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Gary Hogentogler

Hamilton resident recovers from heart attack thanks to Capital Health Cardiac Rehabilitation

On July 10, 2015, Gary Hogentogler’s day started like any normal summer day. He spent some time at home before taking a trip to his in-laws’ house to help them move a few items. Then it all changed.

“I was helping them unload a few things when I felt this crushing feeling in my chest. I felt very tired all of a sudden and couldn’t catch my breath,” Gary said, adding that he has asthma but this was something he knew was far worse.

The 57-year-old Hamilton resident only trusted one place. “I told my wife I wanted to go to Capital Health,” Gary said.

It was quickly determined that Gary was having a heart attack and that he would need an emergency stent placed by the team in Capital Health’s Catheterization Lab.

“All I can remember is laying in the ER, sweating so badly that I could smell the chlorine from the pool I was in the day before. Then Dr. [Harit] Desai introduced himself, told me he was going to place a stent and got me ready for the procedure,” says Gary.

His door-to-balloon time (the time between a heart attack patient’s arrival at the hospital to the time he or she receives intervention) was 43 minutes, much faster than the 90-minute national standard.

“If God is going to take you, He’ll take you. But I was lucky. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Desai. That man is an absolute lifesaver,” Gary says.

While recovering from his procedure, Gary met Jack Stolte from cardiac rehab. “He told me that I might not remember our meeting but that I would need to have cardiac rehab when I got out of the hospital,” Gary said.

Stolte is an exercise physiologist and coordinator at the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell. The Center provides individually prescribed education and exercise for people with heart disease who are recovering from a heart-related illness, surgery or other treatment procedures.

Gary started his rehab in August soon after his heart attack. His weight was at 365 pounds, his blood glucose level was more than 300 mg/dl (well above the target range), and he had a history of asthma and blood clots. When Gary graduated from the program on December 4, 2015, he’d lost almost 100 pounds, his blood glucose level was under control (165 mg/dl at its highest), and he was feeling much more energetic.

“I’ve never been an exercise person, but the positive reinforcement I got from Laurie [Beck] and Jack kept me working and I wanted to exercise. The videos and information they provided to me were also very useful,” Gary said.

Gary now has a cardiologist and visits him regularly. He also continues to work with his primary care doctor and a private diabetes educator and dietitian, and he meets with Jack Stolte once a month to check on his progress. He also has suggestions for how he would like to see the Cardiac Rehab Center at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell progress.

“I think a lap pool would be phenomenal,” Gary said, adding that he couldn’t wait to start doing laps again at his pool at home.

Click here to learn more about Capital Health's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center.