At 77 years of age, Pete Butler has traveled the globe. From his military service, to working in a former U.S. Senator’s office and representing military and veteran’s affairs for the state of Florida, his view of the world is broad. He emphasizes those credentials when he talks about his experience at HCA’s Capital Regional Medical Center and his belief that it is ‘second to none’ in its services and treatment of patients.

“I go to the hospital three times a week for the Cardiac Wellness Program,” said Butler. “Due to a major heart blockage several years ago, I’ve had two interventional procedures with stents. Both were done at Capital Regional. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

“When I drop my car with the valet – they are smiling,” said Butler. “When I pass the front desk – they smile. As I walk down the hall towards the wellness facility, staff members who don’t know me stop and ask if I need help. Anytime we have gone to Capital Regional they have been great to me and my family. The hospital and people there are fantastic.”

Butler has a decade-long relationship with Capital Regional that validates his expertise when it comes to recommending the hospital to others. And most recently, on a very personal level, he can testify to the true compassion the healthcare team has for its patients, every day.

It was during one of his visits to the hospital for his cardiac workout that he mentioned to his exercise physiologist Erin Garmon, 26, that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. But he had a goal to participate in the annual Tulip Run, a fundraiser for the Parkinson’s Foundation held at Cascade Park in Tallahassee.

“One day Pete came in to exercise and talk with all his friends, like he usually does, and told me that he wanted to participate in a 1-mile fun run. I chuckled a little and then told him it would take a lot of work -and less talking – to be able to walk faster, let alone to run and that he would have to increase his workload quite a bit to be able to do that in time for the fun run,” said Garmon, who joined the HCA-affiliated North Florida hospital nearly two years ago. “He was ready to give it his all, so I put him on a program to increase the intensity of his walks to prepare him for the race. I knew this meant a lot to Pete, so I offered to do the fun run as well to support him.”

“Erin is the best,” said Butler. “She’s not just ‘doing a job;’ everyone is truly special to her. She met me at the park to do the event with me and halfway through I stumbled. She literally picked me up before I hit the ground,” he said. “She was my guardian angel, coaching me all the way. I don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t been there.”

Butler, along with his ‘angel,’ finished the event in 16 minutes, 40 seconds – an achievement he credits to her patience and commitment to his goal to complete the race.

“For me, that mile was not hard, but for Pete it was a great accomplishment and I could tell he was beaming. It’s moments like that, seeing patients do what they never thought they could, or what they were scared to do, in a safe way, that makes my work so rewarding,” said Garmon.

Garmon, like other well-trained, certified exercise physiologists at Capital Regional’s Cardiac Wellness Program, work with patients to provide individualized exercise programming based on their medical history and help them gain confidence.

Psychologically, the program provides support to participants from staff and others who have experienced similar life-altering events and given a second chance at life. “What, for most patients, starts as a long journey to recovery following heart surgery or a heart attack has evolved to a support group for a lot of the outpatients we see, including Pete,” said Garmon.

Pete Butler agrees the benefits of the program are life-changing. “By staying in the program, I’m going to be able to continue to do these kinds of things, especially now with the Parkinson’s diagnosis. I would highly recommend it to people who want to improve and then maintain their heart health. When you come to the program, they do what’s right for each patient.”

Hear firsthand how Pete Butler’s life has been touched by exercise physiologist Erin Garmon and Capital Regional:

For more information on Capital Regional’s Cardiac Wellness Program visit here.

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