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Interview HA32

Age at interview: 54
Age at diagnosis: 53
Brief Outline: Heart attack July 2003, in hospital for 6 days. She declined the thrombolytic (clotbuster) drug. Current medication' ramipril, simvastatin, aspirin, metoprolol, GTN
Background: Book-keeper; Separated, 2 grown up children

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She was calm and it was only later when she came home that it affected her.

She was calm and it was only later when she came home that it affected her.

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I don't know, I think I was just stunned to the point where I didn't fully take it in and I've spoken to my doctor since and he said, 'When you came to see me,' he said, 'you were so calm and you'd had a heart attack, and you were saying, 'oh I think it might be a bit of indigestion' You were very calm', he said, 'and I think it suddenly hit you after a few weeks and that's why the anxiety came.' It did suddenly hit me that you know I could have died. But it didn't affect me at the time, I just got on with it.
 

She was shocked how weak she was at first after her heart attack.

She was shocked how weak she was at first after her heart attack.

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The only thing that was very scary was going to the toilet on my own. I mean the first couple of days, you're not allowed to obviously, you have to have a commode at the side of the bed and you get help but to go to the toilet on your own is quite scary because you've got to walk up there and back on your own. 

Just the effort of, it sounds stupid really now, just the effort of sitting down on the toilet and getting up again and washing your hands, I was exhausted, absolutely. One time I washed my hands and face and my daughter was with me, and I brushed my hair and I started to go all funny, and I said, 'you'll have to bring me the wheelchair in,' and she said, 'you've over done it' [laughs].

I couldn't believe you know, you could over do it just washing your face and brushing your hair.

 

She had pains in her arms and was sick and had never felt so unwell.

She had pains in her arms and was sick and had never felt so unwell.

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But I just got up one morning and I was in the kitchen making breakfast and I suddenly felt funny and it was a kind of funny that I'd never felt before and I didn't know what it was. I just thought perhaps it was a virus or something because there were lots of funny things going around. 

So I came and sat down in the living room and then I couldn't get comfortable. So I tried to go and lie down and still couldn't get comfortable and I decided to phone my husband to say that I really didn't feel very well and could he come and take me to the doctor's because I just, I didn't think I could manage it myself and he came round and in the meantime, I had pains that went down my arms and then I was sick and then I thought, 'I'm going to have a heart attack.' 

He came and I told him and he said, 'Well, phone the doctor straight away.' So I did and I spoke to the triage nurse and she said, 'come in at half past eleven.' This was about half past eight in the morning because there weren't any appointments. She did ask me to describe the symptoms and everything but obviously they weren't bad and I didn't have the, the crushing pain or anything. 

I just thought, 'oh I'm going to have one.' But when she said, 'Come at half eleven', I thought, 'oh I must be alright then.' So I went at half eleven and saw the doctor and he said, 'I think you'd better go down to the hospital. It'll be quicker if your husband takes you, rather than me calling an ambulance.' So I went to the hospital and they admitted me. 

 

She worried about going to sleep the first night she was on her own at home.

She worried about going to sleep the first night she was on her own at home.

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Yes I came home and my daughter looked after me for three weeks and then she had to go home because she was going back to University and then I was on my own, which was really scary, the first night on my own. Very, very scary. 

Can  you say a bit more about that?

Almost frightened to go to bed in case you didn't wake up again. Although logically, you believe you're going to wake up, you know I'd woken up for the past three weeks but of course it's the being on your own, you know it is scary. There's not somebody there to say 'you're alright,' so yes, I managed.

 

For the first few months she had panic attacks when she thought she was having another heart attack.

For the first few months she had panic attacks when she thought she was having another heart attack.

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Well I had visitors, everybody sort of kept an eye on me without trying to be too obvious. I did have bouts of anxiety and I would go and stay with my mum. My son would take me over there and I'd stay for a few days and then I'd come back when I felt better. 

And apparently, this happens quite a lot with people who are reasonably young having a heart attack, you get these anxiety attacks, which again is this wave of feeling which is similar to the heart attack but, but not quite the same. 

And I would get it for no apparent reason; it was obvious that my brain was doing something that I wasn't really aware of. Then I would feel dreadful and I couldn't, I didn't want to be on my own, so my mum would look after me for a few days and that was nice.

 

Reiki helped with her anxiety and she used the techniques to go to sleep at night.

Reiki helped with her anxiety and she used the techniques to go to sleep at night.

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Yes it involves you lying on a couch with your eyes shut with some lovely music playing, calming music and you just relax while the Reiki healer puts her hands, not on you necessarily but at various parts of your body, various chakras and centres of your body and there's supposed to be a flow of energy from her to you and it affects different people in different ways. 

I saw lots of colours. It was quite spooky some times because afterwards I'd tell her what I'd seen and she'd say, 'Oh yes that was what I was thinking, that was what I was trying to do.' So I found that really, it was quite spooky but it was good, I enjoyed it. 

It was, it was lovely because we talked as well, this is for my anxiety, so I did talk about my past and things that had affected me throughout my life, which was also useful, and it did help. And I still do it now to get to sleep, I play the calming music and if my mind's racing, I just try and visualise different colours that are healing colours and it works; I just fall asleep.

 

Explains why she chose not to have the thrombolysis (clotbuster drug).

Explains why she chose not to have the thrombolysis (clotbuster drug).

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They offered me the clot buster drug but I declined. I didn't want to take the risk and as the heart attack had already happened, and I judged that it wasn't too bad, I just didn't think I needed the clot busting drug, so I didn't have it. 

I asked what the risks were and he said you could haemorrhage because obviously it's going to thin your blood down and you could haemorrhage from your brain and I said, 'Well, what's the worst scenario?' and he said, 'Well, death.' [laughs] and I thought, 'well I don't really want a brain haemorrhage.' 

I thought, 'I've had a heart attack, or I'm having a heart attack or whatever' and to me it didn't feel that bad because I didn't have the crushing pain. That's all I'd got to go by really, and nobody could make the decision, only me. That's what I decided.

 

Describes her grown up son's reaction to her heart attack.

Describes her grown up son's reaction to her heart attack.

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My son was I would say he was really shocked. My daughter was more, well it's happened let's get on with it. But my son didn't really know how to treat me I think. I think children are often like that; they don't want their parents to be ill, certainly a life threatening illness. 

So he didn't know what to do really. His mum was really poorly and he just didn't know what to do because that's not supposed to happen to your mum. But he's alright now, he's okay about it now. They just treat me as if I'm normal, nothing's happened.

And how did that change did you think from him not knowing what to say and do to being normal again?

Well we work together, so eventually I went back to work, for a couple of hours a day sort of thing, and as I got stronger, he got better with me and as I started doing more normal things, he became more normal with me.

 And what were the sort of things he was doing that weren't normal?

It was just his attitude; he was perhaps a bit, a bit harsher with me. A bit, 'Come on, Mum, you know you can do that.' And I would say, 'No I can't actually, I don't feel well enough.' 'Aah, oh alright then.' It was, he wanted me to get better. 'You're not ill, I don't want you to be ill, sort of thing. I want you to be normal.'  

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