Rehabilitation at Epworth Camberwell has become somewhat of a family affair for the Bhattacharjee family.

Shubroto Bhattacharjee undertook cardiac rehabilitation at the hospital following many years of heart problems. He now plays chauffeur and chaperone to wife Nandita, who is undergoing rehabilitation following a knee replacement. Added to this, son Dr Shom Bhattacharjee is a consultant physician and rheumatologist who has consulting rooms at Epworth Camberwell.

Shubroto, 76, had open heart surgery at Epworth Richmond for a coronary artery bypass in December 2022 and completed cardiac rehabilitation in April 2023. Returning to the rehab gym with his wife felt like returning to friends.

“They are a miracle gang, the whole lot of them,” Shubroto said.

“Those angels resurrected me; they made me whole again. I became a human being with aspirations once again.”

With a family history of heart disease from both his parents, Shubroto says “the deck was stacked against me”.

“Yet I chose to be stupid. I smoked up to 40 cigarettes a day, I was grossly overweight, had a rotten diet and a high stress job.”

Following a near-fatal heart-attack in 1981, Shubroto made some important changes.

“I got the fright of my life and stopped smoking. I lost 20kgs progressively, changed my diet, of course, and changed my job.

“I was given the option of having an angiogram but there was the possibility I would have to prepare for a bypass, and I was terrified of surgery, so I opted out.”

Over the years, despite medication, Shubroto sometimes felt breathless when running for the bus. Tests in 2022 revealed his left artery was completely blocked and the right artery was 60% blocked and heavily calcified. He could no longer avoid surgery.

While all went well with the surgery, Shubroto found the recovery difficult.

“I had lost confidence and the will to live. Driving and travelling had become nightmares. Fear dogged my every footstep,” he said.

At Epworth Camberwell, Shubroto met “ministering angels” and “chief angel” Jo Kevill, Chronic Disease Program Coordinator.

“Jo asked about my goals. I felt like someone cared, that I was in the right hands.”

For eight weeks, Shubroto did rehab twice a week. As well as the gym, the rehab included intensive education.

“I learnt that our problems were not unsolvable, they could be fixed provided I worked out what caused it. I learnt what to do and not to do to prevent recurrence. I learnt about the roles of diet and exercise, psychology, physical therapy, every aspect. I took copious notes at each session.

“The learning was exquisite, but I didn’t do very well at the gym at first. It taxed and exercised every bit of my being. At the end of the eight weeks, they showed me what I had achieved compared to day one. It was a shocking transformation. I wasn’t breathless anymore and, most importantly, I wasn’t frightened anymore.”

Retired with two grandchildren, Shubroto is enjoying time with his family. Nandita is due to finish her rehabilitation by the end of May, in time for the couple to celebrate 51 years of marriage.

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