Mended Hearts program offers peer support for cardiac patients

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A national organization is connecting cardiac patients at WakeMed with peers who can support and educate them.

Mended Hearts is run by volunteers who have experienced a cardiac event

John Trundle is a new volunteer with Mended Hearts in Raleigh. In 2012, Trundle was diagnosed with Atrial fibrillation (AFib) which is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase risk of strokes, heart failure or other heart-related complications.

Then, in summer 2019, Trundle's cardiologist discovered he had blockages and needed a triple bypass.

"I had that and I had an atrial valve repair," Trundle said. "I closed an atrial appendage and they did a technique to take care of the AFib."

Trundle did his cardiac rehab at WakeMed Raleigh after his surgery. Less than a year later, he's doing so well, he feels blessed to give back to other patients.

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"It's a chance to go in, see someone and give back," Trundle said. "Offer some support and say, 'Hey, I did this before, you're going to get through it and you'll be OK."

Exercise physiologist Amy Birling, the WakeMed Cary Cardiac Rehab Program director, said the benefits of cardiac rehab programs are incredible.

"It is a supervised structured exercise program, but it also involves nutrition education and tobacco cessation assistance as well as stress management and risk factor modification," Birling said.

Birling plans to head to Washington, D.C., March 2 and 3 to lobby lawmakers for two bills related to cardiac rehab in North Carolina, which Birling said would increase patient access. One bill would move the date from 2024 to 2021 to allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to supervise cardiac rehab. Currently, in North Carolina, a doctor has to supervise patients in the program.

The second bill they are lobbying is for higher Medicare reimbursements for cardiac rehab programs not affiliated with hospitals.
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