Heart-to-Heart talks through Visiting Hearts

Heart-to-Heart talks through Visiting Hearts

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When going through a serious medical procedure, it's comforting when you can talk to another patient who's already gone through it - especially when it's something as critical as open heart surgery.  That's the concept behind a new program called "Visiting Hearts."

Doing some exercises at Cardiac Rehabilitation, 77-year-old Frank Ferez of West Columbia is literally putting his heart into it. Frank had to have his aortic valve replaced during open heart surgery in February.  And he's finding returning to an active lifestyle is slow-going.

He says, "Mentally, I can do it.  Physically, when I go to tackle those tasks or whatever it is, my system tells me 'no' I can't do it.  Yet."

Because patients have a lot of questions about recovery and can feel a range of strong emotions after a major heart procedure, Lexington Medical Center implemented a new program called "Visiting Hearts."  Volunteers who already have had the operation - like Warren Parker of Irmo - later are trained to serve as a support to current patients - like Frank.

"This is something I can give back to help others to let them know there's life after open heart surgery," says Warren.

Warren is the first volunteer of the program.  He and the other Visiting Hearts volunteers provide practical suggestions and insights to the patients on recovering and living a healthier, fuller life.

Frank found Warren's advice was helping Frank be patient with his rehabilitation as Warren shared his own experiences from when he underwent the same procedure.

Warren already has visited with dozens of patients since Visiting Hearts started.  They all have similar concerns - and questions.

Those questions include "When will I get my strength back.  Will things return to normal?  Is it normal to feel the way I'm feeling? What about my appetite?"

Frank plans to keep working toward returning to his busy and active life.  And Warren plans to keep walking the halls - offering answers and compassion to new patients who undergo heart procedures.

Warren says, "I check each patient, their room.  Check with their nurse.  Say is there anything I need to know.  Check to see if it's okay if I meet with them and I get it cleared with them.  So I work with them, under them before I go visit them."

Though Warren doesn't have a white lab coat, he sure has a big heart.  And for these patients it's just what the doctor ordered.

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