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The Happy Hearts Story

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From working as the lead Exercise Practitioner for both the Cardiac and Respiratory Rehabilitation Programmes at Salisbury District Hospital, Wiltshire for nearly 10 years, Salli realised that there was very little on offer in the community, for patients to continue exercising after finishing rehabilitation programmes, and so allowing them to continue to improve their fitness. Seeing patients becoming more independent and improving their future was the inspiration for Happy Hearts. Starting with just one class a week, within a very short space of time Happy Hearts were soon providing 14 sessions a week at different venues, between Wiltshire, Dorset and Hampshire, keeping around 800 members exercising a month.

Happy Hearts is  not just about the exercise per se, but simply allowing each person to improve on simple everyday tasks, such as getting out of a chair, getting out of bed, bending down or enjoying spending time in the garden, as well as improving mood, confidence and sense of well being.

Our growth in the community is most definitely due to the fact we provide a community of support and friendship. We care about each individual, everyone is not treated exactly the same as no two people are exactly the same. We all have different requirements, abilities and individual goals.

We pride ourselves on the fact that we are unique, as we can offer classes for those that have more than one risk factor to their health issues. It may simply be that you are de-conditioned (especially after the year of lock down) and simply want to get moving again so you can regain some independence.

Of course, in March 2020 activities were hit by the Covid restrictions and for obvious reasons all ‘face to face’ classes had to cease and so here we are today providing on-line fitness sessions. We appreciate it is not for everyone, for one reason or another. But for those that have joined us they have progressed in leaps and bounds.  It is a pleasure to see the improvements and commitment and sense of well-being.

 

Salli's Happy Hearts program now offers exercise sessions to include: people at risk from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stress and COPD and anyone of a certain age that wants to take care of their heart health and mental wellbeing. We also offer classes for Beginners / Improvers through to the more advanced, Seated Sessions, Balance and Stability, Heart Health Educational webinars, Heart Failure Clinics and One to One sessions for those who are screen shy.

Hello, I'm Salli

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Salli with Simon Gillespiee, CEO of the BHF.

 

In June 2016 she was awarded the’ British Heart Foundation Heart Hero’ Award at the House of Lords for her outstanding contribution and innovation in her approach to Cardiac Rehabilitation.

Salli Grant has now been in the fitness industry for 35 years.

She went to Westwood St Thomas School (now Sarum Academy) and on to Middlesex Polytechnic where in 1986 she achieved a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Performing Arts which included dance, drama and music. She then went straight into the fitness industry gaining a P.E.A certificate in Exercise & Health Studies. Salli spent the next decade furthering her knowledge learning different disciplines of exercise and gaining further qualifications also gaining a City & Guilds Assessor Award qualifying Salli to instruct, educate and examine those wishing to come into the fitness industry. 

Salli soon became involved with many top fitness companies in London, Bristol and Birmingham, speaking, presenting and examining at fitness events and seminars including ‘Nike Fitness’. Nike awarded Salli their ‘Nike Premier Fitness Instructor’ award of which only ten were awarded nationally. 

 

It was only a change in her personal life in 2001 that led Salli into Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehabilitation when Salisbury District Hospital invited her to lead the rehabilitation exercise sessions for those patients suffering respiratory disorders. ‘’ From the moment I took my very first session I knew this is what I wanted to do’’ and for the next eight years Salli set up and ran exercise sessions for patients on both Cardiac and the Pulmonary Rehabilitation programs. Despite the considerable workload, she conscientiously developed her own training over this period achieving qualifications in OU degree module Pulmonary Rehabilitation, British Lung Foundation (BLF) Level 4 Exercise Training for Chronic Respiratory Disease, and subsequently a British Association for Cardiac & Preventative Rehabilitation (BACPR) Phase III and Phase IV Instructor qualification.

Seeing the benefits of helping people to build a better future and them becoming healthier both physically and mentally, Salli was determined to reach out to more in the community who could not, or would not, begin to help themselves without a nudge. Consequentially Salli set up her own company in 2006 called ‘Happy Hearts’. She set up community classes at village halls, schools, church halls, and sports centres allowing patients, especially older ones, to continue to exercise near their home, without the need to travel too far. Soon Happy Hearts offered 14 sessions a week with around 800 attending each month.

In June 2016 she was awarded the’ British Heart Foundation Heart Hero’ Award at the House of Lords for her outstanding Contribution and Innovation in her approach to Cardiac Rehabilitation.

 

But on 10th October 2016 Salli suffered an unimaginable tragedy when her two children, Jackson 17 years and Millie 12 years were both killed in a road traffic accident. She found herself in a very deep and dark place; an unimaginable nightmare with her future life being taken away. Salli seriously believed she could no longer continue Happy Hearts. However, her most dedicated class members refused to give up on her and kept the classes going, for many months even though in much reduced numbers until she felt she should return.

Hello, I'm Nigel

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I am 63 years old and I had a 23 year career in the Army and have been involved in lots of physical training and as got older became a very keen runner and the thought that I might have some form of a heart problem never occurred to me.

On the 26th of April 2008, aged 47, my world was turned upside down and everything changed... I suffered a 90% Stenosis of the Right coronary Artery which led to me having a Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack) little did I know this was to change my life - for the better.

In the aftermath of my Heart Attack and with the uncertainty of my future at the forefront of mine and my and families thoughts,  I was invited to attend Cardiac Rehabilitation at Odstock Hospital in Salisbury this was a great decision and  this is where I had the most fortunate luck to meet Salli Grant from Happy Hearts, a specialist Health and Fitness group focusing on the recovery and prevention of respiratory and cardiac conditions through Exercise and Community support.

I had a 23 year career in the Army and have been involved in vast amounts of physical training. p.s I haven’t had a cigarette since the 26 April 2008 and I am 2 stone lighter!!!

I have been attending to the present day and over the years I have been helping out with the new comers to Happy Hearts and talk quite regularly about my experiences and also demonstrate CPR on our Resuscitation mannequins and Use of AED's (Automatic External Defibrillators), I am also an official speaker for the British Heart Foundation.

Happy Hearts has been a Massive part of my rehabilitation and I would recommend Salli's Classes to anyone who has had or is having Cardiac problems, or just wants to get fit in a fun and vibrant exercise class... you are all welcome.

Hello, I'm Geoff

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Capt.(E) Geoff Stokes RFA (Rtd) spent 42 years in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service, reaching the rank of Captain (E)

I suffer with continued angina and at the age of 57 I had heart surgery to have two stents fitted. Following the surgery, I was retired off and found this very difficult to come to terms with. At the time, I was overweight (some 15 ½ stone) and did little to no exercise. I drank far too much and although ate well, had far too much of the ‘wrong’ food. I worked long hours, travelled extensively and - I realise now - I became extremely stressed.

Following my surgery I attended the Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation program, and although initially I thought it wasn’t for me, I soon realised that it was the perfect platform to start the ‘rest of my life’. As soon as I started to eat more healthily, lose weight and get fitter, the better I felt, although depression and anxiety continued for some time. I had some good days, some bad days - a bit like a roller coaster ride but eventually the good outweighed the bad.

On completion of the Phase III programme, I was invited to a Phase IV group ‘Happy Hearts’, ran by Salli Grant, to continue to exercise. Salli ran one class at this time but as number grew so did the classes. They weren’t just exercise classes but a time when people in the same position could talk about their problems. It soon became evident that the emotional effects of heart surgery can cause anxiety and depression not withstanding the side effects of drugs. This in turn can cause problems at home, work, with relationships and socially.

I suffered all the above but exercising and talking to others in the same position got me though it and to where I am today. I needed someone who had been through it, the same as myself, to advise, help and encourage me.

Today I’m a fit, healthy 70 year old that works as Happy Hearts Admin and Support Leader talking and encouraging heart patients to get fit and well. Along with this I also work with the BHF as a Care and Prevention promotion volunteer, talking to groups with regard to Heart Health.

Unfortunately, the Covid 19 pandemic slowed our progress for a while, but we have now turned to zoom to conduct our classes and offer advise.

Hello, I'm Emma

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Emma was born in Salisbury and knew from a young age that she wanted to become a paramedic. At 10 years old she became a St John Ambulance Cadet, taking over the leadership of the unit when she turned 18.

Her proudest achievement in the Cadets was being named as the County Cadet of the Year for Wiltshire and being invited to celebrate this role at Buckingham Palace with Princess Anne.

Emma was also lucky enough to meet Prince Edward when she received her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, having undertaken her final two expeditions on horseback. During this time, Emma was also a member of Girlguiding and also worked at the local Leisure Centre, leading children's active birthday parties each weekend.

Presently a Lead Paramedic in Salisbury.

In 2009 Emma moved to London and joined the Ambulance Service, initially in a patient transport role, soon moving to the urgent care transfers of both Private and NHS Patients. A large proportion of this role was safely taking patients to the hospital to which they had been admitted, to a facility where they would receive Cardiac Surgery. This is where Emma sparked an interest in Heart Health.

At St Georges University London, Emma successfully undertook her Foundation Degree in Paramedic Science. This course included clinical placements in departments such as Maternity, Operating Theatres, Elderly Care Wards and A&E, as well as fifty percent of the course being based on Ambulances in the hustle and bustle of South London.

During her time in London, Emma met her now husband Jim and she was very pleased that when an opportunity arose to return to Salisbury in 2013, he agreed to the move too! Since this time, Emma has worked in various roles based at Salisbury Ambulance Station, both in solo roles on Rapid Response Ambulance Cars and with a crew mate on an Ambulance, each with their own challenges. During the Novichok incidents, Emma was working as an Operational Officer at Salisbury Ambulance Station, supporting staff throughout the protracted aftermath of the incidents, as well as helping to ensure that "Business as Usual" continued for the ongoing wellbeing of the local population. Emma continues to work part- time as a Lead Paramedic in Salisbury alongside her role with Happy Hearts.

The couple now have two children, the youngest of whom has just started school. Emma is looking forward to using these additional hours in the day to reprioritise her own health and lifestyle, with exercise, swimming and hopefully horse riding again one day soon.

This extra time is also what has enabled Emma to join the Happy Hearts Team and she is really looking forward to meeting you and supporting you as you learn more about your own Heart Health.

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