By Janice Eck
(Apple Valley)– Whether a heart attack or open heart surgery, people go through a roller coaster of emotions as they try to figure out what happened, what’s going on and what’s going to happen with a major cardiac event. That is a scary place to be and sometimes having support from your family and friends isn’t enough. At St. Mary Medical Center, High Desert Mended Hearts is a group of volunteers who have been through some sort of cardiac event themselves, and are able to relate to the patients and give them a special kind of hope and support that only they can understand.
Last year, St. Mary saw about 100 open heart surgeries and about 200 angioplasties. That was one event almost every day not counting patients who were in for angiograms or those who had heart attacks. Donna Nash, Director of Cardiovascular and Neurovascular Services, explained to High Desert Daily in an interview, how beneficial Mended Hearts has been in its short existence, “They bring a lot of hope and support to the person who’s scared and going to have a procedure or had a cardiac event because then they see this person standing there at the foot of the bed saying, ‘I made it through. I did well. I’m okay and you can be too.’ It’s such a strong program.”
Starting a new chapter could sometimes take a year to have enough membership, but High Desert Mended Hearts was established within 6 weeks and had their official kick-off this past November. Nash credits the quick start-up to how giving and generous the volunteers of the High Desert are, “We have a very active cardiac department with a number of patients and those are usually the initial patients who want to sign up with Mended Hearts. We just asked them if they’d be interested in coming to a kick-off dinner. We had 58 people come and we recruited 25 of them right there. It was just one of those nice things to do, one of those feel-good things, and it continues to feel good.”
Nash witnessed how Mended Hearts embraced the patient, the patient’s family, and the volunteer when she started the program at Anaheim Memorial. She was able to see the affects of the program firsthand through her father-in-law who had open-heart surgery, “He told me, ‘I was kind of depressed after I had this surgery, but I knew I needed to go up and talk to those other people and tell them a joke and make them feel better.’ That kind of encompasses what Mended Hearts does. It’s just a win-win-win situation.”
Mended Hearts is the longest running volunteer support program next to AA. The reason why the program has been successful for so long is because people enjoy helping those who are going through a familiar experience. Because of that connection, they know the right words to say and the right actions to make. If you would like more information on becoming a volunteer for Mended Hearts, please call (760) 242-2311 Ext. 5331. You can also visit http://www.stmaryapplevalley.com/For-Community/Volunteer-Services.aspx .