Three friends form strong bond in Hillcrest South’s cardiac rehabilitation

Three cardiac rehabilitation patients at Hillcrest South have formed a lasting friendship while recovering from heart operations. The men are considered the unofficial “welcome party” at the rehab clinic.

81-year-old Buster McCurtain, a retired educator from California, had a triple bypass at Hillcrest South and started coming to the rehab clinic in January of 2018. 

Randal “Randy” Swain, 63, is a computer engineer originally from New York. He started cardiac rehab after a triple bypass at Oklahoma Heart Institute in 2018.

At 86, John Bailey is the oldest of the group. His surgery at Oklahoma Heart Institute was a valve replacement in 2017. The retired geophysicist is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but moved to Tulsa in 1968. 

“The hospital staff and people here are just really nice people, they seem to care about you,” said McCurtain. “We could have done rehab any place, but because we have that relationship with people here, this seemed to be a natural place to do our rehab.”

“Just so happened that the three of us got to know each other and it made it a lot more fun,” said Swain. “I don’t think we’d be here if it wasn’t for the three of us.”

“No, we would not. [Buster and Randy] stick around here mainly to see how long I last,” joked Bailey.

Long after finishing their 12-week rehab programs, the three men still work out three times a week at the hospital with monthly gym memberships. April Pride is an exercise physiologist at the cardiac rehab clinic. She says the trio of friends make coming to work especially fun.

“They’re phenomenal. They’re very upbeat in the morning, they welcome all our new patients in,” said Pride. “They just make everything very easy.”

“If you don’t take this stuff seriously and adjust your physical routine and your diet and exercise routine, your health is in jeopardy,” said McCurtain. “That’s why we come here all the time; we know it keeps us healthy. The staff here keeps on us. April is always eagle-eye on us, looking after us.”

“And it’s evolved into a really good friendship,” said Bailey. “You’d think we weren’t really friends when we talk amongst ourselves.”

“We’re family now, we’ve been here so long now,” said Swain. 

The men are always full of jokes and have good-natured banter with one another.

“They check up on me. I’m a little older than some,” said Bailey.

“Most!” exclaimed Swain.

“You’re older than 99 percent of the population on earth!” laughed McCurtain.

The three men hold each other accountable with their exercise, even when the hospital closed the rehab clinic during part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even when we closed for COVID for two months, we found out that they had been meeting at least once a week and walking with each other,” said Pride.

McCurtain, Swain and Bailey kept in constant contact over the phone, pushing each other to stay consistent with their workouts. They also met up safely just to spend time together.

“We could have let COVID dissolve our friendship, but we’d take our lawn chairs, and we’d pick up lunch and sit at the Riverwalk for hours,” said McCurtain. “We encouraged each other and made sure we didn’t slack off exercising.”

“We started meeting over at the river when COVID was going on, just so we could maintain our friendship,” said Swain. “We fired back up when they opened the place back up.”

The trio of friends say they all have different political, social and religious views. These differences don’t keep them from enjoying each other’s company multiple times a week.

“They’re all very different in their personalities but they mesh really well,” said Pride.

“We gelled. We’re not people who shy away from other people. We’ve made tons of friends here with the people coming in and out of here,” said Swain. “It’s almost like coming to see the John, Buster and Randy show.”

Bailey, McCurtain and Swain have breakfast together at least once a week after their workout sessions.

“They’ve been great friends,” said Bailey. “We’ve turned out to be fabulous friends.”

“Who would have thought the three of us would become friends in a place like this?” asked Swain.

Click here or call 918-592-0999 to learn more about the cardiovascular services, including rehabilitation, offered at Hillcrest South.