After 40 years of working as a cardiac specialist and pioneering some of the first cardio rehabilitation programs in Virginia, Ashland resident Jackie Bunn-Gray was awarded a fellowship from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
Bunn-Gray will receive her award at an Oct. 4 AACVPR meeting for her numerous years of volunteer work with both the state and national boards.
“It solidifies that I did something to make a difference,” Bunn-Gray said.
In 1979, she started her first program at the Stuart Circle Hospital in Richmond, which is now closed. Since then, Bunn-Gray established two other programs and has seen patients ranging from 27 years old to 92.
Bunn-Gray was also one of the first people to teach patients about heart disease in women because many people were skeptical of heart disease even existing in women.
The cardio and pulmonary rehab programs focus on medical managing the behavior of patients following a major surgery or heart attack. Bunn-Gray and other nurses within the program help patients when they enter the hospital, during their visit and even after they return home. Patients learn how to relax, exercise and stay healthy through their recovery, so they won’t land back in the hospital.
“It’s probably helped me be healthier by helping others stay healthy,” Bunn-Gray said.
Though Bunn-Gray is retired from the field, she remains very active with the board. She also helps take care of her family and stays busy with the First Baptist Church.
She hopes to continue to make sure cardio rehab programs continue to do good work both within the state and nationally. Bunn-Gray also hopes to continue speaking in front of crowds about the importance of staying healthy and to use her expertise in any and every way possible.
To Bunn-Gray, cardio rehab is about “learning to live life at its fullest, but with a balanced life style.”
Since Bunn-Gray retired, she misses both the patients and her co-workers. She spent numerous hours with clients and families and at times, Bunn-Gray she became part of their family. Recovery time is crucial, so Bunn-Gray and other nurses in the programs lent support to not only the patients but also their loved ones.
Her job was to educate both parties about how to efficiently take care of themselves and recover in the best way possible.
“It’s not a money maker but it’s such an important thing that touches so many lives,” she said.