Taking helping to heart

Heather Allan and Shelly Westlake are proud volunteers. 167965

Many people think about becoming a volunteer – but it takes a lot of heart to become a volunteer for a Cardiac Rehabilitation Program that you have only just completed yourself.
That was the case for Ocean Grove’s Shelly Westlake. After suffering angina for several years, an angiogram revealed Shelly had several blockages in her heart. She underwent a triple bypass in 2013 and then joined Bellarine Community Health’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program as part of her recovery.
“When I first started the program I thought I was going to die from the exercise,” the 65-year-old said.
“But each week my health got better and better and it was great to be with a group of people all experiencing the same thing.”
Just six months after completing the program, Shelly and her partner Heather Allan became volunteers with the program. The pair wanted to help others deal with the stress of recovery, a situation they were all too familiar with.
“The people going through the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program can relate to Shelly and I because we’ve been through exactly what they’re going through,” Heather said.
“Shelly can talk to them about the physical and mental side of the recovery, and I help the family, friends and carers deal with the stress that they’re going through,” she says.
Shelly and Heather spend three hours each week with members of the program and say they get a lot of satisfaction from being volunteers.
“When you’ve come through heart surgery yourself, they say you’ve been given a second chance at life,” Shelly said.
“It’s so nice to be able to give back and support people, and to see them come through the program and then walk out the door better physically and mentally.”
Shelly and Heather belong to Bellarine Community Health’s army of volunteers who work across the organisation.
Next week is National Volunteer Week, an annual celebration of the contribution made by wonderful volunteers around the country.