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Richard Witthaus: Fighting Back from Heart Attack


At 48 years old, Richard Witthaus knew that he’d put on some weight but, other than that, he considered himself fairly healthy. He didn’t smoke, enjoyed the vigorous pursuit of bow hunting, worked hard, and enjoyed life.

One evening, Richard began to feel some discomfort in his chest. He tried to pass it off as heartburn or indigestion, but when it didn’t resolve itself, he and his wife decided to visit the emergency department at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Imaging tests and bloodwork revealed that Richard’s left anterior descending artery was 90% blocked. That discomfort Richard was experiencing was not indigestion. Richard was having a heart attack.

Within 15 hours, he was in the cardiac catheterization lab at FMH, where Dr. Chao-Wei Hwang implanted a stent in Richard’s artery to resume normal blood flow to his heart. Dr. Hwang threaded the catheter through an artery in Richard’s arm to reach the blockage, using a technique known as radial catheterization.

This minimally-invasive approach meant that Richard’s healing time was drastically reduced. Richard says that before he knew it, he was on his feet and on his way to cardiac rehab.

By the time he finished his 12 weeks of cardiac rehab, Richard had dropped almost 45 pounds through diet and exercise. Given the progress he had made, his cardiac rehab nurse suggested he continue the good work he’d started by joining ProMotion Fitness+ at FMH Crestwood.

ProMotion Fitness+ is a gym that is open to anyone in the community. Members must simply get clearance from their physician to participate in an exercise program and pay the monthly membership fee. “I had gotten used to having a place to go for exercise, so I thought, ‘I’m going to go and see what this is all about,’” Richard recalled.

Richard was very impressed by the fully equipped gym, which offers cardio and weight training equipment, and yoga and Pilates classes. But he admits he was particularly attracted to the idea that the facility is staffed by medical personnel, including nurses and certified exercise physiologists.

“Once you’ve had a heart attack, you live with a little bit of it in the back of your head all the time,” he said. He liked the idea of knowing that he could have his blood pressure taken before and after his workouts and ask questions of the qualified medical professionals if he had concerns. “It’s very comforting,” he said.

More than that, Richard liked the atmosphere. No blaring music and, in his words, “no people prancing around trying to be seen.” It was a different kind of gym.

Every machine has earplug ports so that patients can listen to their music or the TVs privately. For those who enjoy the social aspects of exercise, there are plenty of friendships formed among members, especially among those who have come to ProMotion Fitness+ following a major medical event and who find support in sharing their experiences with others who’ve traveled the same path.

One minute Richard is helping another member get her earbuds to work properly and the next minute, he’s chatting with one of the staff members about her new puppy. “I can’t speak highly enough about the people here,” he said. “They always greet you when you come in and they address you by your name. They take time with you. The care and professionalism they have is so impressive,” he said.

In the 15 months since his heart attack, Richard has now dropped more than 100 pounds and has been able to significantly reduce the number and amount of medications he takes. “It is well worth the money to be a member here. There are so many benefits at your disposal,” he said. “I feel so fortunate that I have a place like this to go to.”

To learn more about ProMotion Fitness+ and their medically monitored exercise programs, click here or call 240-215-1470.