Surgery survivors lend a helping 'heart'

Heart surgery patients rallied to support others who will have similar procedures by raising money for research and equipment at Crossgates Mall on Friday, Aug. 1.

Mended Hearts members, a sister organization of the American Heart Association, sold paper hearts for donations of $1, $5 and $10, and will be selling the hearts through mid-September, according to information provided by the organization.

The members of Mended Hearts are comprised of people who have had heart surgery, or are a caregiver for someone who has had a heart procedure. Its members hold monthly meetings at local hospitals and visit patients after they have had surgery.

We lend a hand and a heart to other patients who are having heart surgery, said Mary Ricchiuti, a volunteer for Mended Hearts. Ricchiuti had a valve replacement and CryoMaze treatment for atrial fibrillation three years ago.

She said the procedure was not very invasive and did not require them to open up her chest cavity. The procedure involved a small incision in her rib cage.

She said the money they are raising will help fund the equipment needed for similar procedures.

Ricchiuti said that the relationship between the AHA and Mended Hearts is to support one another in a variety of different ways.

"Heart groups kind of go hand in hand with one another," she said.

She said that the funding from the volunteer work they do goes to research and supplies for the AHA, and in return the AHA provides Mended Hearts with information, e-mail lists and other types of assistance.

Leanne Marie Ricchiuti, Mary's daughter, also volunteered her time.

"These are the actual patients. These are the people who have survived and are actually making a difference," she said.

Maureen Sugrue, also a volunteer, said her husband was a heart patient in 2000, and since then she has volunteered her time to Mended Hearts. Sugrue is the editor of Mended Heart's newsletter and she said people have been generous with their contributions.

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