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A healthy heart

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 01/06) - When Sheila Wooley first noticed the warning signs of a clogged artery two years ago, the then 52-year-old government worker tried to rationalize them.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Fourth-year nursing students Samantha Mackenzie, left, and Catherine Ardiles stand behind Sheila Wooley in Wooley's house on Con Road Oct. 24. Wooley is part of a research project that involves setting up rehabilitation and support groups for people living with cardiac troubles. Wooley found out she had a clogged heart artery in 2004. - Peter Crnogorac/NNSL photo

"I just wasn't feeling well," she said at her home on Oct. 24. "I had a nagging pain in my shoulder, which I assumed was caused by exercising. I pegged my shortness of breath to the fact that that summer there were a lot of forest fires around Yellowknife and the smoke was everywhere."

However, her husband Al insisted she go to the hospital.

Shortly after, Wooley learned she had a clogged artery in her heart.

"The treatment at the hospital was excellent," she said. "...Only after leaving the hospital did it become a daunting experience. You don't know what you can and can't do."

That's why fourth year Aurora College nursing students Catherine Ardiles and Samantha Mackenzie have helped Wooley and a handful of other people in Yellowknife with cardiac troubles.

"There's so much research about cardiac problems and the information is changing so quickly," Ardiles said. "We felt a cardiac-rehab group in Yellowknife would help."

As part of their college degree, the two city women set up the cardiac group recently for people to come, learn and discuss their various heart conditions.

In addition to the support group, the nursing students want to have guest speakers visit.

Recovering cardiac patients from the Northwest Territories remain in Alberta for support until they are stable enough to come home.

"The care and support in Edmonton is excellent, but when patients come back to Yellowknife it's a little scary because the support isn't there any more," said Mackenzie.

Mackenzie added that she is happy with how the support group has worked out, but she and Ardiles are concerned with what will happen to the program once their research project is completed later this year.

"We have been talking to Joanna Russel (a health coordinator in Yellowknife) to take over facilitation of the support group," said Mackenzie.

Wooley said she hopes the program will survive, but she has her doubts.

"The government just isn't giving funding for social and health issues much any more," she said.

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation's 2006 annual report on Canadians' Health, 1.3 million Canadians 45 to 59 years old have been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke or hypertension.