Some things are meant to be in life.
Being diagnosed with heart failure at the age of 44 was a tough thing for Jill Rogerson to go through, but it made her stronger and appreciate what life threw at her.
Ironically, three years later, she was offered the role of chief executive of Preston charity Heartbeat, which aims to reduce cardiovascular disease through its services.
Using her own personal experience, Jill is even more determined to support people with heart conditions and help deliver healthy rehabilitation programmes.
The 51-year-old says: “In 2009, after a busy and stressful year at work I started to experience what I thought were palpitations.
“It turned out that I was in fact making extra heartbeats rather than missing them, they were called ectopic beats.
“I was assured that it could be quite normal and I was referred for further testing only to be told two months later, at the age 44, that I had heart failure.
“It was a shock, it made me question my mortality.
“I was straight into the loft for my papers, wrote my Will and I of course worried about my daughter, Katie.
“I questioned why me, I have never smoked, I enjoy an odd glass of wine, I liked to walk and ate reasonably healthily.
“I remember the cardiologist saying to me ‘heart disease doesn’t discriminate,’ and he was right.
“I began medication and three months later was told that things were better than initially thought and although there was no cure and I would have limitations, “I would be able to just get on with things, which I have ever since.
“In 2012 a friend of mine sent me a link to a job out of the blue.
“I wasn’t looking for one, I remember thinking, how random, until I read it.
“The job advert was for Heartbeat, a charity which was established more than 37 years ago, fighting hard to reduce heart disease.
“I am not sure if I found the job or it found me but I had a feeling we were meant to be together.
“The deadline for applications was 5pm that day so I rushed home and applied in my lunch break.
“On my first ever trip to the charity for my interview it instinctively felt right, even though having come from a women’s world I was interviewed by five men and later grilled by Heartbeat’s 12 male trustees.
“The rest is history and next month I will have been with Heartbeat five years.
“I have the overall responsibility for the running of the charity, as well as having strategic and leadership responsibility I like to get involved operationally when I can.
“I am totally committed to the cause being a heart patient myself.
“Daily I am involved in all aspects but focus on sustaining a secure financial future for the charity as well ensuring that both the range and the quality of the services we deliver contributes to a reduction in heart disease, one of our main objectives.
“My aim for heartbeat is to secure a strong sustainable future for the charity; to deliver services to as many people affected by or at risk of being affected by heart disease, across Lancashire and the North West and to contribute to a reduction in heart disease by raising awareness of heart risk factors across all age groups.”
Jill, who lives in Eccles, is proud of the achievements of the charity’s dedicated staff and volunteers.
She adds: “It is a wonderful charity with a brilliant dedicated team who do amazing work.
“One in seven women and one in four people in the region will develop heart disease. Lancashire has the second highest incidence in the UK.
“Each week 800 people affected by heart disease or at risk, take part in our programme.
“Each year we test hundreds of people as part of our early diagnosis work. Last year we educated more than 4,000 adults and children about the risks of heart disease.
“We trained GPs and front line workers in CPR and defibrillator practice and run exercise classes across Lancashire. “We aspire to do even more. In 2015 we relocated to a bespoke cardiac centre at Preston North End’s ground where we have fantastic facilities, we have seven other sites across Lancashire.”
Jill has worked in the charity sector for 20 years and loves doing work that makes a difference.
She says: “I am naturally drawn to charity work, I get real satisfaction from assisting others to achieve their fullest potential both in and out of work.
“The first 15 years of my career, I worked in Salford as deputy chief executive of a social inclusion charity leading on the women’s agenda.
“During my time in Salford I led a team who delivered projects for vulnerable women often with complex needs.
“Many were experiencing trauma or difficult circumstances daily and consequently so were their children.
“The women varied massively from lone parents aspiring to work, women offenders or those at risk, to domestic abuse victims.
“I was dedicated to this work and to assisting women in becoming the best they could possibly be and submitted application after application to raise funds to continue the work.”
She admits her first role, supporting vulnerable women, was inspired by own experiences of being raised by a strong woman.
She affirms: “I have been asked many times where my passion for this work came from and I would only have this answer;
“I was raised by a strong woman, my mum, Joan, who came from a long line of strong women who had overcome lots of life challenges.
“In the year 2000 I became a mum giving birth to my daughter Katie who is now 16 and at college.
“I became pregnant after 15 years with her dad but sadly when she was 10 months old he decided the grass looked greener on the other side!
“My personal circumstances changed that day, I had a 10-month-old baby, a full time responsible job and nowhere to live,
“I embarked on a journey that I believe gave me both the empathy, skills and insight to work and influence in the women’s agenda.”
Jill’s first passion, however, was food, as she worked in a bakery when she was 15.
She adds: “I grew up in Eccles and was educated at Wentworth High School. I started work at age 15 in a bakery, I aspired to be a chef at that time.
“That enthusiasm still remains as I when I am not at work I love to cook and bake.
“I have lots of dinner parties with friends and family - my family love cake.
“My friends say I’m a bit of a Nigella in the kitchen.
“I am quite creative and find creative activities therapeutic I can sew, knit, paint, bake and enjoy it all.
“I love music - all types, I would love to sing in a choir but I’m awful. My daughter Katie has a wonderful singing voice though.”
•Heartbeat was founded in 1978 by Keith and Rose Redman who lost their teenage daughter, Gillian, to heart disease.
Keith and Rose recognised the need to develop support and enhanced rehabilitation for people affected by heart disease post hospital discharge.
Each year Heartbeat has to raise, on average, £800k to continue to successfully deliver heart services and support in Preston and across Lancashire.
To make a donation visit www.heartbeat-nwcc.org.uk