For 40 years city charity Heartbeat has been helping Lancashire residents at what could be one of the most difficult times of their lives.
The Preston heart health charity, full name Heartbeat North West Cardiac Care, has aided thousands of people over the years since its launch.
It offers a unique stepping stone for those recovering from heart attacks, strokes or with heart problems, helping not just them, but indirectly their families too.
It gives its gym users new hope, new confidence and - it’s no overstatement to say, a new approach to life.
With specialist staff and cardiac rehab trainers it allows people to get fitter one step at a time, in a safe and supervised friendly environment.
Based at the former National Football Museum at PNE (Preston North End) staff also encourage those whose confidence may have been knocked health wise to realise what they are capable of.
Retired cleric Roger Cooper from Adlington (pictured right) is one of its current gym users. The 70 year old was treated at Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital and had a stent fitted after finding himself getting out of breath.
After attending gym sessions at Chorley Hospital for six weeks following his treatment it was suggested he attend Heartbeat. The grandfather of four and father of two said with a smile : “ I like the company .I wouldn’t do the exercises - I need to be bullied! It’s certainly made me feel better. I’m Type 1 diabetic as well so I realise the need for doing exercise.”
Jennifer Dineley from New Longton is another gym attender. She said: “I’ve been coming for about 10 months. I was referred by the cardiac nurse because I’ve got heart problems. I’ve found it very good, It’s got me more mobile. I feel fitter and I’m able to walk further without getting out of breath. I hadn’t been in a gym in years.”
Heartbeat promises it will be there for everyone on its books - be it for six weeks, six months or years.
Acting Chief Executive Officer Louise Bache said: “At present our youngest is in their 20s and our oldest is 93- and we have someone who has been coming 29 years this year.”
The charity also works with local branches of Headway and the Stroke Association, which are now based at the former museum site too.
Heartbeat is helping more people than ever, with more than 900 people attending its cardiac rehabilitation programmes each week.These are offered not just at its base on Tom Finney Way but also at venues ranging from UCLan and Leyland to Penwortham and Chorley, Blackpool, Ribby Hall in Wrea Green and Burscough.
Over the next six months classes will be starting in Garstang, Fleetwood, Warton near Lytham and Southport.
Louise said: “In Lancashire we have the second highest prevalence of heart disease in the country. We provide 113 cardiac/stroke rehabilitation sessions per week. Our exercise programme has been designed to ensure all exercises we teach are both safe and effective for those with or at high risk of heart disease.”
In addition to the professionally supervised cardiac rehabilitation programme, the charity extends its reach to many organisations and delivers Healthy Hearts workshops to more than 2,000 schoolchildren each year.It costs around £1m a year to provide its rehabilitation, testing and education programmes.With no funding from the NHS it is 100 per cent reliant on the generosity of supporters.
Funding comes from voluntary donations, special fundraising events and the Heartbeat weekly lottery. Gym users are asked to make an £18 monthly donation but Louise stresses no-one will be disbarred through not being able to afford the donation.
Now in its 40th year the charity is asking companies to consider sponsoring them and making Heartbeat their charity of the year. Senior Fundraiser Lisa Riding said: “It’s important for us to try and get some corporate support locally.”
Heartbeat began in 1978 and in 1986 had made its HQ in Pond House in the Harris Park, the former Harris Orphanage off Garstang Road. But in recent years it had a outgrown its premises and the search for a new home began.The move to the PNE site was spearheaded by the charity’s late Chief Executive Officer Jill Rogerson who died in September.
Since the Deepdale move the numbers of people helped each year has risen from 540 to 937.
Alterations on the former museum site cost £400,000 and most recently thanks, in part, to a donation by The Morrisons Foundation a third gym, The Ruby Gym, has been opened. With easy to operate, but nevertheless state of the art equipment, its machines offer a slightly more demanding workout for those ready for the next step up.
Their main gym is named in memory of the young woman who was the inspiration for Heartbeat, Gillian Redman, who died in 1977 at the age of just 17 from heart disease. Her parents Keith and Rose launched The Gillian Redman Memorial Fund, aware of the need to develop support and enhanced rehabilitation for people affected by heart disease.
By 1980 Heartbeat’s first committee had been set up and the rest is history.
Louise said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been helping people in the local area for 40 years. We feel rehabilitation is not just for three months, six months or nine months - we feel it’s a life-long commitment.”
* If you would like to make Heartbeat your company's charity of the year call Heartbeat on 01772 717147.