Mended hearts

September 29, 2000

Mended hearts

By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Mended Hearts meeting

When: Thursday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Washington County Hospital, Dorsey Hall, 251 E. Antietam

St., Hagerstown.

Details: Call Pam Peitz, Cardiac Rehabilitation Coordinator at 301-790-8940 if you plan to attend or would like more information.

American Heart Walk set for Oct. 14

What: 2.5K or 5K walk

When: Saturday, Oct. 14 - 8 a.m. registration; 9 a.m. walk begins

Where: Long Meadow Shopping Center, Potomac and Northern avenues, Hagerstown

For information: Call Cathy Hanson at 301-293-3075 weekdays and 301-988-1977 Saturdays.


Mended Hearts, a support group for heart disease patients, their families and friends, is forming in Hagerstown. If there is enough interest, the group, which met for the first time in September, will become a local branch of a national organization founded in 1951.


Members of the local Mended Hearts group will determine exactly how they want to operate. But a basic part of the program is having people who already have experienced problems and treatments, people who have lived with the anxiety and concerns of heart disease, share their experiences.

"People are fearful of procedures," said Cheryl Seacrist of Hagerstown. Talking to someone who has been through it can help.

Having a life-threatening condition does something to you emotionally, Seacrist, 56, believes. You start to notice every little ache and pain and wonder if they are related to the condition that is threatening your life.

Seacrist said her problem is "really bad genes." Despite a strong family history of heart disease, she thought walking a lot and taking hormones would protect her. But last spring, after feeling bad for weeks and having burning chest pain, she found herself in the emergency room. Through testing, doctors learned one of her arteries was 95 percent blocked.

In June, Seacrist watched while doctors performed an angioplasty, a procedure in which a balloon was inserted and inflated in her artery to open it up. A tiny metal stent was left in the artery to keep it open. "There's really nothing to it," she said.

Seacrist is enthusiastically in favor of support groups. "You can always learn something from other people."

Family members benefit

Family members of cardiac patients also can benefit from the support. "It helps a lot," said Louise Horst of Hagerstown.

In 1994, her husband, Ray Horst, woke up in the emergency room in Frostburg, Md. Doctors learned he had 95 to 97 percent blockage in three arteries, so they put him on a helicopter and had him flown to Washington, D.C., where he had triple bypass surgery. A few months later, while visiting their daughter in Florida, Ray Horst's heart stopped beating. His wife, a registered nurse trained in CPR, revived him until medics arrived. Louise Horst described her experience as terrifying. It's a little different doing CPR on your husband than on "Annie," the training dummy, she said.

Ray Horst has a defibrillator implanted just below his rib cage. That's an electronic device that restarts his heart after cardiac arrest, something that happened to him again in July 1998 while sitting at the breakfast bar in his kitchen. He didn't feel a thing, but woke up in his wife's arms. "Her eyes were as big as teacups," Ray Horst said.

Louise Horst was "shocked" that only 10 people showed up for the first Mended Hearts session. Thirty people are needed to be part of the national organization. The Horsts would like to see the support group get off the ground.

Families live with their loved ones' heart disease, lifestyle changes, hopes and fears, too. It can be very hard, Louise Horst said.

Spouses could talk to another patient's family. Children could share what it's like to see the person who always has been so strong be emotional, Louise Horst said.

Support helps. "There's nothing like it," she believes.

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