A big day for Ace of Hearts Cardiac Support Group

Bexleyheath Heart Support Group launch event

There’s an air of anticipation and excitement as the small function room at the back of the Royal Oak in Bexleyheath fills with laughter and plenty more people keen to know what it’s all about.

Back to basics

It’s the official launch event for Ace of Hearts Cardiac Support Group and today is their first get-together.

Amanda Mitchell is the founder and physical activity expert and Ian Giles is the chair. It was Amanda’s idea to put a group together and she was keen to get Ian on board. For Ian it was a no brainer – “support groups are a must. It doesn’t matter what age you are when you’ve suffered an “event”, it affects people in different ways and we all need support, carers included”.

Community support

Bexleyheath HSGAce of Hearts’ launch event is just as you would expect; they’ve got tea and biscuits on hand and have invited plenty of guest speakers to officially open the group. From the Mayor of Bexley, Councillor Ray Sams and his wife, to cardiologist Dr Winston Martin from nearby Darent Valley Hospital, there’s a whole host of people who have come along to support the group.

Ace of Hearts is what Heart Support Groups are all about: there’s a mixture of heart patients and carers here, and family members too, young and old. And it’s certainly a family affair today: Mike Soloman enlisted the help of his youngest son, Dominic to hand out leaflets, which the group produced using the £500 start-up grant for new Heart Support Groups. His wife Sue is greeting newcomers at the door, and daughter Emily is in the kitchen handing out tea and biscuits. Mike Salmon, 54, has brought his daughter Cameron, 4, for moral support.

A listening ear

Bexleyheath HSG2Ace of Hearts go about things the clever way: by finding out what their members really want. Amanda hands out a short survey asking members which activities they’re interested in and when they’d like to do them. And they’ve already got some great ideas including walks, photography, quizzes, sight-seeing socials, guest speakers and interactive health promotion sessions on weight management, healthy eating and physical activity. Ian jokes: “Ace of Hearts is all about its members and although I don’t have any particular preferences, if there’s a golf day I’ll be a happy man!

Margaret Hickling and her daughter Janice Davenport have come along to the launch event today, which Margaret heard about through Phase 4 cardiac rehab at the local hospital. Margaret’s main reasons for coming are for the exercise, to meet new people and to share experiences. Margaret says: “After the operation, it’s the psychological aspect of getting through it, it knocks you for six. But a Heart Support Group can make a world of difference”.

The future’s rosy for Ace of Hearts

With 60 people signed up and the next meeting planned for four weeks’ time, momentum is strong. And the BHF are here to help too. Amanda says: “There's heaps of free booklets that BHF produces and the Heart Helpline staffed by friendly cardiac nurses and health advisors, which is great for signposting”.