Cardiac Rehab patient threads gratitude into a quilt
June 11, 2013
Joy Waggener's "Heart Song" lap quilt represents perfectly a saying among quilters: "Blankets wrap you in warmth, quilts wrap you in love."
She made it to express her love for the staff of the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital's (SNMH) Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, who helped her survive her own "heart episode" in December 2011.
In black, white, and red fabrics with hearts and musical symbols, the quilt is being raffled to raise money for the hospital's rehab program.
"I wanted to show my appreciation for the staff members who have changed so many lives for the better," she said.
Waggener's "heart episode" happened just a few weeks short of her 65th birthday.
"One morning I experienced breathlessness and chest pain when I tried to go on my normal walk in my hilly Nevada City neighborhood," she said. "It felt like an elephant sitting on my chest."
Although she recovered quickly enough, her walking companion insisted that she call her doctor. That led to tests revealing significant blockage in a cardiac artery. A stent was inserted to clear the blockage. Then her cardiologist sent her to the Cardiac Rehab Program at SNMH.
"Working out at Cardiac Rehab was the best time I had ever experienced in an exercise program," she said. "The other participants were welcoming and positive, not competitive. The staff was wonderful – caring and supportive, always making sure that you were challenged but not stressed. The encouraging atmosphere replaced doubts and fears about my health with the desire to make lifestyle changes. As a result of three intensive months in the program, I lost over 10 pounds and now feel more physically fit and energetic than I have in decades."
She is no stranger to challenges. Earlier in her life she worked in television and, she said, was "one of the first women allowed to touch the machines" while working for the Public Broadcasting System in Washington, DC. Another challenge Waggener has faced was gradually losing her hearing as a young adult, but she was able to receive a cochlear implant more than 20 years ago that mostly restored her hearing.
She met her husband, Richard Jackson, and moved with him to Nevada City 33 years ago when he took a job with the former Grass Valley Group. They raised their three sons (twins now 27 and another now 23), and are enjoying their five grandsons.
Waggener's interest in quilting was sparked as a child, watching her maternal grandmother make quilts "using scraps and feed sacks." She took classes, then set the quilts aside while raising her family.
She admits to being a serious quilter now for the past 15 years. She is a charter member of the local Pine Tree Quilt Guild, belongs to a smaller group called the Cotton Club and until recently was a member of the Mountain Art Quilters. On top of that, she leads a quilt group at Twin Cities Church and also participates in a quilt play used to show local third- to fifth-graders how quilting relates to history.
It was only natural she would think of a quilt as a way to express her thanks and her love. Her friend Sherry Bowers used a long-arm sewing machine to quilt heart motifs that hold the layers of the quilt together.
Katy Ellis, SNMH Cardiac Rehab Program Coordinator, said funds raised will be donated to the SNMH Foundation's Cardiac Fund where the donations will be used to buy new exercise equipment.
"Joy's donation is a touching expression of her gratitude. The Cardiac Rehab Program feels honored to accept this gift of a quilt as a fundraiser to help support our efforts and patient's needs," Ellis said.
Waggener will display the quilt at the Nevada County Fair. Tickets may be obtained from SNMH Foundation office or from the Cardiac Rehab Department at SNMH. The raffle drawing will be held Aug. 12. Tickets are $5 and no more than 400 will be sold. For more information, call SNMH Foundation at 530-477-9700.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.