Living with a mended heart
Warren Silver and David Elworthy have experienced just about every cardiac event—from open heart surgery to heart attacks to stents and more—yet today they golf, coach, sail and help lead the Cape Cod Mended Hearts program, giving hope and encouragement to patients at Cape Cod Hospital.
“Warren is a jokester,” Elworthy said. “He is a retired high school guidance counselor who has a great sense of humor and always says something that makes people laugh, even when they are scared or hurting.”
Aortic valve replacements and heart disease are no laughing matter, but how you deal with your cardiac tests, procedures and events is key to how you recover and go on with a healthy, well-adjusted life, said Silver. He peppers conversations with a light-hearted spark and quick wit, whether he’s talking about heart failure or sailing, easily engaging listeners.
A retired high school principal, Elworthy, too, is extremely comfortable talking with others, whether addressing a group or one-on-one. He is calm, assuring and very convincing, capably drawing people he’s never met into a hearty conversation.
Silver and Elworthy are the newly elected president and vice president, respectively, of Cape Cod’s Mended Hearts program. In addition to organizing monthly meetings and energizing the local group, they volunteer to make visits to cardiac patients at Cape Cod Hospital and are also on call to talk with people in need.
“The point of visiting patients is to spread encouragement and hope,” Elworthy said. “We have completed the hospital’s volunteer training program, as well as the Mended Hearts training program, and we each bring our own experiences to hospital visits.
“After introducing ourselves, we tell patients we understand how they feel because we have been in their situations, and they typically feel better talking with us and seeing that we are doing so well. I play with a golf league and enjoy my grandchildren and family more each day.”
The men begin each visit by picking up a list of names at the nurse’s desk, Silver said.
“I always say ‘Let’s go put some smiles on some faces’ as we head toward that first patient room. When we’re done, it’s ‘mission accomplished.’ Someone smiled or laughed. Someone felt a little better because we visited and showed that we cared,” he said.
“I think the Mended Hearts program gives us a way to give back, help others who are going through what we’ve been through, and show Cape Cod Hospital how much we appreciate the excellent care they always give us.”
Getting Back to Your Life
Silver and Elworthy said since they have been through so many cardiac events and surgeries, they can easily relate to patients. They only share their stories with patients if necessary, but their stories are inspiring.
Elworthy’s heart problems began three years ago with no warning. His eight-hour open-heart surgery included an aortic valve replacement and bypass to repair an aneurism on his aortic stem. Six months later, tachycardia prompted the insertion of a defibrillator. Subsequently, Cape Cod surgeons inserted a pacemaker, as well.
“My heart is controlled by a little computer now, and I eat a very heart-healthy diet,” he said.
Silver suffered a cardiac arrest on a tennis court in Florida, which, he joked, was the best place to die because so many people were available to bring him back.
“I’ve had two heart attacks,” he said, “And I’m happy and proud to say that I’m one of the two to four percent of people who have had a cardiac arrest outside a hospital who are fully recovered. The statistics aren’t in your favor if you have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital, so I’m very fortunate to have beaten those odds.”
Both men had been very active prior to their cardiac events. Both continue to be active today, and that’s central to the Mended Hearts message.
While Elworthy golfs and keeps busy with his grandkids, Silver sails, plays tennis six times a week, coaches and competes on a USTA tennis team. And they do much more. These two Cape Cod transplants have been as active in their retirements as they were when they were employed, and they haven’t let heart problems get in the way of their busy lifestyles.
“Getting back to life after you’ve had a cardiac problem can be much easier with the help and support of your doctors, the nurses at Cape Cod Hospital, your family and friends, and the Mended Hearts program,” said Elworthy.
You don’t have to join Mended Hearts to attend meetings, he said. Anyone who has a heart problem, as well as their caregivers, are invited. All the information is available at www.CapeCodMendedHearts.com.
“I want to thank Tim Crane, who coordinates our volunteer program, and all of the other officers and members of Mended Hearts of Cape Cod. We also deeply appreciate the professionals – doctors, nurses and so many others who speak at our meetings. We have a great organization whose members help each other immensely,” said Elworthy.