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Healing the Heart: Patient support after a heart attack
03/29/2006
Melanie Webb has always lived an active life despite high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease. This 59-year old mother and grandmother has been an educator for 36 years and is a grant coordinator for Richland School District One.

While in Charleston last summer for a wedding, Webb began to worry about a burning feeling in her chest. What she thought was indigestion was a heart attack.

One of Webb’s arteries had a partial blockage, so she underwent a cardiac catheterization. A stent was placed in the artery to open the blockage. Webb then enrolled in Palmetto Health Heart Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, which helped get her on the right track.

“The Cardiac Rehab program and people there helped me heal my heart physically and emotionally,” says Webb. “Through education, exercise, and the emotional and social support of the friends I made there, as well as my family, I was able to digest what had happened to my body, grieve and move on.”

Having a strong network of support after a heart attack and heart surgery is essential to recovery. Dr. Bruce Schell, Palmetto Health Richland clinical psychologist says, “After a heart attack, the quality and quantity of your friendships matters: the deeper they are, and the more you have will help you recover faster. One really good buddy will not help you as much as several good friends.”

Studies show that heart patients who are not isolated and have a strong support network recover faster from their cardiac event, and are less likely to suffer from a future one.

Why do friendships matter so much? “We are social beings,” says Dr. Schell. “We thrive on friendships and wither in our isolation.”

“For proper cardiac intervention and healing, you must look at the heart as more than a mechanical pump that needs repair,” says Dr. Schell.

Research also shows that the more solitary a person, the more likely he or she is to die younger than more social individuals. When you are isolated it is easier to get sick, and recovery time is slower.

“Feeling the strength and comfort of others was essential to my recovery,” recalls Webb.

Inspired by the support network around her at Cardiac Rehab, Webb enthusiastically set goals to live a better life. Today she feels healthier than ever. “By eating a more hearthealthy diet and exercising regularly, I have more energy and I’ve actually lost weight. I appreciate every single day,” says Webb.

MENDED HEARTS, MENDING LIVES
If you are still in the hospital recovering from heart surgery chances are you may receive a visit from Doris Wadford, a Palmetto Health Richland Mended Hearts support group member. Wadford is a retired nurse and heart attack survivor. “We offer support and encourage recovering patients to join Mended Hearts.” Visiting patients is just one part of the Mended Hearts’ outreach.

This year they celebrate 15 years of cardiac patient support, fellowship, and heart health education. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. To learn more, call (803) 434-6072.