Victoria woman provides venue for healing hearts

Rose Lopetrone will never forget the fear that gripped her the day she was told she had heart disease.

"It's pretty frightening just because of my background (as a former cardiac nurse)," said the Fernwood resident, who was diagnosed in 2010 with coronary artery disease. "I wasn't shocked, but I was absolutely devastated."

Lopetrone has since received treatment and a new lease on life. But she has never stopped wanting to connect with others battling the number one killer of women in Canada.

A search online led her to WomenHeart, a U.S. coalition for women with heart disease.

The group strives to foster awareness and dispel social isolation many sufferers experience.

Lopetrone was the only Canadian chosen to attend the group's symposium south of the border last fall.

She came back wanting to do more. With support from the Vancouver Island Health Authority and B.C.'s Ministry of Health, she has spearheaded Canada's first peer support group for women with heart disease.

“This is a great opportunity to provide women living with heart disease with direct peer-to-peer support and education,” B.C. Health Minister Michael de Jong said in a recent statement. “This support network has been so successful and well-received in the U.S., that it only makes sense to try their model here.”

"It's just bringing women together that can share their experience and learn from each other, and at the same time take charge of their own heart health," Lopetrone said.

WomenHeart meetings will be held free of charge on the third Wednesday of each month, beginning today (Feb. 15), at Royal Jubilee Hospital. Registration is required.

For details, please email or call 250-516-7673.

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