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March 31, 2010 > Mended Hearts, Chapter 162 celebrates 20th anniversary

Mended Hearts, Chapter 162 celebrates 20th anniversary

By Simon Wong
Photos By Simon Wong

Mended Hearts' Hayward Chapter (162) of Mended Hearts, a national non-profit cardiac support group affiliated with the American Heart Association, celebrated its 20th anniversary in March 2010 with a pot-luck luncheon and cake-cutting. Patrick Farent, Assistant Regional Director and President of Santa Clara Chapter 21, presented a certificate of commendation on behalf of the organization's National Office in Dallas, Texas.

Chapter 162, founded by Bill and Sonya Whaley, received its charter in 1990 with 27 members and meets monthly at Kaiser Medical Center, Hayward. A guest speaker is invited to attend. Members of the mutual-support group have either had heart surgery or are spouses of cardiac patients.

Diagnosis of a heart condition, or cardiac surgery, deals an emotional and psychological blow to the patient and his/her family. The use of words, such as "defective" or "abnormal," simply exacerbates the situation creating fear and uncertainty. Questions about one's ability to work, to lead an active life, long-term care, medical costs, life expectancy, being a burden... surface.

Members of Mended Hearts have experienced the mental and physical trauma and understand how others feel. The Chapter has a team of 24 people who visit Kaiser's heart patients in Hayward and Fremont to offer them and their families support and encouragement.

"After undergoing training, the hospital visitors are officially classified as volunteers with Kaiser. They are assigned a schedule that can vary according to the number of patients. Some volunteers will also speak with patients who have circulatory problems, such as stroke victims, besides those with heart-related conditions," explained Irene Vollbrecht, Chapter Public Relations Officer.

"If the heart patients in the hospitals ask for something or need something, we make sure they receive it," explained Gene Saper, Chapter President.

"The time spent with each patient varies. It helps somebody to be able to talk with someone who understands exactly what's going on. It's one thing for medical staff to say 'everything will be fine' and quite another to speak with someone who's been in the same position. They're tremendously encouraged and realize their experience is not the end of the world," said Gerry Howell, Visitor Chair. "Some don't wish to receive us either because they simply don't want to discuss their situation or aren't ready to do so.

"As a charter member, I'd say that more than half of the people we've lost, since the Chapter was founded, passed because of cancer and other conditions. It wasn't their heart. Most people don't realize that, even with heart problems, they still have a life. Visiting is very rewarding. If you can give someone encouragement and hope, you've done your job," she added.

"It's unfortunate we don't always receive feedback about how our visits impact heart patients' lives at such a critical time. Our work to help them with their emotional recovery and to raise their awareness of what to expect has an impact. Over 20 years, there are many people who owe you a debt of gratitude and I congratulate you on the tremendous work you've done," Farent stated before presenting the commendation.

Nationwide, Mended Hearts volunteers make 227,000 hospital visits to patients and 30,000 visits to family members and caregivers, annually.

National membership dues ($17 individual; $24 family) are obligatory. Most local chapters do not charge membership fees. Chapter 162 raises funds through a raffle at its monthly meetings and from public donations.

Healthy Hearts in Harmony is a holistic program, sponsored by Eli Lilly and offered in partnership with Mended Hearts. It addresses the emotional and psychological effects of heart-related illness, emphasizes the need for fitness and correct nutrition and the importance of following therapies prescribed by one's doctor, including music therapy for relaxation. Mended Hearts visitors discuss the need to nurture the mind, body and soul for recovery and continued health with other heart patients.

Email membership inquiries to Rose Barr at To donate, please send a check (payable to "The Mended Hearts, Inc., Chapter 162") to The Mended Hearts, Inc., Chapter 162, Rose Barr, 34656 Calcutta Drive, Fremont, CA 94555.

For more information, visit and

Mended Hearts (Chapter 162)
2nd Saturday of each month
12 p.m.
Conference Room C2
Kaiser Medical Center
27400 Hesperian Boulevard, Hayward

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