"I received my HeartScarf from Lisa Hulick, our WomenHeart Support Network leader in Houston, the day before my first pacemaker was installed. I've had 13 heart surgeries trying to get my life back. My brother died of a widow-maker heart attack at age 36. I was 35 when I had my first pacemaker installed.
Standing before me in my hospital room was Lisa Hulick, a happy, vivacious, beautiful lady who came to support me and deliver my HeartScarf. Lisa is part of the 1% of patients who survive a widow-maker heart attack, and it couldn't have been more fitting that she arrived that day to see me.
I went into my surgery full of hope and promise, and cried the first time I stood up, because I couldn't even walk when I met Lisa Hulick.
Life is a gift. WomenHeart provides survivors a way to connect with people who understand what they are going through to help us overcome our obstacles!
This is a picture of me with my first HeartScarf!"
- Jenny Ward, heart patient
"At our Support Network meeting last night, a woman attending for the first time all of a sudden recognized the two WomenHeart Champions who'd brought her a HeartScarf in the hospital after her open heart surgery. She burst into tears of gratitude when she recognized them, and they all hugged. During the Support Network meeting, this woman heart patient shared her initial fears and how the HeartScarf and the visit from the two WomenHeart Champions made all the difference in her recovery.
This is an example of the unique value of the HeartScarves program and how it impacts women's lives. And guess what? The two WomenHeart Champions and our entire group benefitted from this spontaneous depiction of how each of us can make a difference. The healing goes both ways."
-Ann De Velasco, WomenHeart Champion, Support Network Coordinator for WomenHeart of Miami, and WomenHeart District Community Leader for the Southeast District
Pictured on the right: WomenHeart of Miami Support Network Coordinators and meeting attendees
"When I wrap my hand-knit scarf from WomenHeart's HeartScarves program around my neck, it reminds me of the warmth and closeness of my heart sisters. Receiving a HeartScarf from WomenHeart gives you the feeling that other women are working hard to help you understand yourself as well as comfort you in caring for your heart."
-Manuela Romo, WomenHeart Champion
Learn more about HeartScarves
The History of HeartScarves
HeartScarves was founded by WomenHeart Champions Marilyn Deak, Suzi Arnegger, Betsy Doherty, and the late Tina Bradford in 2005.
Q: Marilyn, tell us about the work you do for WomenHeart, including your Support Network and other community outreach?
A: My WomenHeart time is divided between running my support group, and theHeartScarves Project. Occasionally I also host events or help other coordinators with their events. My support group has become a 'caring community' of wonderful women, and we're often in touch between meetings.
The HeartScarves Project is much more demanding than the group. I've developed relationships with crafts guilds, senior centers, and individuals, who make scarves for us. I look at every contact with scarf producers as a chance to do some heart health education, and over time I'm finding that the groups of producers want more and more health information. We've also used HeartScarves for outreach. During the past several years we've had exhibits of the scarves in libraries and museums. Our group supplies scarves to several other Support Networks in the area and that all keeps me very busy.
Q: How did you first hear about WomenHeart?
A: Through WomenHeart Champion Claire D'Andrea, who was my cardiologist's nurse.
Q: What was it that made you decide to apply to attend WomenHeart's Science & Leadership Symposium?
A: Claire said it was a "must do." She had been to the Symposium the previous year and said that it would change my life. And it did! I came to accept that I had heart disease, that I would have to be my own best advocate, and that I could be connected to a national network of Heart Sisters.
Q: Tell us how you and WomenHeart Champion Suzie Arnegger came up with the idea of HeartScarves?
A: Suzie and I began the project before we went to the 2005 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium. We were in cardiac rehab together and also had the same cardiologist (and cardiology nurse).
When we were accepted to the Symposium, we talked about it a lot. At the same time, Suzie had just learned to knit, and scarves are what knitters learn to make first. Together, we thought that instead of having to get red dresses for the symposium, we could symbolize our 'heart affiliation' by wearing red scarves, since they were much more portable. We found that the scarves provided us with a real sense of connection, and we wanted other women with heart disease to have that same sense of connection.
Q: Tell us about your vision for the project.
A: At first, Suzie, friends, and I made all the scarves. It was clear to us that the scarves had to be handmade; that is central to the meaning of the scarves. There truly is a feeling of caring and love that comes with handmade items.
Soon, it became clear that there was no way that we could make the number of scarves that we projected would be needed. I contacted my hand weavers' guild, and asked if they would like to adopt our project. Working with the weavers was so successful that I could envision spreading the project through crafts guilds, first in California, and then nationally.
As serendipity would have it, at the first meeting with the weaver's guild, several members offered us wonderful gifts: contacts with other craft guilds, fundraising opportunities, and the donation of a web site. Working with the web designer and getting the web site up and running was very exciting, and I sent out the news to WomenHeart headquarters and to the 2005 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium participants.
I received many notes of encouragement, and one was from late WomenHeart Champion Tina Bradford. Tina and I shared the vision of getting WomenHeart to adopt HeartScarves at a national level. We negotiated for two years to get that to occur, and last year it did. Tina would have been delighted.
Q: So, the program is a huge success and provides comfort to women across the country. How does it feel to see a local project that you co-founded have national impact?
A: I'm very pleased that HeartScarves is now a national project, and I'm a bit in awe of the extent of the publicity and the public reach of the project. As it developed here, I felt that it was a perfect fit for the goals and missions of WomenHeart.
Marilyn, Suzie, and Tina: WomenHeart thanks you all for the beautiful gift of this program!