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A lifelong connection to the heart

As a cardiac nurse, Jo Bell spent her career supporting and treating patients with heart conditions. Since her retirement, she has developed a lifelong connection with the Heart Foundation, helping to prevent heart disease in her community.

Jocelyn Bell wears a white top and sits in front of a window.

Pursuing her passion for cardiac nursing

Jo’s first involvement with the Heart Foundation was in 1969, just after the organisation was founded. As a young nurse at Southland Hospital, Invercargill, she was photographed seated inside a vintage fire engine holding a Heart Foundation banner. The photo appeared on the front page of the Southland Daily Times.

Black and white photo of Jocelyn Bell sitting in a vintage fire truck holding a Heart Foundation banner. She is handing a bag of money over to an important looking official. Jocelyn Bell in 1969, Southland Hospital, Invercargill

“Afterwards, in 1973, I was working in London on my OE. A charge nurse asked me to view their cardiothoracic intensive care unit at a Harley Street Clinic,” recalls Jo. “I was immediately hooked and started training as a new recruit.”

Continuing to support the community with their heart health

“I stopped nursing in 2015,” says Jo, “but I came out of retirement to help with the Covid-19 vaccination drive.”

Jo also helps with giving lectures in the community, promoting Heart Foundation events and helping convene Heart Support meetings in Stoke, Richmond and at the Ernest Rutherford Retirement Village.

“As a retired cardiac nurse specialist, I can provide valuable assistance and advice to those trying to come to terms with their heart condition,” she says. “Patients often need explanation around their discharge letters because of the medical jargon and use of medical abbreviations.”

A commitment to supporting the work of the Heart Foundation

For the past 20 years, Jo has been fundraising for the Heart Foundation at street collections and sporting events.

“I hold the buckets at rugby games and enjoy doing the Big Heart Appeal street collection in Nelson,” she says. “I also assist with pulse and basic heart health checks in the wider community and enjoy supporting our local Heart Health Advocate, Averil West, in Rai Valley, Blenheim, Motueka, St. Arnaud’s and up to Tapawera.”

In 2020, Jo helped with a study into the effectiveness of cardiac rehab groups after a heart event. This critical study found that after three years, those who attended rehab groups were generally in much better health and more informed than those that didn’t.

“It’s all about balance,” she says. “After a whole career of dedication to looking after the heart, I can say that you’re fighting a tough battle without a good heart. People are now living longer but age differently. We need to continually raise awareness around how to live a happier and fuller life – which starts with eating the right foods and awareness of the benefits of mental and physical wellbeing.”

Recognition of valuable service

In 1997, Jo was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the Heart Foundation for her valuable contributions towards their work. At that time, she was a charge nurse in the cardiology ward at Greenlane Hospital.

“I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity to work with esteemed medical professionals in cardiothoracic, coronary care units and other heart-related areas in New Zealand and overseas. I have witnessed the many advances in technology to help improve patient outcomes,” she says.

“It’s vital to be aware of your heart health risk factors. If you’re overweight and don’t exercise, it affects your chances of running into health issues down the line and can become a domino effect.”

Big Heart Appeal street collection

Jo has always seen it as her duty to help those around her, and she isn’t stopping any time soon.

“We really need help with the Big Heart Appeal street collection in February 2023,” she says. “I know first-hand just how big a difference it can make to people’s lives when they have the right support around them, both in the hospital and after they get out. Along with the importance of raising money for ongoing heart research and fellowship grants.”

Sign up to volunteer

Please visit if you’d like to volunteer as a street collector for the Big Heart Appeal on Friday 24 or Saturday 25 February.

Heart disease can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. But by coming together, we can fund more life-saving heart research.