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Back in the saddle after Cardiac Rehab


Betty Fairchild is back in the saddle at age 97, and Community HealthCare System’s Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program helped her get there.

After an aortic valve replacement, fatigue and shortness of breath kept Fairchild, who lives four miles outside of Frankfort, from the active lifestyle she had always enjoyed.  She was referred to CHCS Cardiopulmonary Rehab by her cardiac surgeon, Dr. Muehlebach, from the University of Kansas Health System. Fairchild visited with her local provider, Physician Assistant Jeremy Brandt, at the Frankfort Clinic, and he also recommended the CHCS Cardiac Rehab Program. She started on her birthday last August, and after 18 sessions, she left with new energy.

Fairchild jokes that she “graduated” and has a signed certificate to prove it, but she’s serious when she describes the program’s benefits.

“It helped me immensely, and I can move better and breathe better. [The nurses] gave me pamphlets and had me do stretches with rubber bands. I had never done anything like that before. Now I continue to do that at home, and it just helps me feel better all over!” Fairchild said.

Meranda Schmitz, RN and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation nurse, said Fairchild was a “star patient” in the program, which includes exercise counseling and training as well as education to help participants meet their goals, have better quality of life, and reduce the potential for future heart problems. Cardiac rehab helps people who have had a heart attack, heart disease, or a heart procedure such as angioplasty, heart valve surgery, or coronary artery bypass grafting. Pulmonary rehab is also available for those who have chronic lung conditions or who are recovering from COVID-19 or other infections.

According to Schmitz, Fairchild was eager to improve and to get her energy back so she could ride her horse again. She took the nutrition education seriously. “She would bake healthy versions of cookies and muffins to try, and she would bring in samples for the staff,” Schmitz said.

“She worked very hard, both in rehab and at home,” Schmitz added, noting that Fairchild was back on her horse one month into the program. She also no longer needs to use a walking stick, and she goes on walks several times a day.

“Betty is truly a testament to what cardiac rehab can do to help someone recover from a heart procedure or heart event. She was so happy, and it was great to see,” Schmitz said.

Fairchild said she recommends the CHCS Cardiopulmonary Rehab program because the staff does “such a good job” helping participants recover. “They were very patient, and I didn’t get scolded if I didn’t do something right the first time. I think they are probably the best!” she said.

The admiration is mutual. Schmitz said Fairchild, who was a “Rosie the Riveter” in World War II and also worked as a nurses’ aide and medication aide, has lived an amazing life. She is close to her nephews and nieces, and they often shared stories from Fairchild’s life when they came with her to her rehab sessions.

“Betty is very active and well known in her community, and her level of participation and determination are a testament to how truly special she is,” Schmitz said.

Cardiac rehab aside, Fairchild attributes her longevity to God’s mercy, the fact that she has never smoked, and that she enjoys life. Riding horses is “peaceful and stress-free,” she said, and she appreciates the company of her nieces and nephews and her dog, a black lab mix.

“I am truly blessed,” she said. 

Learn more about Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at CHCS.

Captions for the photos below:
Top-Betty is happy to be on horseback again! 
Bottom-Betty with her Frankfort Clinic provider, Physician Assistant Jeremy Brandt.


1 comment

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  • Vicki Lee | Feb 14th 2022 @ 8:39 PM

    I am lucky enough to be one of Betty's nieces. She is my idol...I respect and admire her immensely. Ron and I (and our whole family) are very blessed to have her in our lives.

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