Avera Medical Minute AHH: Mending hearts, one patient at a time - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Avera Medical Minute AHH: Mending hearts, one patient at a time

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Volunteer Joe Ahlers shares a smile as he wanders the halls of the Avera Heart Hospital Volunteer Joe Ahlers shares a smile as he wanders the halls of the Avera Heart Hospital

A stay at the Avera Heart Hospital can be full of questions and concerns, but that's where the Mended Hearts volunteers come in and take over. If you wander the halls of the hospital, chances are you'll bump into a smiling face in a red vest.

"Good morning! How are you doing this morning?" Asks Joe Ahlers.

Ahlers is just one member of Mended Hearts, special volunteers who give heart patients a little encouragement and support when they need it most.

"Mended Hearts is an international group of people who have experienced heart problems themselves they are caregivers and professional staff involved in heart disease." Said volunteer Cathy Byington.

The first hand, or should I say "first heart" experience, is what sets the group apart and can give patients a perspective where doctors may not.

"Yes! Because we actually know what we're talking about! You been there and you've done that!" Said Ahlers.

"It's nice to be able to say to someone who's been there, did you feel this way? Will I get better? Hopefully we're shining examples of new health and regained zest for life." Said Byington.

Byington has had a valve replacement and a complete heart transplant. Ahlers had a heart bypass in 2003 and has been roaming these halls since 2005. Both volunteers say this is their way of giving back.

"I just get a lot of comfort out of doing it, it just makes you feel good." Said Ahlers.

Sometimes it's just visiting a lonely patient from out of town, other times it's giving some extra motivation.

"Cardiac rehab assigns us patients to visit on the floor, just like Joe did this morning, and we're seeing them as they are going out into the world again and there's a little fear of being separated from the care that we received here now, now we're on our own." Said Byington.

Volunteers don't just support patients on the floor, there's also a red vest manning the waiting room. Waiting to help family members who are bound to have questions and concerns of their own.

"So you can comfort that one person sitting alone or you can get coffee or maybe a toy for a child that's giving a little bit of hassle in that time of quiet that they'd like to see." Said Byington.

The badge on their vests is a broken heart that's been sewn back together. It's a perfect symbol of how the doctors and these volunteers work together to help patients become whole, once again.

"We hope that we factor in a lot but a lot of it's on the individual and you just need that confidence you just need that little bit of encouragement and maybe if we can be of any kind of example to them that's what we hope to be, that's we hope to be." said Byington.

Modern medicine has helped save plenty of lives, but if you ask Ahlers, a kind word and a gentle smile goes a long way in healing a broken heart.

Mended Hearts is always in need of volunteers but they do require that you be someone who has experienced heart problems in the past, a care-giver to someone with heart problems or a health professional. For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA.

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