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Mended Hearts In Need Of Volunteers

December 14, 2011, 6:11 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Mended Hearts In Need Of Volunteers
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It's a program aimed at the heart. But this holiday season, Mended Hearts is in need of volunteers.

Through the program, heart patients, their families and others affected by heart disease help current patients deal with heart problems. They draw on personal experience to provide advice that not only helps a patient's heart, but also their peace of mind.

Seventy-six-year-old Beverly Johnson is recovering from quadruple heart bypass surgery. Even though the future is uncertain, the Tyler, Minnesota, woman is in good spirits.

"I think it's going to be just fine. I can get back on my Spider and ride motorcycle again," Johnson said.

Part of her optimism is thanks to Mended Hearts volunteers at Avera Heart Hospital such as Kathy Byington, who tell patients about what's to come.

"It's just nice to have somebody to talk to who's had the same experiences that you have," Byington said.

The volunteers themselves know first-hand what patients go through because they were either heart patients themselves or had a family member who went through the difficult situation.

"My family was very quick to tell me that it's harder to be in the waiting room than it is to be a patient," Byington said.

Byington first had a mitral valve replaced nine years ago. Then a few years later, she underwent a heart transplant.

"There are a lot of 'what ifs.' It's a frightening time," Byington said.

Volunteers not only help patients while they're here at the hospital, but also after they leave through support groups and phone calls.

"Maybe as you reach into the cupboard that first time or your climb on the tractor or lifting that box at your work, you feel a little tug in your chest, or the steering wheel goes into the ice, you begin to wonder 'is something starting again,'" Byington said.

Which Johnson says will be a big help not only for her, but also her family.

"It's just so nice to come in and talk, and we know it's somebody who has had open heart surgery themselves, and they came through it fine," Johnson said.

It leaves patients with a mended heart and piece of mind, thanks to volunteers.

Unfortunately the program is short on volunteers because a few passed away over the past year. If you would like to help, call the Avera Heart Hospital at 605-977-7000.

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