HISTORY OF C.H.S.G
Chester Heart Support Group is 23 years old this year (2012). It was started by Jane Bignell, the Cardiac Physiotherapist working at the Countess of Chester Hospital. There were so many heart patients waiting Cardiac Rehabilitation that she had the foresight to see the urgent need for a Support Group, for patients and their carers.
The first meeting was set up in March 1989, and from that meeting, there were enough people interested to start “The Group”
We had to elect a Chairman (Robin Sanderson) a Secretary (John Spence) and a Treasurer (Mavis Shaw) and then a suitable venue which was the Catholic Social Club in Brook St. and a logo, designed by Ron Forrest, and this is still our logo to date, (Hand supporting a Heart)
A membership fee was decided at £2.00 a year (currently £8.00) and we also held a raffle to swell funds.
Welfare has a very important role. The prime purpose of the Support Group is to offer support and friendship to both the patient and the carer. Advice and help is offered to all new members ie., where and who to contact on a specific concern. Anyone who is ill receives a card, phone calls to check progress, and personal visits both in hospital and at home. (ladies receive flowers and men a fruit basket after returning home)
The first fundraiser was a Cake Stall down on The Groves for the Chester Raft Race Day, and by September of that year there was £363 to buy the very first equipment for Cardiac Rehab - a Rowing Machine and Pulsometers. This cake stall was our main fundraiser from 1989 - 1993 raising a total of £1,227.85.
In 1992 Jane was getting no support from the Senior Management for Cardiac Rehab and gave notice to leave, however, Chester Heart Support Group got media pressure, and by 1993 Cardiac Rehab phases 1, 2 and 3 was a properly structured Rehab course with Jane Bignell (physio) Sister Carol Payton as Manager, and Margaret Finnan as the Occupational Therapist (Relaxation) all under Pam Evans.
Most of the equipment in the Cardiac Support Centre has been purchased with money raised by the Chester Heart Support Group and The Zipper Club (now British Cardiac Patients Association) and replacements for new items have been regularly requested by CCU, Wards 42/43, ECG Department, and Cardiac Support Centre.
Happy Hearts started in 1999 with Sam taking a very tailored type of exercise and relaxation.
We now have 7 exercise classes, all run by Cardiac Trained Instructors and a Tai Chi, every week. In addition we have Golf, Bowls, and Walking Section, which also meet every week.
We also started a swimming group in December 2005. These activities are sponsored by the Group, to keep the costs low to our members.
During our Twenty years, we have changed venues a few times and formed a large active committee, and strong Welfare and Social Teams. Our membership has increased considerably (presently about 400) and many keep in touch by reading our excellent monthly informative, colourful newsletter.
Speakers at the meetings vary in content -not all medical. Social events are numerous and fundraising takes varied forms, having given approximately £60,000 for purchasing equipment for all the departments mentioned previously.
The Cardiac Support Unit was officially opened on 1st May 1996 after having moved from the gymnasium to the porta-cabin and then to the hospital itself.
Many friendships are formed, and the concern for one member for another is very evident.
All in all the support, care, friendship, and comfort, are paramount within the Group.
1 Formation of a very strong Heart Support Group, which is affiliated to “The British Heart Foundation” and “Arrhythmia Alliance.” We have a free hand on how to raise and distribute our finances, and have the backing and Insurance cover of The Foundation
2 Made sure that Cardiac Rehabilitation does get a priority focus within the NH Trust, using contacts and Media pressure to get publicity when things are “rocky”
3 We now had a properly “Structured Rehab”, our Cardiac Physician Dr. Peter Reid was followed by Dr. Martin Sedgwick and Dr. John Somauroo. With these Doctors in place a new Coronary Care Unit was opened with public money raised by the Heartbeat 2000 Appeal. Two members of our group were on this Appeals Committee, and the Chester Heart Support Group raised most of the money from the Volunteer Sector.
More recently we have had the appointment of Dr. Jason Causer and Dr. David Kent, Cardiac Physicians, joined by Specialist Cardiac Nurses and Heart Failure Nurses.
Thanks must be given to Ron Forrest (a founder member) for the superb Record Books (now being maintained by Tony Curtis) of a very Healthy, Happy and Progressive Support Group.
Recently the Group became a Registered Charity (No.1123789).
Compiled in August 2005. (updated April 2013)