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Support groups

The Northumberland Cardiac Support Group is an invaluable resource, not only to help fill that immediate gap between discharge from hospital and linking up with a cardiologist, but through the entire recovery period and beyond, whereby long-standing members are able to provide the benefit of their healing experience with newcomers to the group. They have been there and there’s no substitute for that experience.
"The group has been so important for me. Most doctors and cardiologists are so busy and overworked they don’t have the time to deal with the aftermath of very serious surgery. There’s a lot more hand-holding, consoling, supporting required after open-heart surgery. I had a bad experience with my cardiologist. He didn’t have the time to answer my questions or give me any kind of support. All that has come from my support group which I joined, where people really do understand and have the time share experiences and emotions, and from my own research"

"About 18 months after my husband’s surgery we were we were having trouble within our marriage. I’d gone to our family doctor and asked for help and he couldn’t suggest anything, but we found a psychologist who told us about this cardiac support group that had been going for quite a while. There was a number in the paper and my husband phoned and we joined. It opened up so many avenues for us. We discovered we weren’t the only ones with anxiety, pain, problems, stress. Everyone else in the group could relate to us and we learned from that; we picked up advice and ideas. You should really see your doctor about that. Or, Have you read this book? It’s verbalizing, it’s communication, the resources that are provided, learning about the cook books that are out there – all of this we got from the group."

"There were moments after I got home from the hospital when I was quite scared. I think before and right after the surgery I had pushed any fears to the back of my mind, stuffed them into a compartment. I mean, heart surgery really does get your attention, makes you very aware of the fragility of life. When I got home I had a lot of time to think and realize how close I had come to the end. And I wasn’t out of the woods yet. So who do you talk to? Doctors or cardiologists won’t really know where you’re coming from, even if they had the time to sit and talk about it. Then I heard about the group and, you know what? People in it understood immediately. It was like a big load being taken off."

"I said to my wife just the other night, if I didn’t have this group – and I learn something at every meeting – I don’t know what I would have done. Somebody has an idea or has overcome something in a different, special way, and I think, That’s a good idea, I’ll try that. I always feel good when I leave a meeting. The support group is great and necessary."

"You should get to a heart support group as soon as you can after an operation or a heart attack, any cardiac incident. Even before an operation. It would be invaluable. You see how people are, how they’re getting on with their lives. How full their lives are."

"The problems that my husband and I were experiencing after the surgery had been building up for a while and I think the surgery was a good thing, and then joining the group. It put our lives in perspective. It opened up communication between us. We were breaking down. Our marriage was pretty well at an end and would have probably ended in divorce. His heart surgery was a turning point in our lives. Before that our lives were full of stress but we changed that. The support group helped save our marriage and we were so glad to have found it."

"To come to the group and to be able to talk about how depressed I was, and to be able to cry. I mean, I can’t cry in front of my ten year old. Right? I can’t let her see that I’m not really in control of things, and that I’m feeling down and I’m not feeling like a super-mom. People have this picture of me being a super, super woman and god forbid that anybody should see that I wasn’t that. So it was the group that allowed me to break that down and to look at it like: You know what, this is time when you need to let people come in, to help you. You can’t do it on your own, and if you try, you won’t be too successful. That was the start, going to the group. And after that things started to get better."

"There is no question in my mind that, with something as traumatic as heart surgery, you need to have a support group. Only people who have actually been through the experience can understand what you’re feeling. It’s the little things. The hospital can give you the drugs or your cardiologist can say, In six months you’re going to feel like this, but it’s what goes on in between the time you leave the hospital and that six month mark. They don’t tell you about the little things like, Your back is hurting because they cracked you open like a lobster and splayed your chest open. Which is why tendons and muscles are sore and ache. They don’t tell you that you might be happy one day and down and depressed the next for no apparent reason. That’s why a support group is an absolute must for anyone going through those first months of recovery."

"As soon as we realized there was a support group available for us, we felt it was something we really had to join. To become better informed. We have nutritionists as speakers, a cardiologist, a pharmacist, and we’re able to ask questions, get answers in layman’s language. It’s been invaluable for us, especially from a caregiving point of view. Hospitals don’t seem to pay much attention to the reality of looking after a patient after he or she gets home. The group filled that vacuum."

"Because people in a group are all in it together, sharing a common experience, we understand what we are all talking about. People who haven’t had the experience wouldn’t understand in the same way. We can share the small details of recovery – things like diet, exercise, communicating with doctors. Seemingly inconsequential stuff, but very important for someone finding his or her way through their recovery."