Cardiac care patients at WakeMed are learning that medicine and inspiration can be a powerful prescription for healing. That inspiration comes in the form of the Mended Hearts chapter at the hospital and its dedicated volunteers.
“Our chapter members are WakeMed heart patients and their family members as well as health care professionals,” said Kristin Kelly Gruman, a spokeswoman for WakeMed Health and Hospitals. “Many of our members visit with our current cardiac patients to offer encouragement, post-experience wisdom and most importantly, to remind them and their families that they are not alone in their recovery and beyond.”
Ken Shorsher, 71, has already visited with more than 400 heart patients since he joined Mended Hearts. The retired airline pilot began suffering from atrial fibrillation, a fast and irregular heart rhythm that left him gasping for breath, 10 years ago.
After several unsuccessful treatment options, doctors at WakeMed performed the procedure that cured him in March 2013. He was so thankful for his experience and care that he became a Mended Hearts volunteer.
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“It resonates with them that I am a survivor of heart disease or heart surgery and they open up a bit more to me, more so than to a nurse or a doctor,” Shorsher said. “I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve felt that, I know what they are going through and I empathize with them.”
Volunteers go through special training to become certified Mended Hearts visitors and handle the common concerns of heart patients.
Shorsher said patients often become closer to their faith during treatment, they deal with the emotions that surviving heart surgery can bring, and they re-evaluate their diets and the impact that food has on their hearts.
He said it is rewarding to provide comfort, information and support.
“It means a lot to me,” Shorsher said. “It lifts me up that I can lift them up.”
One patient who is graduating from the cardiac rehabilitation program and transitioning into a volunteer role with WakeMed’s Mended Hearts is Myron Barnard, an ordained minister who had life-saving heart surgery on Christmas Day 2013. Joining Mended Hearts is a natural extension of his ministry.
“I’m a chaplain for a biker church, and I do the hospital visitation for our church and I am accustomed to visiting people in the hospital and praying with them, so I thought that Mended Hearts would be a good thing for me to do,” Barnard said.
Barnard is the chaplain of Freedom Biker Church in Clayton, founded eight years ago to provide a non-judgmental worship community for bikers who aren’t interested in going to a traditional church.
Barnard provides hospital visits and prayer for members of the church, their families and friends, and any time he hears of a biker going down with an injury he is quick to get to the hospital to offer comfort and prayer.
“I don’t like hospitals. I don’t like being a patient in the hospital. I don’t really like going to the hospital. But God has called me to do the chaplain work for our church,” Barnard said. “I pray for everybody I go and visit with; it’s very important that people have prayer in their lives and people praying for them.”
Now Barnard will offer that comfort and prayer to cardiac care patients.
“When we endure physical issues such as heart attack, a lot of times our faith is affected,” Barnard said. “A lot of time our faith dwindles because of what we’re going through. But it should be the other way around. Our faith should be increased when we are going through these things because we know the Lord is in control and he will see us through any difficult situation that we’re in. He promises that to us.”
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at firstname.lastname@example.org.