Mended Hearts beginning 30th year

Guest commentary

Betty Foster

Betty Foster

It’s an ideal time to remind community residents of heart disease. The local Mended Hearts Chapter 165 is a moral support group to heart patients, family members and caregivers. It is a non-profit organization that was organized during National Heart Month here in Albany 29 years ago.

As of today, many have never heart about Mended Hearts. They stay very active and meet monthly in the Phoebe Northwest Conference room on Dawson Road, which is provided by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Our next regular meeting will be March 25.

Because Mended Hearts is made up of the very kinds of people it serves — heart patients, their families and others impacted by heart disease — its members draw on personal experience as they help people understand that there can be a rich, rewarding life after heart disease as “they have been there.”

The patient-to-patient visiting program is the core of Mended Hearts’ services.

These heart patient volunteers are specifically trained and accredited by the organization and they make hospital visits to heart patients before or after their procedure.

For 29 years, heart patients and family members have recognized the local Mended Hearts volunteers by the red vests they wear to visit patients. Many of them have never heard of this organization before they became heart patients. Most visits are to surgery patients, but visits are increasing to patients diagnosed with angina, hypertension and heart attack who don’t need surgery.

The patients seem to be comforted by these volunteers, who really know what it is like to recover from heart surgery. These accredited visitors are on Phoebe Putney’s Heart Team on a rotating basis. All visits are made with the hospital and/or physician’s approval or referral.

Besides offering encouragement, the trained visitors also provide educational information, such as recommendations for healthy lifestyle choices. They also offer suggestions for managing depression, which is common after a heart event and can complicate recovery. Considerable evidence shows that depression and low social support are associated with morbidity and mortality for patients with coronary heart disease.

People place more credibility in the words and actions of those who have been in their shoes. From a psychological standpoint, this support is a very powerful force in recovery.

WARNING: Anytime anybody notices abnormal symptoms, they should seek help immediately. Such symptoms are heaviness, tightness, pressure, burning, squeezing or pain in the chest and/or neck, jaw, back, shoulders or arms; indigestion (heartburn), or shortness of breath.

We invite any heart patient, family member or interested party to let us know if we can help through a visit or attending our regular scheduled meetings. Newly two-year elected officers are Nancy Askey, president, Dorothy Pace, vice president; Debbie McDonald, secretary, and Betty Foster, Treasurer. For more information, call Sam Foster (membership chairman) at (229) 436-7140.

Betty Foster is treasurer of Mended Hearts of Albany and has been a member of the organization since 2001.