Mark Rutherford speaks at the Rotary Club meeting on Monday.

ASHLAND A respiratory therapist at King’s Daughter Medical Center spoke at the Ashland Rotary meeting on Monday.

Mark Rutherford opened the discussion regarding cardiac health, presenting the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation. Rutherford said the treatment can be too expensive for patients because of the repeat visits and partial coverage from insurance companies, but he thinks it is crucial to lowering the deaths related to heart disease. Rutherford has worked at KDMC for 16 years, and serves as the Director of Pulmonary Services.

“A lot of times, the first (perceived issue) isn’t a heart attack,” said Rutherford. “A lot of times it might be a heart cath with one blockage. If we catch those patients early and get them on the right (track) with exercise and the right medications, we might be able to pretend them from coming back later.”

Cardiac rehabilitation usually costs the same as a doctor’s visit, but some patients need treatments several times a week and can’t afford repeat visits and the transportation. Patients can be in rehabilitation three times a week for 12 weeks.

“If they don’t get the proper medication they need, unfortunately we see those patients come back in,” said Rutherford.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the area, Rutherford said.

Rutherford said there is a lot of emotional support involved in the rehabilitation process.

“When they come in, there is always a little bit of discouragement,” said Rutherford. “’Will I be able to do the things I once did? Will I be able to do the things I could do in the past?’”

During the rehabilitation process, patients are constantly being assured they are in good hands, Rutherford said.

“We bring our patients in and try to find out everything they can about them the first visit,” he said. “(It) can take up to three hours to assess the patient to find out about their history and what other conditions they have.”

There is no meeting next Monday.

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