Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A new nonprofit is bringing heart back to Williamsburg

Dan Dollarhide (left) and Craig Hardison are leaders behind the new Williamsburg chapter of the national non-profit Mended Hearts. Dollarhide is a visiting chairperson Hardison is chapter president. Both are accredited visitors through the organization’s program. (WYDaily/Courtesy Craig Hardison)
Dan Dollarhide (left) and Craig Hardison are leaders behind the new Williamsburg chapter of the national non-profit Mended Hearts. Dollarhide is a visiting chairperson Hardison is chapter president. Both are accredited visitors through the organization’s program. (WYDaily/Courtesy Craig Hardison)

The Historic Triangle will no longer be home to the lonely hearts club.

A chapter of the national nonprofit Mended Hearts will be officially chartered at the Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Hospital on Feb. 21.

The organization is aimed at providing companionship, education and community to those with heart conditions.

Craig Hardison and Dan Dollarhide are the pair behind the chapter, having gone through life-altering heart experiences themselves.

“You’d be surprised how confident someone can become when they know they have someone to share the experience with,” Dollarhide said. “Just listening to someone else’s experiences sometimes gives people a great deal of strength.”

Dollarhide has had a 33-year history with heart issues that began on a regular afternoon at a backyard party. When he was just 45 years old, Dollarhide found himself suddenly feeling off. After a few minutes, he passed out and didn’t regain consciousness for 18 hours.

Doctors told him he had a heart-attack and prescribed him medication. During the next three decades, Dollarhide would be given a pacemaker that would save his life on seven separate occasions, he would have multiple surgeries and, most significantly, he was visited by a member of Mended Hearts.

“My life was impacted forever, so having that visitor was something that gave me encouragement to know that I wasn’t alone,” he said.

For Hardison, the news he had a heart defect came as a total shock, especially because he had 12 separate surgeries during which none of the doctors mentioned he might have a problem. It wasn’t until about a year ago when his general practitioner was performing a checkup that the doctor noticed there was an issue.

Since then, Hardison was given a stent, which is a tiny tube that is inserted into a blocked passageway to keep it open.

It was during rehabilitation that Hardison and Dollarhide met and knew they wanted to share their companionship with others.

Dollarhide had been a member of a Mended Hearts chapter when he was living in Washington, D.C. and he wanted to start a chapter in Williamsburg. Hardison knew the closest chapters were in Richmond and Norfolk but from his own experience, he wanted to give people closer options to connect to those who’d gone through issues with their heart.

“My (wife) always gave me the support I needed but it’s different when you talk to someone that’s been through it,” Hardison said. “It’s just a little different and it means just a little bit more because they know…they know what it’s like.”

Hardison and Dollarhide said the idea of starting a local chapter was welcomed by Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Hospital, where the Williamsburg organization will be chartered.

Since November, the pair has been able to gather 10 official members and have about eight more signed up. But the program has not started their accredited visiting program yet, which is where members become certified to share experiences on a one-to-one basis.

While having a visiting program is in works, the group is currently having visiting speakers and collective meetings to share educational information and experiences.

But most importantly, they’re just looking to connect with each other.

“We want people to know they have a support system when they go through something like this,” Hardison said. “We’re giving all of our heart.”

The Williamsburg chapter of Mended Hearts meets every third Thursday from 3-4 p.m. at the Sentara Yorktown Conference Room.

Their official charting ceremony will be on Feb. 21 at 3 p.m. at the Sentara Yorktown Conference Room.

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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