Douglas “Dougie”Heywood Heart of gold: Cardiac rehabilitation volunteer Dougie Heywood was honoured for his dedication and service at the Hunter New England Health Excellence Awards.
WHEN Douglas Heywood had a heart attack in 2005, his doctor recommended he do six week’s worth of cardiac rehabilitation at the John Hunter Hospital.
After he had finished the program, the Windale man fondly known as “Dougie” asked the staff if they’d like him to stay on and give them a hand as a volunteer.
He has been helping out “the girls” – the nurses and physios – who work in cardiac rehabilitation for the past 10 years.
“I asked the girls if they’d like me to hang about and help them out with moving around some of the weights and things like that. They said yes, and I’ve been with the girls ever since,” he said.
“You do get a male nurse or physio in there occasionally too though, by the way.”
Mr Heywood was recently recognised for his contribution to the hospital at the Hunter New England Health Excellence Awards, where he was named Volunteer of the Year.
Having recovered from a heart attack himself, Mr Heywood hoped he provided cardiac patients with peer support, an understanding of their physical and emotional needs, and a healthy dose of good humour.
“Going through it motivated me I suppose,” he said.
“At the time, you’re thinking, ‘I’ve just had a heart attack, am I going to die?’ You get a bit frightened.
“Of course I got through it alright, and there is other people coming in – men and women too – and you can tell they are frightened and a bit scared about what’s going to happen.”
Mr Heywood, 77, said the gentle exercises in the rehabilitation program helped patients start moving again in a safe and monitored environment.
“I just more or less calm them down and show them that it’s alright to do the exercises because the girls are always there, and if they feel any pain at all, to just stop and sit down and the nurses will check them out,” he said.
Mr Heywood also offers help and support to the carers and families – whether it is getting them a cup of tea, or a shoulder to cry on.
“I’ll put out the weights and make sure the machines are on,” he said.
“I’ll walk around and talk to everyone, and offer cups of tea or coffee to their partners. And a drink of water for the patients. If the girls need any help with a patient, like if someone collapses, I’ll help out.”
Cardiac patients who did not take up the opportunity of doing the rehabilitation course were doing themselves a disservice.
“If they do it at the hospital, and feel a bit weak, then at least they can get looked at straight away,” he said.
He enjoyed helping out.
“I feel like I’m giving back something,” he said.