PIKEVILLE - Dudley Hilton, head football coach for the University of Pikeville, knows firsthand the importance of listening to your body and seeing a physician if something doesn’t feel quite right.
Hilton has always tried to serve as a good example for his team and take care of his health.
â€œI’ve always tried to walk three to four miles every day, eat properly and stay away from the things that are not good for you, such as drinking and smoking,â€ he said.
In fall 2012, Hilton noticed numbness and tingling in his ring and pinky fingers on his left hand. â€œIt was like my fingers were asleep,â€ he said.
This reminded Hilton of some friends he had recently lost to heart attacks. He wondered if they had experienced signs and ignored them.
Hilton also noticed he was becoming increasingly tired earlier in the day and had experienced abnormal shortness of breath with exertion. â€œI just thought it was my age,â€ said Hilton.
During the middle of football season, Hilton visited Dr. Chad Carroll at Pikeville Medical Center’s Family Practice Clinic. As a follow up to his visit, Dr. Carroll ordered several different tests.
After receiving his results, Hilton was shocked to learn he had major blockages in his heart and required emergency quintuplet (5) bypass surgery.
â€œWhen I was told I needed open heart surgery, I cried like a baby,â€ said Hilton. â€œI know I’m not as big as I think I am, but I’ve always felt like I’m a big, tough guy. Having open heart surgery was for everyone else, not a big-time football coach. This experience brought me down to my knees and made me very humble. I thank God for my family support and all the answered prayers.â€
After the surgery, Hilton struggled with depression.
â€œMy days were long,â€ he said â€œI just sat on the bed or couch watching TV hour after hour.â€
He credits Pikeville Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program for bringing him through the ordeal.
â€œI thank God for my therapy,â€ he said. â€œThey helped me get over my depression and they slowed me down some. The ladies there, Maggie Belcher, Staff RN, and Brigetta Collins, Cardiac Rehab Coordinator, are warriors.â€
Hilton started therapy on Dec. 20, 2012 and attends sessions three times a week.
â€œEvery time I walk into therapy, I’m greeted by other patients, saying, â€˜Hey coach, how are you doing?’â€ he said. â€œJust having the opportunity to meet new people has sparked me up.â€
Rehab patients participate in workout schedules customized to meet their individual needs. Hilton’s hour-long sessions consist of 20 minutes on the bike, 20 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the ergometer (a device used to work the arms).
â€œDuring my workout, the girls make sure to closely monitor me and take my blood pressure every 10 â€“ 15 minutes, making sure everything is ticking well and going good,â€ said Hilton.
According to Collins, â€œWe provide our patients a safe and comfortable environment to work out in.â€
Hilton attested, â€œWhen I’m finished exercising and get off the walker, I like to be wringing wet, but those girls make me slow down and leisurely walk. I needed that.â€
The program has also provided Hilton with valuable information that, if put into practice, may help reduce future heart problems.
â€œAs part of the Cardiac Rehab program, we educate our patients on how to identify and modify risk factors for heart disease,â€ Collins explained. â€œSome of the things we discuss include portion control and the importance of a diet low in sodium and fat. We also encourage daily physical activity.â€
Looking back prior to having his surgery, Hilton recalls dodging several bullets that could have led to a heart attack. â€œUntil something happens to you, it is easy to take your heart for granted,â€ he said.
â€œYou have to take care of yourself,â€ Hilton continued. â€œIt is important to take time out to exercise and get yourself on a schedule. If you put it off all day long, you end up not doing it.â€
More importantly, Hilton encourages others to â€œtake time to listen to your signs.â€
He warns, â€œIf something is not right, don’t put it off. Go and get it checked out.â€
For more information about Pikeville Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, call 606-218-4925.