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Program Helps Heart Patients Return To Work

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Stress and physical demands are just a part of what comes with being a police officer or firefighter. But a study in ‘Cardiology in Review’ said that those are also two factors putting those emergency workers at risk for heart disease. Researchers at Baylor Medical Center, however, have launched a one-of-a-kind program to help.

Scott Sayer lives a very active and demanding life. He is a veteran detective with the Dallas Police Department and also plays soccer and ice hockey each week. One day, while playing, he just did not feel right. “I knew something was wrong,” Sayer recalled. “I just thought I was just getting old.”

It was his heart. Sayer had an 85 percent blockage. He went through a bypass surgery at the young age of 39. And, his father had gotten the same surgery at the same age. “It really hits home when it looks like you’re on the same path as your dad,” Sayer said.

After heart surgery, Sayer wanted to get back to his sports and his job. That led him to a rehabilitation program called ‘Return to Work Lab,’ designed specifically for patients with physically demanding lifestyles and careers. “By the time they get out of here, they’ve used this as a platform to test themselves,” explained researcher Jenny Adams, who started the program back in 2008. “We take more of a coaching and a personal training aspect, instead of the cookie cutter type rehab.”

Adams built a 10-week regime that got Sayer back on the streets as a detective. “I would come strike the dummy routinely, over and over. I would drag this around and flip him over like handcuffing techniques. Typically we would practice strikes, open-handed strikes,” Sayer said about his work. “I didn’t want to go out with my partner and get in a situation where we had to get physical and I would pass out, and now my partner’s life is in danger.”

Now, at the age of 44, Sayer said that he feels like his whole life is still in front of him. “I want to be there for my kids, long after they get into college,” he said.

The ‘Return to Work Lab’ was initially created with police officers in mind, but has since expanded. It is now available to any patient who is recovering from heart surgery.

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