Mended Hearts

What: A support group for heart patients and their spouses

When: 6 p.m. the last Thursday of each month in Room 21 of the NMMC East Tower Education Center. Trained members of the group also visit with NMMC heart patients.

Extra: Dinner available for $9 a person for those who RSVP.

More info: Contact Gene Williams, president, at 844-7511

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

There's nothing like hearing it from someone who has been there.

When it comes to the aftermath of heart surgery, the Mended Hearts group is determined to spread the good news that there is life after heart surgery.

"They brighten up when they see you're still running around," said Clara Thompson, 79, of Tupelo, who had her heart bypass surgery 20 years ago and now serves as chairwoman for the support group's visitation program.

Mended Hearts meets as a support group once a month for heart patients and their spouses. But it is sharing their stories with new heart patients that keeps them going.

"The visitation program is the backbone of the whole organization," said Walter Rhodes, who joined the Tupelo Mended Hearts chapter with his wife, Elsie, a few months after his heart surgery in October 1994.

"There's nothing like a support group to be with people who've gone through what you've gone through," Elsie Rhodes said.

It's easy to get down in the aftermath of the surgery, said Walter Rhodes, who, at 88, is still a frequent visitor for Mended Hearts.

"I had pictured in my mind that I was to become a complete invalid," said Rhodes of his surgery. When two Mended Hearts members came to talk to him, it was a turning point. "I got the encouragement that I could go about my life."

Rhodes was able to pick back up his tennis racket after he recovered from surgery.

The members, who go through training and get referrals from physicians for the visits, field all sorts of questions from the new patients, but many center on the recovery process.

"It might seem slow," Thompson said she tells new heart patients. "But they get a little better each day."

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