Cardiac Rehabilitation Week Set for Feb. 10-16

Leonardtown, Maryland  – Cardiac rehabilitation can reduce the potentially devastating effects of heart disease and improve the quality of life for patients and their families. During the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation’s (AACVPR) National Cardiac Rehabilitation week, Feb. 10-16, MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center (GADC) would like patients who suffer a cardiac event to know there is help available. 

“Cardiac rehabilitation can help reduce the potentially devastating effects of heart disease,” said Pam Laigle, MSN, RN, PCCN, of MedStar St. Mary’s GADC. “Programs such as ours can greatly improve the quality of life for patients and their families.”

Cardiac Rehabilitation Week coincides with Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month to draw greater national attention to heart health. This year’s theme, “Making Positive Changes, One Beat at a Time,” honors the patients, families, and healthcare professionals who are dedicated to cardiac rehabilitation as a vehicle for a healthy lifestyle.

A recent report by the American Heart Association shows that nearly half of all adults in the United States have some form of heart disease. The report is based on data from the National Institutes of Health and other government sources. This year's report said 121.5 million adults in the U.S. – 48 percent based on 2016 figures – have cardiovascular disease. Heart disease was the No. 1 cause of death in the United States.

“Returning to activity following a heart attack can be scary to many,” said Pam. “Programs such as those offered at the Grace Anne Dorney Center not only help patients live longer and lessen chances for another heart attack, they also improve confidence and strength and help get patients back to their usual activities.”

In addition to cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, GADC also offers a MedFit program. Directed by the center’s team of nurses, clinical exercise physiologists, registered respiratory therapists, and health educators, participants are given a complete medical history assessment and physical fitness evaluation prior to enrolling. The program includes a personalized plan incorporating cardiovascular exercise, muscular strength, and endurance, and flexibility exercises while monitoring participants blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, and oxygen saturation.

If you or someone you know has had a cardiac event or has a cardiac history and would like to begin an exercise program in a medically monitored gym, contact the Grace Anne Dorney Center at 240-434-7143. The GAD center is certified through the American Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

The Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center can help patients who have suffered a cardiac event regain their life with exercise programs supervised by a team of nurses, clinical exercise physiologists, registered respiratory therapists, and health educators.


About MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital
MedStar St. Mary's Hospital (MSMH) is a full-service community hospital, delivering state-of-the-art emergency, acute inpatient and outpatient care in Leonardtown, Maryland. Nestled in a waterside community, MedStar St. Mary's provides advanced technology with a dedication to excellence in all services provided. The not-for-profit hospital has been named among the nation’s Top 100 Hospitals™ and is an eight time recipient of the prestigious Delmarva Medicare Excellence Award. In addition, MSMH received the Maryland Performance Excellence award at the Platinum level in 2014 – the highest in the state. Our staff is committed to providing quality and compassionate medical care for all patients by coupling innovation with our outstanding team of Medical Staff members, associates and volunteers. Visit to learn more.


The Vape Debate: This New Trend May Be Riskier Than You Think

The e-cigarette market has been on fire the past few years. With nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes on the market, according to the American Lung Association, these electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are sparking renewed interest and debates around the use of tobacco products and the harmful effects of nicotine.

“We feel that it is important to educate the community on the potential harms and risks of vaping,” said Angela Cochran, director of Chronic Disease Prevention & Control for St. Mary’s County Health Department. “As the research evolves we continue to gain more knowledge on how e-cigarette use affects our health.”

In 2015, the Health Department created the VapeAware awareness campaign to help provide the latest information on this trendy smoking alternative. It also works with the Tobacco Free Living Action Team of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership to improve tobacco-related health outcomes in the county.

“The Health Department works on reducing the use of all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” Angela said. “We try to focus on population-level strategies such as including e-cigarettes into smoke-free indoor air policies and restricting youth access to e-cigarettes in retail settings.”

What is particularly disturbing is the trend among adolescents and teens. According to the Maryland 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 42 percent of teen respondents in St. Mary’s County had tried electronic vapor products within the 30 days prior to taking the survey. 

“Recent reports are showing substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases the likelihood youth and young adults will eventually begin using combustible tobacco cigarettes,” Angela said. “Despite the popularity of e-cigarettes, we continue to promote awareness through a comprehensive tobacco control program that focuses on prevention and cessation of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, among youth.”

Know the Health Risks

New studies are also showing that e-cigarettes are not as harmless as many would like to believe. Although not as toxic as smoking regular cigarettes, use of ENDS still comes with many risks including exposure to nicotine and other aerosols which are known cancer causers.

“Research on this is still pending in a few areas because long-term effects haven’t had a chance to be studied,” said Pam Laigle, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical leader of the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehab Center. However, research has discovered other effects on the cardiovascular system as well as new evidence of what is called ‘popcorn’ lung, a serious and irreversible lung disease. “Anything other than breathing oxygen,” said Pam, “essentially is not good.”

Visit for more information on the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, the risks of tobacco use, and smoking cessation resources.

What is Vaping?

Electronic nicotine delivery systems, which include e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs, e-cigars, personal vaporizers, and electronic pipes, use a battery to heat liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and additives, which are inhaled into the lungs.

Know the Risks

► Exposure to Nicotine: Nicotine is highly addictive and adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lungs, kidneys, etc., and may increase the risk of certain cancers.

► Exposure to Aerosols: Aerosols may contain harmful substances including cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep inside the lungs.

► Increases Risk of Using Other Tobacco Products: For teens and adolescents, serves as a gateway to using combustible cigarettes.

► Poisoning: Accidental exposure to even small amounts of liquid nicotine – as little as a teaspoon - can be fatal to children and a slightly larger amount could kill an adult.

► Burns: Batteries can explode causing severe injury.

Valley Lee Couple Shares Story of Recovery and the Importance of CPR

‘It Came On With No Warning’

Gloria and Francis Bean were walking on July 4 — a typical sticky summer day, like many in Southern Maryland — when, without warning, Francis went into cardiac arrest.

They’d just completed a walk around Francis’ brother’s farm: a pleasant routine for the Valley Lee couple. Francis typically joins his wife for an hour before Gloria completes another 30 minutes on her own.

The two stood chatting on Independence Day when, as Gloria recalls, Francis suddenly collapsed, grasping at his wife’s shirt as he fell. He was not breathing.

“There were no warning signs,” Francis says. “You know how, with heart attacks or cardiac events, there are symptoms or warnings? There were none.”

Gloria has spent 36 years as a registered nurse at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, but this patient in sudden distress was her husband. They were just a five-minute walk from their own home, but it might as well have been miles. “We didn’t take our cell phones,” she says.

Driven by adrenaline, Gloria began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): the technique of administering chest compressions and giving breaths to assist a person who has stopped breathing or is experiencing a cardiac event. CPR restores oxygenated blood flow to the vital organs by pumping blood through the body, and/or giving breaths to oxygenate the blood being pumped.

“I was probably out there for 15 minutes,” Gloria says, “but then I really thought I needed to get help.”

She sprinted to find her brother-in-law and call 911, then returned to continue CPR. It took an additional 10 minutes of mouth-to-mouth before first responders could arrive.

“You’ve never been so happy to see anyone in your life,” Gloria says.

Members of the Second District Fire Department and Rescue Squad — where Francis has also volunteered — revived him using a defibrillator. He was then transported to the Emergency Department at MedStar St. Mary’s, where he was seen by Dr. Daniel Geary, medical director of the Emergency Department, and the emergency staff before being flown to MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab at the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute determined Francis had a 100 percent blockage in one artery. Surgery was required to clear it and place a stent to keep the artery open. Francis was able to be discharged after just two days with a LifeVest — a wearable defibrillator — providing protection and peace of mind while he recovered at home.

Three months later, Francis smiles at his wife of 35 years. The pair has four grown children and three grandchildren. How grateful they are that Gloria was by Francis’ side that day.

“It’s so important that CPR was started immediately. Your chances of recovery drop with every minute until help arrives,” he says.

Francis started a supervised exercise program at the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at MedStar St. Mary’s, where his vital signs are monitored during low-impact routines. The intensity of his workouts has been gradually increased to safely return him to an active lifestyle.

The couple advocates strongly that everyone take a CPR course to be able to assist others in a crisis. At least 10 of the Beans’ family members have become certified since July.

“You never know when you’re going to need CPR,” says Gloria. “You think the skills aren’t going to come back to you, but they do. You never know whose life you’re going to save — it could be your loved one.”

Today, the Beans are back to walking again: an hour around the farm and home again.

“But we take a cell phone now,” Gloria smiles.

To learn more about cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, visit

For CPR class availability and other opportunities at MedStar St. Mary’s, go to

Helping Little Hearts: Donations Requested for Red Newborn Hats

Newborns at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital will sport a different look for the month of February. Casting aside traditional pastels, the Women’s Health & Family Birthing Center is participating in the American Heart Association’s Little Hats Big Hearts campaign to raise awareness of congenital heart defects.

Members of the community are invited to knit or crochet newborn-sized hats using red cotton or acrylic yarn. These donations will be shared with the families who deliver babies during February at MedStar St. Mary’s. Parents will be given resources about congenital heart defects and can add the hashtag #littlehatsbighearts to their social media posts. Sample hat patterns and more information are available at

Donations are appreciated throughout January and February and may be dropped off at the Volunteer Services office in the hospital’s main building in Leonardtown. Please include the crafter’s name, address, and phone number with all donations.

For more information, contact Mary B. Cheseldine, volunteer and student services coordinator, by emailing [email protected] or calling 301-475-6453.

American Heart Association Photo

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program Gives Patients Second Chance at Health

Beyond the Heart Attack

Pam Riley, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical leader of the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, monitors Lew Armistead’s blood pressure as he exercises on the recumbent bike.

When you find something that works, you stick with it. Which is why when Lew Armistead needed cardiac rehab after his second heart surgery earlier this year, he returned to the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center (GADC) at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital.

Having participated in the center’s cardiac rehab program in 2014 following a heart attack and surgery to open a blocked artery, the 71-year-old Hollywood resident knew the program offered just what his doctor ordered to help him recover from surgery to repair an aortic aneurism.

“One of the things that really impressed me about the center was the staff,” said Lew, 71. “They have a lot of expertise in that room, and they are very committed to working with you. Usually, people who have to go to a workout don’t especially look forward to it. The people who staff the center have such a good attitude that I looked forward to going there much more than going to my regular health club.”

GADC’s program offers an individualized and personalized treatment plan, which incorporates evaluation and instruction on physical activity, nutrition, stress management and other health-related areas.  

“A lot of patients don’t know how much to push themselves after a heart attack,” said Pam Riley, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical leader of GADC. “They have lost their confidence and self esteem. We can bring them in and show them how much they can push themselves and we can educate them on the signs and symptoms to look for so they don’t push too hard.”

Lew says he has always been a person who believes in staying in good physical condition, and he attributes completing the GADC program and the education he received there in 2014 to the quick recovery he made following his second surgery.

 “I thought my heart surgery was much easier than I anticipated,” he said. “People told me I would be in a lot of pain and I would have a long recovery period, but I went into my second surgery in much better physical condition than perhaps other heart surgery patients might.”

A Life-Saving Connection 

When Lew Armistead suffered a heart attack in 2014 he had already been under the care of a cardiologist, and he had met with a surgeon just eight days earlier to discuss correcting his aortic aneurism. So when he arrived at the Emergency Department of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in April 2014, he already knew who he would call next.

“Many cardiac patients who come to our Emergency Department can be treated here and follow up with a cardiologist after they leave,” said Dawn Yeitrakis, MS, RN, CEN, director, MedStar St. Mary’s Emergency Department. “Individuals with more complex cases, however, may need expedited treatment.”

MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital works closely with the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute (MHVI) to ensure patients needing the highest level of care are quickly transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center or the new Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital, a state-of-the-art cardiovascular care hospital offering expert cardiovascular services utilizing the latest medical technology.

“Being able to connect our patients quickly to the type of care available through the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute can be life saving,” said Dawn.

Visit to learn more about MHVI and the Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital.     

Learn more about cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs offered at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital on our website or call 240-434-7143.


Heart Attack Symptoms: His & Her Guide

Heart attacks are not one size fits all. They can often begin with subtle symptoms that don’t resemble the sudden, crushing pain many imagine. And although many symptoms are similar, men and women often experience them differently. Be aware of the signs and call your doctor if you have symptoms that develop suddenly and do not resolve within 15 to 30 minutes. Delay in taking action can mean greater damage to your heart, so know the signs and get help.

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute partners with the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute for groundbreaking clinical care and research. Visit for more information on heart disease.

MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital works closely with the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute to ensure patients needing the highest level of care are quickly transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center or the new Nancy and Harold Zirkin Heart & Vascular Hospital, a state-of-the-art cardiovascular care hospital offering expert cardiovascular services utilizing the latest medical technology.

If you or someone you love is believed to be having a heart attack, please stop what you are doing and call 9-1-1 or travel to your nearest Emergency Department as soon as possible.

Emergency Department 

MedStar St. Mary's Hospital
25500 Point Lookout Road
Leonardtown, MD 20650 
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Main Line: 301-475-6111 
TTY: 301-475-6484

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