Longtime friends Terri (Crilly) Hollenbeck and Janelle (Clark) Wolf have always been close, even when miles apart. However, the heart attacks they both suffered last year helped to bring them even closer.

“We were often mistaken as sisters when we were younger,” said 52-year-old Terri, who moved back to Wamego, Kansas, 10 years ago, just two years before Janelle did. “So it’s weirdly hilarious that we both had a heart attack at the same age, in the same town and did rehab at the same facility.”

Terri said her May 2019 heart attack blindsided her, as all of a sudden, “it felt like I had a rib out of place.”

It was a scary and unfamiliar feeling that she said she wouldn’t want anyone to have to experience, much less her best friend.

Unfortunately, Janelle suffered hers just two months later.

“I wouldn’t have paid as close attention to my heart if Terri hadn’t called to reconnect and tell me about hers,” Janelle said.

Both had a mesh wire stent placed via catheter, a procedure that allows blood to flow without blockage through a major coronary artery, reducing the chance of another heart attack.

“After surgery, I wanted to learn more about how I could work toward living healthier,” Terri said. So did Janelle, but they needed help to do so. The six-week Cardiac Rehab program at Wamego Health Center, a joint venture of Ascension Via Christi and the City of Wamego, provided what they needed during their two to three visits each week.

“I knew if anything happened, one of the nurses would jump in to help,” said Janelle, adding that staff carefully checked her heart activity during and after each exercise. She appreciated that as well as the opportunity to continue to use the facility for the next month as she transitioned to exercising on her own.

Terri appreciated the program’s flexible scheduling and pleasant environment. “The nurses were exceptional no matter what time of day I visited and the rehab center was always so clean and bright,” she said.

After the program, Terri bought an elliptical machine to continue her progress, while Janelle continues to cut back on her daily consumption of sodium and sugar after years of blindly salting her foods.

Although the education they received continues to help them stay on track, it was the staff who had the most significant impact.

“They worked with me so well,” said Janelle, who said knowing that help was always nearby helped make her feel safe.

Terri agreed, adding, “I was surrounded by alert nurses who knew what you needed and didn’t hesitate to make you comfortable. It made all the difference in my recovery.”

And as they continue their recovery, they have each other for ongoing support and encouragement.


Photo: Janelle Wolf, left, and Terri Hollenbeck.