PINEHURST – Because the effects of anesthesia were playing tricks on his short-term memory at the time, David Seiberling never quite got the name of the Zipper Club member who slipped into his hospital room after his triple bypass nearly five years ago.
He has no trouble recalling his visitor’s message, though.
“He talked to me in a very positive way about getting through this (open-heart experience),” Seiberling says. “He talked about the importance of a positive attitude in allowing yourself to go forward.”
Eventually, Seiberling started visiting with open-heart patients himself. He now spends a part of every Sunday with men and women who have just had surgery and, like his own visitor in March 2007, he shares a story of common experience and hope.
“It’s kind of a lift to see someone standing there who has gone through this, getting them to understand that once they go home they can have a much better life than they had before surgery,” Seiberling says. “That’s the reason the Zipper Club works. I’ve been there. When I tell people that, and they see me standing there with a little color in my face, it makes everything a little more valid.”
Each of the 14 groups that meet regularly at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital tries to make shared experiences “a little more valid” by offering education as well as support. They reach people with a variety of medical conditions.
In addition to the Zipper Club, a group for people who have had open-heart surgery, there’s FirstQuit, for tobacco-cessation, as well as groups for stroke, post-polio, fibromyalgia and cancer, even breast-feeding mothers.
A Behavioral Services group serves veterans of military operations dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to Ashley Atkinson, of FirstHealth Corporate Education, people who attend support groups meet peers who have traveled the same medical journey and have similar medical goals. Some also seek and find a “sounding board” for their thoughts and concerns.
Each group is special in its own way, Atkinson says – not only in the disease- or condition-specific information that is shared, but also in the way participants react and respond to each other.
“They come together in a common desire for support and education,” she says.
People dealing with grief and loss find support and solace in groups, too, and the Grief Resource & Counseling Center at FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care has offered many support groups throughout the years. According to Tina Gibbs, associate director of FirstHealth Hospice, some offer information provided in a single session while others meet continuously, on a monthly or semi-monthly basis, over an extended period of time.
Groups help people who have experienced similar losses work their way through different stages of the grief process, says Gibbs. Some target specific groups of people – men only, for example, or children or teens.
”These groups give people an opportunity to come together who share a common situation,” says Gibbs. “They have suffered a loss and are looking for information and support to help them cope with the changes they are going through.”
All support groups, those focused on specific diseases as well as those dealing with grief and loss, allow their participants to develop bonds.
“Friendships often result,” Gibbs says. “The group environment helps people realize that they are not alone in what they are going through and that there are resources available to help them.”
That is especially true of the Zipper Club, one of FirstHealth’s oldest support groups. Now Moore Regional’s interim chief nursing officer, Cheryl Batchelor, R.N., was a clinical nurse specialist when she helped organize the group shortly after the start of the hospital’s open-heart program 20 years ago.
“The Zipper Club grew out of a desire of a few community members who wanted support for these patients during and after open-heart surgery,” she says. “The ability of Zipper volunteers to share their patient experiences with others provides both emotional and practical support.”
A retired band director whose heart problems were discovered during a work-up prior to surgery for prostate cancer, Seiberling says many of the open-heart patients he has encountered throughout the years are anxious for the shared companionship that support groups provide.
Discussing common experiences is “very healthy for them,” he says. “It makes them feel much more alive to be able to connect with somebody.”
For more information on the disease- or condition-specific support groups offered by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, call 715-5266. For more information on the groups currently being offered by the Grief Resource & Counseling Center at FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care, call 715-6000.
FirstHealth Hosts a Variety of Support Groups
FirstHealth of the Carolinas hosts 14 different support groups that meet regularly on the campus of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital or at nearby locations. Their names and meeting dates, times and locations, along with contract information, follow.
For information on the various grief and loss support groups sponsored by FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care, call 715-6000.
Bariatric, 7 p.m., first Thursday and third Monday of each month, Renaissance Room at Pinehurst Surgical, 5 FirstVillage Drive, Pinehurst. For more information call 255-3690.
Better Breathers, 10 a.m., third Tuesday of each month, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 692-9103 or 715-5266.
Breast Cancer, 7 p.m., second Monday of the month, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-5266.
Cancer, 2 p.m. every Tuesday, Sunroom, Cancer Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-5266.
Cancer Survivors, 11 a.m., second Tuesday of the month, Sunroom, Cancer Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-2298.
CODA, 7 p.m., every Monday, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-5266.
Fibromyalgia, 7 p.m., second Tuesday of each month, Conference Room, Outpatient
FirstQuit (tobacco cessation), noon, every Thursday, FirstHealth Taylortown Building, 181-C Westgate Drive, West End. For more information, call 295-8047.
Lupus, 4 p.m., third Sunday of each month, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-5266.
NAMI-MC (National Alliance on Mental Illness-Moore County), 7 p.m., first Monday of each month, Community Classroom, FirstHealth Specialty Centers Building, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 295-1053.
Post-Deployment Group, 11 a.m., every Monday, Behavioral Services, FirstHealth
Sandhills Ostomy Association, 3 p.m., first Sunday of each month, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For information, call 215-8086 or 715-5266.
Stroke, 10:30 a.m. the second Saturday of each month, Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-1658 or 715-5266.
The Zipper Club, 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of each month. Conference Center, Moore Regional Hospital. For more information, call 715-5266.