March 20, 2023

Start from the Heart: Cardiac Rehabilitation Helps a Musician Return to His Passion

Front (left to right) - Candice Powell-Diaz, BS, exercise physiologist; Charles Dixon; Ember Levine Back (left to right) - Diane DePadova clinical supervisor of Cardiac Rehabilitation; Julie Daidone RN, Valentina Cucci, exercise physiologist; and Betsy Meece, RN

On a September day in 2020, Charles Dixon experienced a heart attack and was brought to the Mountainside Medical Center Emergency Department.

Following his discharge from the hospital, Charles and his doctors developed a care plan for his condition, which included lifestyle changes, medication, and cardiac rehabilitation with Mountainside’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

A gifted saxophone player, Charles feared that his new condition would inhibit his ability to play his instrument.  Prior to starting cardiac rehabilitation, Charles asked his doctor, “Doctor, is this my portion in life? Will I always have trouble breathing?” to which his doctor replied, that with time and putting in the necessary work, his breathing will improve, and he can be even better than he was before. 

In November 2020 Charles began cardiac rehabilitation with a goal in mind – to get back to playing his saxophone. Charles shared, “The entire Cardiac Rehab team was gracious and wonderful.  My healing took place with all hands-on deck.”  He completed his program in February 2021 and today, he is back to playing his saxophone and feeling better than ever. 

On Valentine’s Day, Charles and his fiancé, Ember Levine, visited the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department, where he performed on his saxophone for team members and current patients.  He enjoys sharing his journey with current patients, so they know that they, too, can get healthy and live their lives at a greater capacity.

“When Charles first came to us, he had difficulties walking from the entrance to the Cardiac Fitness Center. While he was in the program, he increased his exercise, started eating healthier, and had an amazingly positive attitude,” said says Diane DePadova, clinical supervisor of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Department.  “When he completed his 36 sessions, he danced his way down the hallway!  He is an inspiration to our patients and our team members.”

“I’m feeling really blessed these days,” Charles says, “I’ve been given a second chance and life, with my future wife, and we are writing a new chapter in our lives.”

To learn more about Mountainside Medical Center’s Cardiology program, including cardiac rehabilitation, visit

Start from the Heart: Cardiac Rehabilitation Helps a Musician Return to His Passion
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