Our History

The Mended Hearts, Inc. 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. MHI is the largest cardiovascular support organization in the world.

Founded by Dr. Dwight E. Harken, The Mended Hearts, Inc. 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, Alphonse Santomassimo, 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. Our organization recently received a copy of a Mended Hearts Article 1953 announcing the first annual meeting in Boston in 1953.

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.

Recognized for its role in facilitating a positive patient-care experience, Mended Hearts has provided over 70 years of service. We have over 260 local chapters and satellites nationwide, and partners with 350 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Mended Hearts offers services to heart patients through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums. You can watch our full history HERE.

This year, in honor of our 70th Anniversary, we’ll spend seven months (beginning in February, our birth month), sharing the details of MHI’s history.  For a look at MHI in the 1950’s, please click HERE.

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