Nurse Educates About Heart Disease While Quilting

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Go Red for WomenMADISON - When UW Hospital and Clinics nurse Helen Martin 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 the state of 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, she'll have the opportunity to bring the Go Red message to more than 6,000 quilters.


Martin's goal has been to get more quilts made to auction at the American Heart Association Go Red For Women Luncheon in 2008. A few months ago, she happened to show her quilt to Donna Sollenberger, the outgoing president and CEO of UW Hospital and Clinics. Sollenberger was impressed – both by Martin's story and her exquisite quilt. So Sollenberger immediately promised to donate materials to support Martin's goal.


Along the way, another nurse joined the effort. Deb Loughrin, RN, is also a quilter and friend of Martin's who had a special interest in the cause - she's also a heart attack survivor. Read Deb's Story


Martin plans to continue her efforts to promote Go Red for Women well beyond this weekend's Quilt Expo. She's available to speak to quilting groups about heart-healthy strategies while they sew.


"The education part of this is the most important aspect," notes Martin. "The focus should be on learning…and doing something you enjoy while you're doing it." 


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:

  • Invite Helen Martin and our heart health experts to your next quilting session – we've got information that you need, and while you sew, we'll offer great tips for staying heart healthy. Request a Go Red Speaker


  • Get your guild to donate a quilt for the American Heart Association 2008 Go Red For Women Luncheon Quilt Auction. Donate a Quilt


  • Donate a block to American Heart Association Go Red For Women. Donate a Quilt Block


  • Visit the American Heart Association Go Red For Women exhibit at quilt shows throughout the state between August 2007 and April 2008


  • Join the American Heart Association Go Red For Women Luncheon on April 17, 2008 (details to come, closer to the event date)


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

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: 12/28/2007

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