A Wearside group which helps people to live life to the full despite having serious heart problems is celebrating a quarter of a century since it began.
Sunderland Cardiac Support Group, a registered charity, was by a handful of cardiac patients who had finished their treatment, including 12 sessions of voluntary rehabilitation.
Barry Cook was instrumental in helping to grow the organisation after he began to suffer heart trouble in his mid 50s.
Today, the group’s meetings at Bede Tower consists of gentle exercise provided by specialist physiotherapists to help the patient gain confidence before being discharged.
Barry, who is secretary and trustee of the group, told the Echo: “At that time, once you were discharged there was no support group for cardiac trauma patients.
“A few of the patients who had made friends with each other decided it would be nice to meet up, maybe once a month for a coffee to see how they were getting on.
“Cardiac Trauma can affect people for a while, not knowing what the future holds especially if you are young, as I was when I had a heart attack at 55 while on holiday with my wife.
“The physios at Sunderland Royal Hospital thought it was a great idea and managed to obtain a room for them to meet up once a month in the hospital.
“This quickly became a small social group as more patients heard about it.”
After a few years of the group’s existence numbers grew and with the help of the physios and the cardiac nurses an exercise group was formed, based at Crowtree Leisure Centre.
A specialised trainer, qualified to the same standards as the hospital physios was hired, equipment obtained, and a small exercise class started one morning a week.
Again, this grew as the patient finishing their rehab could be referred, which still applies today.
A committee was formed, all heart patients and unpaid volunteers, as it still is the case today.
The exercise group however was in danger of finishing when Crowtree Leisure Centre was demolished.
Mr Cook added: “Sunderland City Council offered us an alternative venue, the Seaburn Centre.
“We lost a lot of members who found it difficult to get to.
“By then we had two trainers and around 80 people exercising over three mornings a week.
“This quickly reduced, and we knew we had to do something quick.”
With the Echo’s help, the group put out an appeal as it looked for a new venue.
Mr Cook said: “Thankfully, Bethany City Church contacted us and said they were in the process of opening a church in Burdon Road in Sunderland and the sports hall could be suitable.
“Our chairman James Baker and myself had a look and it ticked all the boxes, so we moved there in November 2013.
“We have never looked back, and we thank them for their help and support over the years.”
The group is self -funded and relies on donations and fundraising to survive.
Those wanting to find out more about the group or anyone who has a heart condition and is seeking support should go to www.sunderlandcardiac.org.uk