was at the start of a shift on February third of this year when he began feeling significant pain in his stomach.
“It was awful but I thought it must have been just a stomach bug or something, so I went home,” Bob said. Hours later he was at UMass Memorial Hospital being treated for a heart attack. “I had no idea that I had any heart disease,” he said, “I never felt sick, I had no clue.”
Four stents and just a few weeks later, Bob was back at work.
“Dr. Canter was my cardiologist here at Day Kimball and she took great care of me. I knew I had to take it easy, but I’m not a ‘sit-down’ type of person. I just needed to get back to work.”
But getting back into the groove of work wasn’t the only thing in store for Bob’s recovery. Dr. Canter referred him to Day Kimball Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. And that, Bob says, is where the magic happened.
Bob’s treatment plan had him going to cardiac rehab three times per week for nearly 11 weeks. His rehab included medically monitored exercise as well as a once-per-week educational class about nutrition and heart health. He says that it flew by but that he believes he’ll be enjoying the benefits for the rest of his life.
“All I ever knew about our cardiac rehabilitation area before is that employees could use the exercise machines during off-hours. Well, that’s changed now. Our rehab program has taught me so much, from exercise to nutrition to managing stress,” Bob says. “Our staff, I can’t say enough about them, there is no better anywhere. Thanks to them I’ve completely changed my diet, I exercise more than before, I pay attention to my health. It’s made a big difference, not just for me but it’s rubbed off on my wife as well.”
Bob says that when he first started the program, his attitude wasn’t quite so good.
“I thought, ‘this isn’t for me’,” he says. “I felt silly with the monitored exercising at first, but the nurses were so awesome and fun that after about a week or so I was comfortable. All the nurses there – Carol Artiaco, Colette Cote and Brenda Rich-Pike – they are all just amazing people,” he said.
And if the nursing staff wasn’t enough to keep him engaged, the other patients sure would. Bob says there’s an unexpected but strong camaraderie that develops between patients at cardiac rehab, that ultimately helps to support all of them in their rehabilitation.
“You know, you’re there three times a week for months with these people and you’re facing the same challenges. You really start to become friends and support each other,” Bob said.
He recalls one instance where there was a younger man on the rowing machine next to his and they got into a playful competition to see who could go faster.
“I just wanted to keep up with the younger guy, you know, but then the nurses saw and they came flying over so fast, told me to sit down and rest until my heart rate came back down,” he says, laughing.
“They really make themselves involved,” he continues. “They’re always walking around, taking blood pressure and checking on you. But they really have the right attitude to make you comfortable and they have a lot of patience. They’re like having a coach!”
Since he began cardiac rehab Bob has lost 14 pounds and cut his cholesterol medicine in half. He’s been done with the program for months now but still goes to the facility, taking advantage of his employee perk to use the gym equipment on off-hours. And, he says, he still stops in to say hello to his favorite nurses.
“When I finished rehab I brought them each a little gift to say thank you and I’m glad that because I work at the hospital I still see them often in the hallways and can stop by the rehab center to say hello,” Bob says. “I really learned so much from them and today my life is better for it.”