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dick rinehart cardiac rehab patient

Dick Rinehart

Dick’s Fresh Market founder bounces back with cardiac rehab

As a man who has made his living by serving the community through his supermarkets, gas stations and liquor stores for more than three decades, Dick Rinehart knows a thing or two about customer service.

That, he says, is why he wanted to share his experience of the cardiac rehabilitation program at River Falls Area Hospital.

2014 was a difficult year for Dick, the man behind Dick’s Fresh Market in River Falls, Amery and Osceola.

In February, he lost his wife unexpectedly. In September he underwent knee replacement surgery and then, in December, lifesaving open heart surgery was performed.

"It was an extremely tough year for me and my family," said Dick. "But being able to get into this rehab program – not only did it help physically, but in other ways, too. They really put me back on my feet. The staff treat every single patient respectfully, with care and dignity."

He appreciated that he was given not only exercises and a strengthening plan to follow, but also educational materials and tools with which to practice the exercises, accommodating Dick’s interests, abilities and schedule.

"I was sitting in my chair at home watching quite a bit of basketball one weekend and the staff had given me a resistance band to use,so I sat there doing 50 repetitions at a time," said Dick.

His cardiac rehab therapy team put together a regimen that worked with Dick’s motivation to get himself back in the best possible physical shape as quickly as possible – no small feat for a 76-year-old man after open heart surgery.

He committed to walking two to three miles on the treadmill three days a week, with weightlifting three alternate days. When he took a short time out from the program to vacation with his children in Florida, the cardiac rehab staff formulated an exercise plan that would continue to help him recuperate while he was gone.

Dick sees parallels between his family grocery stores and his experience at River Falls Area Hospital.

"We are big enough that we can specialize – by getting deliveries of fresh produce and meat five or six days a week – but we are small enough that we know our customers, too," he said.

Similarly, when Dick needed the highly specialized services associated with open heart surgery, he knew River Falls Area Hospital was part of Allina Health, with all the resources that a large health system has to offer.

His surgery was performed at United Hospital in St. Paul, an Allina Health facility, before he returned to River Falls for the rehabilitation program, where the same high standards of medical care were available to him through the familiar faces of his therapy team.

And Dick can take credit for his speedy progress through his 36 sessions of cardiac rehab.

"After they did the open heart surgery, they said the rest of my heart, when they got it out, was as healthy as a 40- or 50-year-old," he said with a smile. "When I was at United, I came back to my room after the surgery at 3 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., I walked a block. They called me their miracle senior citizen because I bounced back so fast!"