Over the past 10 years, Dwight Liggins has relied on the cardiac rehabilitation team at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore more times than can be counted.
Diagnosed with cardiomegaly (enlarged heart) in his 30s, he underwent several significant heart surgeries, including placement of both a cardiac defibrillator and a left ventricle assist device (LVAD). Following each procedure, Dwight was encouraged by his cardiologist to pursue a cardiac rehabilitation program, focused on building strength and endurance by staying physically active.
Each time, the Ascension Saint Agnes cardiac rehabilitation department was his “go to” place to make it happen, safely. But never was the process more important for Dwight than it was during the summer months of 2019, as he was recovering from heart transplant surgery.
“I needed to have a heart transplant surgery to live, and I had waited for one to become available for a very long time,” said Dwight, age 44. “Getting through the surgery was one thing. But also weighing on my mind was the recovery process. I knew it would be long and hard. When my cardiologist asked where I wanted to go for rehabilitation, I immediately said Ascension Saint Agnes. From my previous experiences, I was sure it was the right place to go. I knew I would get the support and guidance I needed to fully recover from my surgery and be able to move on.”
Cardiac rehabilitation began for Dwight just eight weeks after his heart transplant surgery was performed and deemed a success. Three times a week, with constant oversight from his trusted rehabilitation team, he began walking, slowly and steadily, in increments of five minutes, on a treadmill. Over time, he was able to increase his speed and distance. He began riding a stationary bike, building upper body strength with an arm bike, and using a series of fitness machines. Within four months, Dwight felt strong, stable, and ready to begin living again.
“My biggest goal was to regain my independence,” Dwight said. “I wanted to be able to help out with things at home, and to be able to leave the house and go do things with my family and friends, without being in fear. The cardiac rehabilitation team helped me every step of the way and by the time I finished the program, I felt really good, and more confident in myself than I had ever felt before.”
To celebrate, Dwight went on the vacation of his lifetime with his loved ones – a cruise. It was something he had wanted to do for years, but delayed because of his health.
“It was amazing to finally be able to take that trip, and really enjoy myself, without having to hold myself back because of my heart problem,” Dwight said.
And Dwight is not the only person who is pleased with the outcomes of his surgery and rehabilitation processes.
“Dwight is a deserving young man with a lot of potential,” said his cardiologist, Russell Hillsley, MD. “It is exciting to see him receive a heart transplant after defibrillator placement and the excellent care he received at Saint Agnes.”
Today, Dwight said, he feels like he is in his 20s again, and has his sights set on the future, for the first time in a long time.
“I have been through a lot, but I am here today and feeling good because of the great care and tremendous support I received,” he said. “I would tell anyone out there to choose Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program because the people there truly care about you. They are kind, patient and encouraging. I am so appreciative of what they did for me. They played a big part in helping me get to where I am now.”
Photo: From left, Deborah Hefty, RN, CHFN; Jae Patton, MSN, RN, CRNP; Dwight Liggins; and Jessica Harrison, RN.