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Healthwatch: Cardiac rehab

Studies show that many patients who require cardiac rehabilitation do not go. Geisinger is hoping to change by offering a virtual option.

DANVILLE, Pa. — Dilip Abayasekara is a pastor in Sunbury and was at work on June tenth when he felt tightness in his chest. 

"I just felt it was a nuisance, and maybe it will pass.  I continued to work," said Pastor Abayasekara.

But the feeling did not pass. Abayasekara felt worse and went to Geisinger, where he had a heart attack.  He knew his recovery would not be easy.

"I am a very high energy person, and suddenly I felt fatigued, just tired all the time. I slept a lot. It was very unusual for me," said Pastor Abayasekara.  

Credit: WNEP
Dilip Abayasekara

Doctors at Geisinger told Abayasekara he must attend cardiac rehabilitation. But instead of going to the hospital each week, the rehab was done virtually inside his home in Sunbury.

"To gain experience in using virtual cardiac rehab during this time is going to allow us to get more people involved," said Dr. Bryan Martin. 

Dr. Martin is Geisinger's Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation. He says many patients do not attend the in-person rehab sessions, so the virtual option is helpful.

"Being able to do it in the comfort of your own home certainly is going to increase the uptake of cardiac rehabilitation," he said.

Geisinger partnered with a company called Recora, which sends patients a tablet.  The patient meets with their therapist virtually.

"My therapist was great to work with, and I could tell her primary interest was my recovery," said Pastor Abayasekara.

According to Dr. Martin, people who do cardiac rehab after a heart event live longer than those who do not do cardiac rehab.  

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