In recognition of February as American Heart Month and Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day on February 22, we are spotlighting the work of Valve Disease Day partner Mended Hearts. Below is an interview with Andrea Baer, Executive Director of Mended Hearts and Mended Little Hearts.
What is the mission of Mended Hearts and Mended Little Hearts?
Our mission is to provide hope and improve the quality of life to heart patients and their families through ongoing peer-to-peer support, education, and advocacy.
Why do you think it is important for people with heart disease to receive support from their peers?
Receiving a diagnosis is life changing. It can be emotionally difficult, and people often feel isolated and alone. Some of the most powerful words a person can hear are “me too.” Peer support can give a person hope and show them that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. With heart disease, it is a lifelong disease that needs managed and having someone who has been where you are is priceless. If fact, peer support can be life changing.
What are the most important things individuals recently diagnosed with heart valve disease should know?
The most important thing that someone who has been recently diagnosed with heart valve disease should know is that they are not alone. Take the time to adjust to your new diagnosis and then educate yourself. With education and support comes empowerment. Make sure that you are educating yourself with information about your valve disease, managing your risks, and knowing all your treatment options.
What is the Mended Hearts Rock Your Scar contest, and why is it important?
Our Rock Your Scar contest is an annual photo contest that we run for congenital heart disease. We have eight different categories from birth to 40+. This year we had over 1,200 picture entries. It is so important because we want people everywhere to be proud of their journey and to embrace it. We know that everyone who is walking the journey of heart disease has scars. They may be emotional or physical, but scars are a part of the heart journey. We encourage everyone to show how powerful they are. This not only empowers the person entering the contest, but also others who can identify with the warrior within themselves.
When and why did Mended Hearts become a Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day partner?
Mended Hearts became a Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day partner in 2017. We believe awareness is vital to early detection and better management of the disease. We have continued to expand on the campaign to become a robust partner and reach more people each year.
February 22 is Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day. How is Mended Hearts participating, and how can others help raise awareness on Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day and throughout the entire year?
Mended Hearts will have live events across the country this year in different local communities. We are holding awareness events and education events. Along with our in-person events, we built a robust social media campaign to reach not only our members, but the general public. Everyone can get involved by learning about heart valve disease (even if they aren’t affected) and then sharing the information across their networks.
What resources does Mended Hearts have for heart valve disease patients and caregivers?
Mended Hearts has educational materials like our Valve Disease GoTo Guide, which is available online and as a PDF to download. But I think the greatest gift we have to offer patients is the connection to others who have been where you are. You can connect with us in person through one of our chapters, online on our communities, or on social media. Wherever you are, Mended Hearts is here to support you. To get connected you can email [email protected] or call 1-888-HEART-99.