The History of Mended Hearts

Mended Hearts is a national and community-based non-profit organization that has been offering the gift of hope to heart disease patients, their families and caregivers. Mended Hearts is the largest cardiovascular support organization in the world.

Founded by Dr. Dwight E. Harken, The Mended Hearts was started with four of Dr. Harken’s open heart surgery patients. In January 1951 Dr. Harken asked Doris Silliman, one of the first 50 patients to ever have heart surgery, and three other post-surgery heart patients – Keith Otto, Alford Santimassino and Elizabeth Wilkinson – to meet at the hospital. They spoke of their new feeling of well-being, their plans and hopes for the future — and with renewed happiness they spoke of their “mended hearts.” They realized how wonderful it would be to provide support and help others facing the same experience.

With the assistance of Dr. Harken they formed an organization, wrote up a charter and planned their membership contacts with the aid of the hospital workers. They called themselves the Mended Hearts. They often spoke of how great it was to be alive and to help others.

In 2004, Mended Hearts realized that families whose children were born with a congenital heart defect were in need of the peer-to-peer support that Mended Hearts provided. At that time, the organization expanded and Mended Little Hearts was formed as a program of Mended Hearts to offer support to the “littlest heart patients of all”. For more information, visit www.mendedlittlehearts.org.

Recognized for its role in facilitating a positive patient-care experience, Mended Hearts has provided over 60 years of service. View the Mended Hearts 60-Year History PowerPoint and Timeline Highlights, prepared for the 60th anniversary convention, May 2012. We have over 300 local chapters and satellites nationwide, and partners with 460 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Mended Hearts offers services to heart patients through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums.