Charles Grossley, 89 years old, of Richardson, is re-united with his cardiac nurse, Lorelle Toms.

Charles Grossley, 89 years old, of Richardson, is re-united with his cardiac nurse, Lorelle Toms. Photo: Graham Tidy

Lorelle Toms remembers a fragile, anxious Charles Grossley when he first arrived at the new cardiac rehabilitation program at the Canberra Hospital in 1993.

Twenty years later and the retired nurse has met her patient again - he is now 89 and full of energy, a year after going through another cardiac episode.

''I'm jumping out of my skin,'' Mr Grossley said.

That is a relief for Ms Toms, who first met Mr Grossley in 1993 when he was recovering from bypass surgery.

''When he first came to us, what struck me was his anxiety and he was somewhat frail,'' the former nurse said.

Six weeks of cardiac rehab therapy later, and Mr Grossley was raring to go.

''When he walked out the door, he still had ongoing twinges in his heart but he was much better,'' Ms Toms said.

Mr Grossley said Ms Toms was a ''tremendous'' nurse. ''She was just kind and caring and kept us out all the time and made sure we were doing all the exercises,'' he said.

Ms Toms was the first nurse in the Canberra Hospital's cardiac rehabilitation program, which opened 20 years ago.

''It was there to nip in the bud [any problems] before they became major issues, helping to keep [cardiac patients] out of hospitals in the future,'' Ms Toms said.

The Heart Foundation's ACT chief executive Tony Stubbs said cardiac rehabilitation programs were effective but nationally only about 30 per cent of eligible patients went through them.

''It's a shame this is not a standard procedure for all cardiac patients,'' he said. ''If they don't change their lifestyle and get tools from rehabilitation then it will happen again.''

Mr Stubbs pointed out that 50 per cent of all heart attacks occur among people who have already had one.

Mr Grossley had been healthy for almost 20 years before he had his second heart problem, which forced him to give up ballroom dancing. But he said he was ''going like the train'' since going through his second cardiac rehab program.

Mr Grossley, Ms Toms and Mr Stubbs will be at the Southern Cross Club in Woden on Saturday to celebrate 20 years since the Canberra Hospital program started. Mr Stubbs will be lobbying for an even better program that ''moves into the 20th century''.

''The equipment is starting to get quite old and the nutritional support [needs to improve] - sometimes there are six-week delays,'' he said.

He would like to see a co-ordinated approach between all of the Canberra hospitals that provide similar services, including National Capital Private and Calvary Hospital.