Jennifer Walling has been one of our team members for nearly 30 years! She currently works at Sylvania Cardiac Rehabilitation in Toledo, OH and has worked in dialysis for 26 years. After starting out as a technician, she worked through nursing school the past year and a half at Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center.
While she has taken care of many patients over the years, Jennifer has also been diagnosed with some health issues of her own.
“Although I have not suffered a cardiac event myself, I found out I had a thoracic aortic aneurysm four years ago this very month, which coincidentally happens to be heart month,” Jennifer shares. “It really rocked my world to say the least. I’ve always been very active and exercise regularly and thought that all may have come to an end. It was very depressing and scary.”
Jennifer sat still for a month until she had more doctor appointments, answers and clarity. She eventually learned that surgery was not necessary, and that she could continue to exercise her body.
“Controlling my blood pressure was the initial fix in order to keep the aneurysm under control. I returned to exercise with walking which was nice but felt I needed more and wanted to do it safely,” says Jennifer. “It took a while, but I was able to use the skills I was teaching my patients in cardiac rehab to get to where I wanted to be.”
Today, Jennifer still has a very hard time accepting that she needs three blood pressure medications. However, explaining her own feelings of frustration to her patients who are also physically active really helps them cope with their heart problems.
We’re often taught that exercise, diet and weight loss will lower your blood pressure, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Jennifer can relate to that.
“We teach our patients that it can take up to a year to gain back strength and fully recover from having open heart surgery,” Jennifer states. “While I personally haven’t had open heart surgery, it did mentally and physically take me that long to recover. We live in a world where we often find answers immediately and can fix things quickly, but that’s not always the case with heart related issues. My experience with my diagnosis helps me better connect with my patients.”
This connection with patients makes Jennifer feel like she has truly found her calling. Being able to help people exercise, encourage a healthy diet, and live a healthy lifestyle, all while helping them accomplish things they may have never done before is the ultimate gift for her.
“Sometimes people relapse and require additional procedures, surgeries and setbacks, but we are there to help them through,” says Jennifer. “Cardiac rehab is not mandatory, but it has helped save and improve lives. We often catch problems that would otherwise not be noticed at home or work. Sometimes we can make a person’s quality of life better with just a simple medication adjustment or phone call. I am proud to work alongside some of the smartest, most compassionate nurses. We support our patients and each other.”
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