It can be challenging for surgical patients to relate to people who have not undergone the same procedures. It can be especially difficult for cardiac patients as they prepare for and recover after life-changing surgeries.
So Carle created a way for these patients to feel more comfortable during their time in the hospital.
Through Heart-to-Heart visits, prior cardiac patients volunteer to spend their time with current cardiac patients.
“During heart-to-heart visits, former patients and volunteers who have had heart procedures talk with patients who will be having heart surgery soon or recently had heart surgery,” said Taylor Walters-McCoy, Medical-Surgical unit senior health care technician. “The volunteers help the patients by telling them about their experiences and staying positive.”
The volunteers visit Carle Tower floors 6 and 8, and the number of patients using the service continues to increase. The volunteers visit patients who have had a variety of different procedures including open heart surgery, pacemakers and stents.
“The volunteers are such a great resource because they can spend one-on-one time with our patients after a big life event,” Walters-McCoy said. “It’s an amazing thing to see. I can’t stress how important having these volunteers is.”
Carle Auxilian Jim Trail is a major contributor to the program’s success.
Trail has racked up 800 hours volunteering in his five years at Carle. And the Champaign resident has had nine heart procedures.
“My experiences motivated me to become a heart-to-heart visitor,” Trail said. “We share our experiences and feelings during our time together. We’re all non-medical people, so the patients feel like we’re speaking in their own language.”
The volunteers promote eating right and staying active and encourage the patients to follow their care team's advice.
“Our motto is to listen, understand and question,” Trail said. “We ask them what procedure they’ve had, what brought them to Carle, and if they’ve considered cardiac rehabilitation. I like talking honestly with the patients.
“It’s a two-way street. Heart-to-heart visits benefit both the patients and the volunteers.”
Participating patients can rest easy knowing this confidential volunteer conversation is a safe space for sharing their procedure details and learning about the volunteers similar experience. If you are interested in becoming a heart-to-heart visitor, apply through Volunteer Services.