In December of 2019, Heide Groomes was diagnosed with an ascending aortic aneurysm and referred to Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute for further care. Heide and her medical care team agreed to closely monitor the aneurysm, which remained stable for more than a year.

Everything changed when, in the early hours of May 27, 2021, Heide woke up with extreme head, neck, and upper chest pressure. She was taken to the emergency room then transferred to Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center. While Heide’s vitals had stabilized, her cardiologist, Dr. Rohit Mehta, confirmed her aorta was bleeding, and she would need surgery.

Heide underwent open-heart surgery on June 2, 2021 and remained in the hospital for 2 weeks. The weeks after surgery were especially challenging. “I was a pretty fit person before my cardiac event,” she shared. “The week of my event, I had walked 30 miles averaging 4 miles per day. After my surgery, I was weak, dizzy, tired and in excruciating pain. I could barely make it down the hall to the bathroom, taking a shower was draining… I was in bed 23 of 24 hours every day.”

Following her hospital stay, Heide began cardiac rehabilitation at Atrium Health Pineville, and knew it would be a challenging journey. “She knew she lost strength and endurance but could get it back,” shared Rachel Field, MS, an exercise physiologist at Atrium Health. “Each week she attended she progressed and increased. She kept sight of her end goal of getting back to her walks, hikes and yoga would happen. Heide took advantage of not only the supervised and EKG monitored exercise sessions, but the nutritional and stress and mental health counseling components. She recognized the benefits of all of these factors in her recovery.”

Now several months later, Heide is hiking four miles a day again, has started weight training, and continues to use her stationary bike. She is also looking forward to getting back into regular yoga practice, meditation, and biking outdoors. Heide will always hold gratitude for her surgeons, Dr. Larry Watts and Dr. Jeko Madjarov; her cardiologist, Dr. Rohit Mehta; the cardiac rehabilitation team at Atrium Health Pineville; and her care team at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute for the expert care they provided throughout her health journey.

Having experienced the value of cardiac rehabilitation in her own life, Heide hopes to build community support to help ensure these services are accessible to all patients. Click here to make a donation to the Carolinas Cardiovascular Health & Rehabilitation Fund.