The parish of Our Lady of the Valley in Middleburgh is the home of a unique new support group for parishioners and community members: the Zipper Club.

The group is meant to provide support and advice for anyone who has undergone cardiovascular surgery or has to live with a diet to promote cardiovascular health.

The Zipper Club was created by OLV parishioner Tom Valosin, who had a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery in July 2015.

After first hearing that the heart attack was very severe, Mr. Valosin had better news after a second consultation. He was able to wear an external "defibrillator vest" for a time before his heart surgery, and said he had "a very good recovery.

"I had none of the traditional signs of a heart attack," he added. "I had taught first aid. I taught for the American Red Cross. I taught EMTs. But nobody gave me the memo about this."

Mr. Valosin told The Evangelist that, even though he thought he knew the facts about heart attacks, he still struggled. The hardest part was enjoying his favorite foods while sticking to his new, low-sodium diet. He'd discussed how to change his diet ­effectively in post-operation cardio rehabilitation sessions, but he wanted more support.

Knowing that there were many others at OLV who had suffered some sort of heart problems as well, Mr. Valosin approached Rev. Matthew Wetsel, pastor, about starting a support group for people in the same boat. After a few weeks, the group was up and running, with anywhere from four to eight people in attendance.

The Zipper Club talks about different ways of healing, side effects of medications and how members of the group are feeling. A major focus of the group is trying out different cardio-healthy foods, such as adapted recipes for fudge and baked goods.

So far, members are enjoying the camaraderie. "We just want to have some community between us," Mr. Valosin said. The goal, he told The Evangelist, is just to keep life as normal as possible, while also living in as healthy a manner as possible.

(The Zipper Club's next meeting is April 8, 9:45 a.m., in the parish hall. For more information, call Our Lady of the Valley's parish offices, 518-827-3301.)