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He Worked His Way Off the Heart Transplant List: Read Al's Story
Second Chances with Cardiac Rehabilitation
Date: 8/10/2012

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RWJ Hamilton's Center for Health & Wellness offers a
medically-based fitness approach to help members improve
their lives with a commitment to health.
First there was the heart attack at age 32. When Al Santanielo’s cardiologist diagnosed him with heart failure, it could have been another blow. “I took it as an opportunity to make some changes,” says Al.

“My cardiologist told me exercise would help. I was scared to death of having another heart attack. I didn’t know how much my body could take.”

After cardiac rehab, Al turned to the RWJ Hamilton Center for Health & Wellness, a medically-based fitness center, to continue to improve his cardiovascular health. “A center like ours gives someone with a serious medical condition —whether it’s heart disease, diabetes or arthritis — the expertise of a registered nurse and exercise physiologist,” says Lindsay Adams, general manager.

Al found that despite his poor health, he could build a modest exercise routine. “At first I could barely do five minutes on the elliptical,” he admits. “Today I’m doing 45 minutes.”

As Al continued to exercise faithfully, he was also undergoing testing for a heart transplant. The tests continued for eight months until he received surprising news at his final appointment. Al recalls, “When I was told I was too healthy to qualify for a heart transplant, I couldn’t believe it. That’s what exercise can do.”

Donald Haas, MD, MPH, FACC, Al’s cardiologist, says, “When patients follow physician recommendations regarding diet, fluid intake, medication and exercise, it contributes to improving their quality of life — and that’s our goal.”

Without the prospect of a looming heart transplant, Al is taking to the pool to conquer his next quest: swimming. “Right now I’m swimming half way across the pool and back,” explains Al. “It’s tough but at one time I could have never seen myself in that pool. The people here gave me
the motivation and the help I needed.”

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