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Man opens healed heart to others, donates GPS and lending to help cardiac patients

Jan. 21, 2013

Deputy Chief Glenn Leidel from the Oconomowoc Fire Department said that he knows it must have been frustrating.

A man in Oconomowoc, who's had a major heart event, had fallen in his home and called 911. The man could see the trucks and hear the sirens, but they were on the wrong side of the highway. His ride to the hospital had gotten lost.

Luckily, the emergency responders had the tools necessary to treat the man in his home, but it could have been worse.

Cheryl Claude, a nurse in Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, knows that.

"We are always educating patients to call 911 if they are experiencing any signs or symptoms of a heart attack," Claude said.

She tells her patients not to drive themselves or wait because every minute counts and the ambulances have the life-saving equipment (oxygen, defibrillator and other medicines) that they need.

"That's when early notification to the ambulance system and a speedy arrival are so important … The biggest reason to call an ambulance is if you are denying that you are having a heart attack," Leidel said.

Claude was instrumental in starting the newest Mended Hearts Chapter to Waukesha. She said they had met informally a few times, but the ball really got rolling in January when they had their first public meeting as a recognized chapter. Mended Hearts Chapter 384 is the second group in Wisconsin and offers peer-to-peer support for patients who have experienced major heart events. They also organize community projects and bring in guest speakers.

"Twenty to 40 percent of patients who have experienced a major heart event will go through anxiety or depression … Anyone can join. Healthcare professionals, family, friends - they need support," Claude said.

One of Claude's patients, Glenn Welnak, asked her how he could make a difference for heart patients and she had a few ideas.

"(Modern) Woodman had an incentive for the whole country to get active in the senior community and do things for seniors. They picked the top regions in the country that were the most active (in their communities) - we won the grand prize," Welnak, a managing partner at Modern Woodman in Hartland said.

Welnak is a retired police officer from Oconomowoc and he's been in cardiac rehabilitation three times.

"I thought that it might have been a little selfish because I might need those services someday … so part of it went to the ambulances and part of it went to Mended Hearts with the idea that we'd be buying a lending library for the hospitals," Welnak said.

Modern Woodman is a fraternal financial company that offers life insurance, annuity, investment and banking products. They also offer fraternal member benefits for families and their communities - communities like Lake Country. They took Welnak's grand prize to Lake Area Mutual Aid (LAMA) so they could purchase about 30 GPS devices for Ashippun Fire Department, Okauchee Fire Department, Lake Country Fire and Rescue, Dousman Fire Department, Stone Bank Fire Department and the Oconomowoc Fire Department.

It was $2,856 for all the devices, but Leidel said that it strengthens the links between early notifications to ambulatory services and speedy arrivals to better save lives.

"It's one of those things where a need is identified and a solution is presented that benefits the community as a whole," Leidel said.

The Oconomowoc Fire Department had been using a street index to navigate, which is difficult when there is only one person in the vehicle. The maps don't show specific house numbers or ranges for the addresses, either. While the department had two "ancient" GPS devices, they were not usable and their budgets were too tight to buy new ones. Now, thanks to Mended Hearts and Modern Woodman, they have six devices that they're already using.

"What's great with the GPS is that it gives verbal and visual directions… it puts you right at their doorstep," Leidel said.

The rest of the funds will be given to the hospitals to establish lending libraries for patients with heart problems. Books or movies with the information and resources that cardiac rehabilitation patients need are in the works for Oconomowoc and Waukesha Memorial hospitals.

"That was my third time through (cardiac) rehab. I got there. I really thought I was dying. I had no energy. Nothing. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't get up the stairs … They coached me," Welnak explained.

In the meantime, Waukesha's Mended Hearts is seeking out new members. They hope to have 100 members by the end of the year, and, with so many folks with heart problems, Welnak thinks it can be done.

It's free and not at all exclusive to ProHealth, either - patients from other hospitals throughout southeastern Wisconsin are welcome to join. The guest speaker for their Feb. 10 meeting, Dr. Afoz Hai, is an electrophysiologist who specializes in treating abnormal heart rhythms. Those interested can stop by Oconomowoc or Waukesha Memorial Hospital every second Sunday of the month at 6:30 p.m. or visit for more information.

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Weekend Happenings

Featured this week:  

North Shore Bank-Taste of Lake Country: 5 p.m. July 29, 4 p.m. July 30, Pewaukee Beach Front, 120 W. Wisconsin Ave., Pewaukee. Headline Friday night is The Toys and Saturday night The Love Monkeys. Free.

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Catelyn Picco: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 31, Mama D’s Coffee, 104 W Main St., Wales. Free.

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