An Edmonton man waiting for a heart transplant is crediting a new rehabilitation centre for helping him regain strength after a long stay in hospital and surgery.

Kelly Ainsworth, 38, had to stay in hospital for 50 days after doctors diagnosed him with severe heart failure five months ago.

“Last November I went into severe heart failure. It came up out of the blue,” Ainsworth said.

“I was worried for my life and the life of my family.”

The father of two tried medication and pacemakers but still found himself weak.

“Around Christmastime I was down to eight per cent of heart function so there was really no more options to try and I was at a point where I was too weak to wait around for a heart,” he said.

Ainsworth has to wear a ventricular assist device to keep his heart working at fully capacity and three days a week he went to the new Jim Pattison Centre for Heart Health in the Mazankowski Heart Institute.

“When you’re recovering from being in the hospital for 50 days, you’re pretty well starting from scratch. It’s hard to get motivated sometimes. It’s tough to deal with the loss of strength and power,” he said.

Ainsworth says thanks to care from the new cardiac rehab centre, he has more energy than ever before.

“Now I’m fighting to go back to work,” he said with a smile.

“It feels good to be back to where I was last year before all of this happened.”

Thousands diagnosed with heart disease each year

Each year about 12,000 people in the Edmonton area are diagnosed with heart disease.

A program at the Glenrose is able to help about 1,500 patients while the Grey Nuns sees about 800 patients.

The new Jim Pattison Centre for Heart Health is expected to help about 2,000 people dealing with heart disease.

“The Jim Pattison Centre for Heart Health will help us see higher risk patients, patients who are fairly new in our health care system, people who that before would have really struggled we’re able to care for and help them get better,” said Leslie Wilson with the cardiac rehab program.

“Some of our older patients in their 80s or 90s who maybe couldn’t have a surgery because they’re not healthy enough have what’s called an aortic device to come in and fix their valve so we can see those guys here as well as we’re starting to work with our Stollery partners to see the pediatrics who are growing up, so 14 to 19, helping them and working with them in the centre as well, lots of new groups for us. It’s very exciting.”

The program offers care from specialists such as dietitians, occupational therapists and nurses.

“We work on cardio, we work on regaining muscle strength that I lost during recovery from the surgery and the time I spent in the hospital,” Ainsworth said.

“Basically they monitor you at a comfortable level and don’t put you in any danger but they still push you to get that strength back that you had.”

The new centre cost $8 million, with $2.5 million from the University Hospital Foundation, $3 million from community donations and $2.5 million from Alberta Infrastructure.