Paul and Norma Hoffman's Story

Paul and Norma Hoffman in HawaiiPaul and Norma Hoffman of Selma were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii last April when she noticed that her shortness of breath was getting worse. As they shopped, toured monuments and walked along the beach, she stopped about every 30 minutes to rest.

As soon as she returned home, Norma saw her doctor. The results of an EKG led to an order for a stress test and then to a stenting procedure in the heart catheterization lab at Johnston Health. Turns out, an artery leading to her heart was blocked 90 percent.

Paul Hoffman, 74, knows about heart trouble, too. Years ago he had heart bypass surgery and, later, four stents from cardiac events that followed. So when Norma’s cardiologist referred her to Johnston Health Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Paul encouraged her to go. He graduated from the program in 2013. And he continues to exercise regularly at HealthQuest Fitness & Wellness Center, bikes when the weather is nice, and walks five miles daily with a friend on the local greenway.

Norma, 72, says she was anxious and scared, not knowing how her heart might respond. But she felt better after talking with her case manager, Lori Fallon, who is also a registered nurse. “She was fantastic. She worked with me, talked with me about family, and we even compared notes about growing up in Pennsylvania.”

Melissa Speas, cardiopulmonary rehab coordinator, says case managers are the first people that patients meet before starting group classes. “They form a bond, and patients feel comfortable asking questions and voicing concerns. Having that go-to person is important because our program has so many disciplines that contribute to improving the patient’s overall quality of life.”

After two or three classes, Norma felt right at ease, she says. “I talked with people. I worked out on the machines. I followed Lori’s advice. I followed the advice of the nutritionist, too. I did all 36 sessions.”

Halfway through the program, she felt confident enough to return to HealthQuest and to take a Silver Sneakers classes. She asked Fallon if it would be OK. While it’s unusual to grant such a request, Fallon said Norma was doing well enough to handle the extra exercise.

Norma has since graduated from the program, but Fallon says she enjoys seeing her at HealthQuest and hearing how well she’s getting along.

“It’s important to build trust with patients,” Fallon says. “Some of them have never exercised a day in their lives, and it’s scary for them to walk in at rehab and see all of the exercise equipment. It can be intimidating.”

Fallon says she and the rest of the team offer reassurances that they will help their patients get through their recovery. “We treat everyone individually and with respect,” she adds. “We think of them as family and treat them like we would our own.”

In January, the Hoffmans returned to Hawaii. This time they walked along beaches, through the Honolulu Zoo and the Pacific National Cemetery—all without Norma having to stop and take a breather. And when they returned to HealthQuest, where they think of the entire team as family, both were glad to see friendly faces and to answer questions about their adventures.

Ask for a Referral

You’ll need a referral from your doctor to participate in cardiopulmonary rehab at UNC Health Johnston. Call our staff at 919-938-7127 if you have questions about the program.