“Mended Hearts” one of many booths at Health and Fitness Expo

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Robert Einstein has been collecting pins for his hat since 1995.

They each represent a year he’s been a survivor after several heart surgeries.

“It’s an honor to wear it, number one. To be alive to be able to wear it and to pay back,” said Einstein.

Part of the way Robert returns the favor is being part of “Mended Hearts.”

It’s a support group for people who have had open heart surgery.

“We usually talk to the patients prior to the surgery, after the surgery, and we follow up on the visits at the hospital,” said member Terry Vilardi.

Vilardi is a volunteer in the group now, but says it was the “Mended Hearts” who came and saw him after his open heart surgery.

“It feels good to give back letting them know they can talk to a person who’s gone through the whole open heart surgery instead of talking to somebody who’s never been in those shoes before,” he said.

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