Making a Difference in Cardiac Rehab

From patient to volunteer – making a difference in Cardiac Rehab

Bill Bishop assisting a patient.

On a cold January day in 1991, William (Bill) Bishop was stacking firewood when he felt a chest pain and was having trouble breathing. At first he thought it was just the cold air, but then realized something was very wrong and came into the HCGH’s ED to learn he had just had a heart attack. He was under the care of cardiologist David Jackson, M.D., who has been the medical director of the HCGH Cardiac Rehabilitation program for 30 years.

Eighteen years later, on a hot August day in 2009, he had a second heart attack. This time he recognized the symptoms and called 911. Julie Miller, M.D., a Johns Hopkins cardiologist on duty that day at HCGH, was able to treat him locally. She performed a stent procedure on Bishop and he continued to see Jackson for follow-up treatment.

“Dr. Jackson tried to sign me up for the HCGH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, but, since I was working at the Columbia Gym and could exercise there, I didn’t feel it was necessary for me to enroll.” Bill realized that he wasn’t doing all that he should to maintain a healthy lifestyle and was not exercising consistently. “In October 2009, I entered the 36-session Cardiac Rehab program under the care of Dr. Jackson, where I was carefully monitored, encouraged, and have truly improved my general health and fitness,” Bishop continued.

After finishing the program, he wanted to give something back to the department, and asked Preeti Benjamin, manager of Cardiac and Pulmonary Services, if she needed any volunteers. She said she’d be happy to have his help, and Bishop became a morning volunteer (Mon, Wed. and Thurs.) assisting the staff and cardiac rehab patients. “It’s a way to pay back for all of the help I got here! They run a well-organized program and all of the staff members are very serious about their work. Some of our patients need guidance performing their exercises or just want to talk. If they ask a question that I can’t answer, I refer them to one of the staff members.” He also noted that the camaraderie that develops among patients, clinicians and volunteers helps patients build the confidence they need to get back to the activities they care about. “It definitely made a difference in my life,” Bishop said.

Benjamin, who has been with the Cardiac and Pulmonary Services for 13 years, remarked, “Volunteers like Bill and all of our staff have a positive effect on our patients. The patients have connected with Bill and he’s made some of them want to give back to the hospital in a number of ways, including donating to the Howard Hospital Foundation.” Benjamin added, “The patients enrolled in the program are actively engaged in adopting a healthy lifestyle by increasing their exercise endurance, eating healthier food and practicing stress management techniques. Our rehab program can improve their overall health, wellbeing, and outlook on life.”


Diane Dunn is a senior communications project manager in the Public Relations department at Howard County General Hospital.