In December 2010, Marilynn Huffman was told that she needed heart surgery. Now, over six years later, she devotes herself to helping others who are going through the same experience.
Mended Hearts is a, “peer to peer support group for heart patients and their caregivers.” Huffman is the president of Chapter 382 in Bellingham. It is a volunteer position and Huffman was elected for the first time in 2015 and for the second time in 2017. Prior to that, she held positions as secretary and vice president.
Huffman is present at meetings for the board of directors and at meetings for the members. The meetings are held monthly. Besides attending meetings, Huffman has a variety of jobs which she does in the hopes of carrying out the Mended Hearts mission to help patients. Often she seeks out opportunities to give presentations to hospital staff, service organizations and community members. Other parts of her job include interacting with Mended Hearts members, answering their questions and helping calm their fears.
“After my own open heart surgery I found I could relate to the fears and anxiety people feel when they learn they have a serious heart issue,” Huffman explains. “I also realized that by helping others, I was helping myself.” Huffman devotes much of her time to helping others and she does it because she wants to, not for pay. Not only does she take time out of her schedule to visit members in the hospital after their surgeries, but she encourages others to make a difference in the lives of fellow heart patients.
In 2014, Mended Hearts had 50 volunteers through PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. These volunteers work with both heart patients and their families and caregivers. Many make a difference through Young Mended Hearts, which is a Mended Hearts group aimed specifically at younger people, from their teens to their forties. Younger heart patients often have different concerns than older heart patients because they are in a different phase of life. Young Mended Hearts recognizes these differences and needs and makes sure to give people of all ages the support that they need. In order to help people in a variety of circumstances and phases of life, former heart patients and caregivers volunteer through both Mended Hearts and Young Mended Hearts. For Huffman, it is inspiring to see these former heart patients and caregivers help others after their own experiences.
“Our members make Mended Hearts and Young Mended Hearts special,” Huffman says. “They are people who have faced challenges either as patients or their caregivers, risen to that challenge and now want to make a difference in the lives of others.” Mended Hearts members come together to express concerns, share ideas and encourage one another. It is a special group, where people come to support one another and feel supported in return.
Members also receive another form of support through guest speakers who come to meetings. Cardiologists and other doctors share their knowledge, answer questions and clear up misconceptions. These sessions are free of charge and open to all.
Huffman draws extreme satisfaction from helping people. Through her position at Mended Hearts, she is able to extend her helping hand to a large group of people. Huffman reflects, “When I leave a patient’s hospital room, answer a call from a frightened patient, leave a meeting with hospital staff and most especially leave a Young Mended Hearts meeting, I know that I am doing exactly what I am meant to do.”