Meet the members
Many of the heart patients who come along to the weekly line dancing class have all manner of heart conditions ranging from high blood pressure and high cholesterol to atrial fibrillation and angina. One or two have undergone coronary bypass surgery - nothing stops them coming along and joining in.
Mary Lannen is 65 and comes with her husband Jim. Margaret had a heart attack earlier this year, but she’s keen to live her life to its fullest. “Everyone here has had something similar happen to them, but you’re not as fragile as you think. There are people here who’ve had triple bypasses, so if they can do it, so can I!”
John Paxton is one of the group’s veteran’s at 85 years. Nine years ago John had three stents fitted and he found out about 'Upbeat' after the cardiac rehab team at Bradford Hospital suggested he join. John says the best thing about the group is not just the support, but the humour it provides during what can be a difficult and daunting experience. “We’re all friends here. Nine times out of ten someone does something wrong but nobody laughs at anyone: we all laugh with them.”
Everyone here has had something similar happen to them, but you’re not as fragile as you think.
Marilyn Clapham, 62, is the group’s line dancing instructor and has been shaking her hips with the group for six years. What keeps her coming back is their determination; nothing seems to hold them back. “It’s the smiles on their faces that make it all worthwhile: they cheer me up and they inspire me.”
It’s that positive determination that has kept the group going for so long. A few of the members have been here since the beginning when Ian helped set the group up in 2004 with three other members. Ian jokes that no one wanted the job of treasurer so he kindly volunteered himself, and wife Jean ended up with the role of secretary as she was the only one with a computer! Of course it was Jean's caring approach and excellent organising skills that landed her the role too. And everyone chips in, offering their time generously to organise socials and monthly outings.
The social side
'Upbeat' is like most groups up and down the country offering walks, tea and coffee get-togethers and daytrips. Next month the group’s members are planning a day trip to Lake Windermere. And the group’s activities don’t stop there; they fundraise for the local Bradford Royal Infirmary, the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation.
When we visited the group put on a special lunch to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and everyone had made or bought something. The room was decorated in red, white and blue bunting, there were flags everywhere and Marilyn had even made a scrumptious cake.
Membership is free of charge, but Ian leaves a small collection tin on the table and members contribute whatever they can afford. And it’s those generous contributions that go towards the cost of the various activities and also help pay for the tea, coffee and biscuits, which are essential for any group's success!
Open to all
Like all Heart Support Groups, carers, family and friends are always welcome. Margaret Horsfall, 77, first started coming to the support group after her husband had triple coronary bypass surgery nine years ago. Soon after Margaret found out she had atrial fibrillation so now she comes in her own right. It’s not just the companionship that Margaret enjoys; it’s knowing that everyone else understands what you’re going through.“We all support each other as we’re all in a similar position. In fact, we seem to go on for longer!”
Audrey Walker’s 76 and she’s been coming along to the group since 2008 when she had a heart attack. Audrey’s advice to anyone wanting to join - “Just come along, you’re all welcome, and you’re made welcome.”