Support group helps those with 'Mended Hearts'

Members of the Huntsville group make pillows that can help comfort recovering surgery patients.
Members of the Huntsville group make pillows that can help comfort recovering surgery patients.

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Fredonia Williams is president of the local "Mended Hearts" group and her journey to this point came about because of a heart problem in 2007.

"I ended up with a pacemaker in 2007 and my condition really didn't improve much. In 2008 I had surgery for a mitral valve repair and a single bypass. The surgery went well, but I had a blood clot five days later and went into cardiac arrest," she said.

Williams said rehab took twelve weeks, but recovery lasted about a year and a half. "I needed a support group. I just had to have somebody to talk with," she said.

Donnette Smith is the National Executive Vice President of Mended Hearts.  She said the program began in Boston in 1951 and spread nationally. "And they discovered that with talking with each other it helped them to go forward."

Smith said she learned about a potential gift the group could give to patients when she had surgery of her own. "I hugged it to my chest as I would cough, and it would cushion my chest and kind of ease the pain."

When volunteers put their sewing skills together, they're also giving the patient a gift thats not only sentimental but also very practical right after heart surgery.

She said a former patient wrote her and told her about how the pillow helped him on the ride home.

"The seat belt comes right across that incision, so put your pillow between your chest and your seat belt," she advised. "Well, he did that and on the way home they had a car wreck and totaled the car. His wife was banged up but he was in the back seat hugging his pillow."

To learn more about the Huntsville area Mended Hearts program, click here.

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