Better Heart Health - Stitch by Stitch

Helen Martin and Nancy Zeiman at the 2008 Quilt Expo with a Go Red for Women quiltMADISON - When UW Hospital and Clinics nurse Helen Martin (pictured left with Nancy Zeiman) needed a special project to complete her graduate school studies at Edgewood College, the natural choice was to combine her two passions - quilting and nursing.


So Martin pulled together educational materials and set out to teach women about heart health while they sewed. The result was not only a top grade, but also the beginning of a larger project intended to spread the word about women's heart health to quilters across Wisconsin.


Her efforts became part of the American Heart Association's national Go Red For Women campaign. UW Health is the exclusive Madison partner for Go Red.

"Women who quilt tend to be sedentary, and that makes them a group that needs to know about the facts and risks of heart disease," says Martin, who works in the hospital's medical-surgical unit. "Plus, it's a captive audience, and I'm in a unique position - I know and love quilting, and I know this audience is receptive to what I'm saying."

Taking Her Message to Quilters

Martin's first presentation, to a group of six women at the Belleville-based Patches and Petals quilting shop, resulted in the creation of a Go Red For Women quilt that the group will donate to the American Heart Association.

It was also a harbinger of bigger things to come. Since then, Martin's spoken to groups of several hundred, and, at the Quilt Expo at the Alliant Energy Center this fall, she and UW Health brought the Go Red message to more than 13,000 quilters.

Through Martin sharing a heart health message, quilters and quilt shops have committed to donating at least 12 quilts (and counting!) to auctioned to support the American Heart Association and its Go Red message.

Along the way, another nurse joined the effort. Deb Loughrin, RN, is also a quilter and shares her story in "If I knew then what I know now…," included in this newsletter. Read Deb's Story

Get Involved - Calling All Quilters

That's how it started… but Go Red For Women needs more help in order for Martin to achieve her goal for Go Red. We need quilters to:

  • Purchase Go Red For Women Quilts and Quilt Note Cards to support the American Heart Association: A series set of six note cards inspired by the Go Red For Women quilts are for sale for $10 along with several of the quilts (prices vary).

  • Attend the American Heart Association Go Red For Women Luncheon on April 16, 2009

  • Learn more about women's heart health and UW Health's partnership with the American Heart Association in our Go Red For Women section.

The Heart Disease Threat


Heart disease kills one in three women and is the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, heart disease kills more people than the next five causes of death combined. In 2007, 57 percent of women recognized the red dress as a symbol of heart disease awareness. Yet only 13 percent of women believe that heart disease is a threat to their personal health.

Date Published: 10/23/2008

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