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Bedford Mended Hearts celebrates seventh anniversary of organization

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By John Barnhart

Bedford Mended Hearts ended October by celebrating its seventh birthday.

Mended Hearts is a national organization dedicated to providing support to heart patients and their families. Most are people who have had a cardiac event and have lived to tell about it. The telling about it is what Mended hearts is all about. These people volunteer to encourage others who are going through the same thing that they survived.

They can bring the message, " I made it, and so can you."

Along with encouragement, these volunteers can also tell heart patients about rehabilitation resources that are available in the community. Mended Hearts believes that those who have been there are the best ones to pass this information along.

Volunteers go through a training program followed by annual re-accreditation sessions. Trained volunteers, with physician approval, make preoperative and post-op visits with patients and their families. The local Mended Hearts chapter does this at Bedford Memorial Hospital and Lynchburg General.

The also help each other. Monthly meetings feature health educators who keep members up to date on cardiac care and general health.

Fran Stinnette, a member, read a brief history of the Bedford chapter's history at the celebration. Stinnette said that Mary Bice, a registered nurse, and Susan Church, an LPN, were working with post-op heart patients and felt that they would benefit from what Mended Hearts had to offer. With their help, Bedford Mended Hearts formed with 30 members and was chartered by the national organization on Nov. 20, 2000. She noted that the visiting program is the most important thing the organization can do.

Chris Blair, who works with Lynchburg General's cardiac rehab program held at the Bedford YMCA, agrees.

"A lot of people are afraid to get back into everyday life," he noted. "I think Mended Hearts is a great program."

Dr. J. Hayden Hollingsworth, a retired cardiologist, was the keynote speaker for the birthday celebration. Dr. Hollingsworth noted the value of the visitation program. He said that seeing somebody who has gone through what the patient is about to experience, and survived, is comforting.

He noted that survival rates for heart attack victims have greatly improved since he entered medical school in 1958. Dr. Hollingsworth said that, back then, 30 percent of those who had a heart attack died. Today, it's more like 5 percent or 6 percent.

Dr. Hollingsworth also touched on the spiritual aspect of his experience as a doctor. He's convinced that there is more to human beings than a physical body. He's been with people when they died and said that sometimes, after the person's physical demise, a presence remained, sometimes for several minutes.

"Then, it's gone," he said.