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New support group empowers women to share their experience with heart-disease

Elizabeth Bradley, APN, Michele Wingrave and Cecelia Stoeckicht facilitate discussions and provide support for women who have heart disease in the new WomenHeart support group at Christiana Care.

Elizabeth Bradley, APN, Michele Wingrave and Cecelia Stoeckicht facilitate discussions and provide support for women who have heart disease in the new WomenHeart support group at Christiana Care.

There are 41 million women in America living with heart disease. But after Michele Wingrave of Wilmington underwent surgery at Christiana Care to repair a valve in 2011, she couldn’t find a support group just for women.

“I had lots of wonderful support years before when I was treated for breast cancer — and yet there was nothing specifically for women with heart disease,” she said. “After a lot of research online, I found WomenHeart.”

On Feb. 19, Wingrave and heart patient Cecilia Stoeckicht of Wilmington, also a heart patient, led the first meeting of WomenHeart of New Castle County at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center at Christiana Care.

WomenHeart: The National Coalition of Women Living With Heart Disease, is a support group that empowers women to share experiences, explore ways to cope, learn about their health and embrace behaviors that are good for their hearts.

More than 20 women, most of them patients at Christiana Care’s Center for Heart & Vascular Health, gathered to talk about their feelings and concerns. Several of them have high blood pressure and are focused on preventing heart disease, the number-one killer of women in the United States.

Elisabeth Bradley, APN, the clinical leader for the Cardiovascular Prevention Program at Christiana Care, and Renay Stoutmire RN, BSN, a registered nurse in Interventional Radiology, coordinated the event with Wingrave and Stoeckicht. The group plans to meet 6 – 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

“When someone asks a medical question, Beth and Renay can answer it,” Wingrave said. “This group would not be possible without the support of Christiana Care.”

She and Stoeckicht are volunteer support group coordinators for WomenHeart, a nonprofit advocacy group, and trained at the Mayo Clinic to educate women so they can work in partnership with their medical team.

Donna Miller of Stanton is a diabetic who was diagnosed with heart failure in her 40s. Now 52, Miller is proactive about learning all she can about her condition.

“I have learned a lot by attending lectures on diabetes and women’s health,” she says. “I want to learn all I can about women’s heart health, too.”

The group also discussed the depression and lack of energy patients often feel after a serious illness. And they discussed their feelings about having a scar from the incision made for open heart surgery.

“Men don’t seem to mind having a scar, but many women do,” Wingrave said.

Stoeckicht recalled having a lariat-style necklace made to cover her incision soon after her operation six years ago to correct a congenital defect.

“Now, I don’t mind showing my scar,” she says. “It’s an exposed zipper, very much in fashion — except it’s on my skin instead of my dress,” she said.

To learn more about WomenHeart of New Castle County, contact Cecilia Stoeckicht at 302-351-4595, womenheartncc@comcast.net or Michele Wingrave at 302-547-3652, wh-newcastleco@womenheart.org.

Christiana Care Health System   |   PO Box 1668, Wilmington, DE 19899   |   800-693-2273   |   www.christianacare.org