Women survivors support each other
Earlier this year, Beau Luque and Geri Randles met up at OHSU's Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. Both spent time as patients there in the past, but on this day they were back as mentors. They were there to attend Cardiac University, a weekly education program for heart patients who are still in the hospital. Both were eager to share their story and offer the support and advice they wished they'd had after their own cardiac events.
A woman in the United States dies of heart disease every 80 seconds—there is nothing more deadly. For women who survive, support to make lifestyle changes has an incredible impact. Luque and Randles are both members of Mended Hearts, the only woman-centered cardiac survivorship group in the area.
Run jointly by the OHSU Center for Women's Health and the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, the support group is an opportunity for women to learn from OHSU experts and from each other. Members come to be lifted up. And when they're in a good place, they come to lift up others.
Mended Hearts members take supporting each other very seriously, and are eager to support new survivors as well. Luque and Randles are two of the ten members who mentor heart attack survivors before they even leave the hospital.
Luque, who was in the hospital for six weeks and received a heart transplant, told her story. Her message to survivors is: you will feel better. "I didn't know that I would someday feel immensely better. I thought over and over that how I was feeling was the best it could ever be, but I kept improving," she said.
Randles gave practical advice to a patient who will be undergoing open-heart surgery and was worried about recovery. She talked about being unable to push herself up with her arms and not being able to drive after her own surgery. She also advised the patient not to do too much too soon. "If we give our bodies a chance, they heal. I just find that I'm usually in a hurry," she said.
"The mentors give patients hope and advice," says Chelsea Smart, project coordinator at the Center for Women's Health who facilitates the group. "The mentors also see firsthand just how far they've come since their own cardiac event."
Mended Hearts meets the first Wednesday of the month at 4:00 p.m. at the Center for Women's Health. If you're a survivor, we hope you'll join us!