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Hooked On Heart Health

Posted on November 13, 2019 in CROP/PROP

Cardiac rehab throws fishing guide lifeline

It was only about a half-foot long and weighed less than a pound, but fought like Moby Dick.

“That’s what kills me about small-mouth bass – they are so uber aggressive,” said Jeff Sharpe, a 47-year-old professional fly fishing guide, as he unhooked his finned friend and tossed it back into the Holston River.

It was not a catch Sharpe would long remember – unlike the ‘big one’ that landed him in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center last spring.

Only that “big one” wasn’t a fish – it was a heart attack that left him unresponsive for more than four minutes. It took two shocks from the paddles, four stents and FSRMC’s 12-week, 36-session cardiac rehab program to set him on a new path to healthy living.

“I completely stopped everything – I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t eat fatty foods, I haven’t had a steak in I don’t know how long,” said Sharpe who immediately gave up his two-and-a-half to three-pack daily smoking habit after 30 years. “I’ve changed every negative habit I had. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to go back through this process again. One time. Done. Good. I think in the long run that’s really going to help me.”

Until his heart attack, Sharpe was unaware heart disease ran in his family. So when interventional cardiologist Chase Trotter, MD, ordered cardiac rehab, Sharpe was ready. “That was way fine with me,” he said. “Since I had never had any major health issues it kind of scared me. So what the doctor told me was what I was going to do. It just makes more sense.”

“Cardiac rehab made my heart stronger. The goal was simple – to make sure your heart can withstand you continuing to live,” Sharpe said, adding that his heart muscle healed tremendously in six months’ time. Dr. Trotter noted that Sharpe’s heart strength went from half strength to normal as he progressed through cardiac rehabilitation.

Sharpe said he felt “out of place” after realizing he was the youngest person in the program. “But the staff did a good job of making me feel at home and comfortable with everything. It turned out to be an excellent experience,” he said.

Today, Sharpe has joined a gym and is still following the same exercise regimen he had in cardiac rehab, only more demanding.

“What I have learned is that if you just do what they tell you to do, it’s amazing how well you heal and how quickly you do it,” he said. “Exercise is a simple thing – an hour, hour and half to two hours out of your day – and if you do it, the benefits are tenfold.”