On average, the human heart beats approximately 100,000 times per day. Over an average lifetime, that can be an estimated 2.5 billion beats. Poets have fancied the heart as a thing that makes life worth living. Medicine has shown us how the heart works and keeps us alive. It is, arguably, the organ that gives and sustains life. When the heart is in jeopardy it is a serious event with serious outcomes. Two organizations provide resources for people who are dealing with heart issues.
The Zipper Club (www.zipperclub.net) is a group of volunteers who have undergone open heart surgery and who make it their mission to help others facing this life-challenging procedure. Their website is devoted to the care and recovery of people facing heart issues. They take their name from the distinctive surgical scar most people who have had open heart surgery have as a visual reminder of what they went through. Calling themselves heart warriors, these volunteers are not just on the website. Prior to the pandemic, they were up and out, living their lives and carrying on with important work gave the patients and their families hope that they too could recover and move forward with their own lives. These volunteers provided a vital connecting thread to help the patients look toward a useful and positive future.
The poets say the human heart is fickle. The medical profession tells us that men and women experience heart disease in vastly different ways. WOMENHEART is the first and only national patient-centered organization dedicated to serving women with heart disease]. The program was introduced at St. Mary to help educate and empower women living with or at risk of heart disease. While some symptoms of heart disease in women can be the same as those for men (shortness of breath, chest pain, tightness or pressure, dizziness, or nausea), other symptoms such as back or shoulder pain or heartburn can also occur in women. These symptoms can unfortunately be attributed to other health issues. Because of this fact, women can have a heart attack, collapse, be brought to the emergency department, and wake up in the hospital not having a clue why they’re here.
The website gives options to women for support. Research shows that women who have a close network of friends and family can make a more complete recovery from a heart event. WOMENHEART Ambassadors visit patients in the cardiac unit to help them become accustomed to their situation. These volunteers develop an immediate rapport with the patients since they were also living with cardiac issues themselves.
The crafters at St. Mary in Langhorne, PA were asked to crochet or knit red scarves to be given out during the fall and winter months, and heart-shaped keychains needle pointed with red yarn* during the other times of the Year. Of course, the answer was, “Yes, we’ll make those too.”
The WOMENHEART Ambassadors found that these gifts, along with the information packets offered to the patients, helped to eliminate a bit of the stress and fear being experienced by these newly diagnosed heart patients.
If you or a friend or family member either wishes to volunteer or needs support, either of these organizations is there to help.
*Red Heart Yarn Company generously donated the yarn for these projects.