Norman and his wife Elaine

Age at interview: 73
Brief Outline: Norman has lived with heart failure for many years. He is on his second pacemaker and is due to have an operation soon to try to re-establish a blood supply to the damaged part of his heart. He is on multiple medicines and uses oxygen. Despite the limitations that his conditions brings, Norman tries to maintain a positive outlook.
Background: Norman is a retired taxi proprietor. He is married to Elaine and they have grown up children. Ethnic background: White British.

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Norman was diagnosed with heart failure many years ago after he collapsed for no particular reason. He has since had several heart attacks. At one time the possibility of a heart transplant was mentioned but Norman was later told he was not suitable for the operation. He was given a pacemaker instead, which was replaced with a new one after ten years. Recently Norman has been told he may only live another six months so he has chosen to have a risky operation to try to re-establish a blood supply to the damaged part of his heart, which, if successful, could significantly lengthen his life.

Norman takes a lot of different medicines for his heart condition - aspirin, warfarin, lansoprazole, bisoprolol, isosorbide mononitrate, perindopril, spironolactone, simvastatin and paracetamol – which his wife Elaine organises with a weekly dosette box. He uses oxygen while he sleeps at night and also for top-ups during the day as and when necessary to give him more energy to do the things he wants to do. He does relaxation exercises at home if he is having a bad day. He has a blood test every week to check his clotting time because he is on warfarin, he is seen at the hospital every two months and his pacemaker is checked every three months. He also sees his GP whenever he feels the need. 

Norman and Elaine moved area to get good treatment and have nothing but praise for the health professionals that have looked after Norman; they are on first name terms with many of them. Norman is grateful for all the care he has received and is always willing to give something back. He finds climbing stairs exhausting but doesn’t often do it nowadays as he and Elaine live in a bungalow. He can only walk about 100 yards before becoming breathless but enjoys riding around the country lanes near his home on his mobility scooter. Elaine has to do things around the house and garden that Norman used to do, or they find someone else to do big jobs. Despite the limitations that his heart condition places on him, Norman has a positive attitude and tries to live life to the full. He is always willing to help other people and has chaired a local support group for people with heart failure.

Norman talks about a bad experience he had when taking an experimental medicine.

Norman talks about a bad experience he had when taking an experimental medicine.

Norman: I have had a psychotic experiences and …

Elaine: Yeah

Norman: Because I've done quite a few trials on drugs, so many I couldn’t even remember them. And yeah I've had some bad experiences that I wouldn’t like to go through again. The one particular one I was, should I tell them, I don’t know. I was given this tablet by the doctor.

Elaine: By the doctor actually 

Norman: And should I say it why it's a killer?

Elaine: Well

Norman: Honestly, and I was stood at that window crying my eyes out, and it's the first time I've ever left here and I walked straight in the surgery, didn’t see…just walked straight in. Somebody was in talking to the doctor; I thought he'd finished me and then… but that’s probably the worst experience I'd had and that was with a trial drug.

Elaine: He apologised didn’t he, and he said, "I'm sorry that we hadn’t tested it."

Norman: It was a trial drug.

Elaine: It was a trial drug. We didn’t have that it affects anyone, but now we know while they’ve affected you, you know…well he took the box off him and threw them away. 

Norman’s oxygen machine is noisy, which bothered his wife Elaine at first. Norman manages without oxygen while on holiday.

Norman’s oxygen machine is noisy, which bothered his wife Elaine at first. Norman manages without oxygen while on holiday.

Norman: I have my oxygen and it's planned that I should use it sixteen hours a day, and that is to help me to have a good standard of life throughout the day. Instead of getting your tiredness that one associates with heart failure, you know it just drains like a battery going down. I can now live a sensible normal life knowing full well I charge my batteries up. I only …it's there at side of me, and there's one in bedroom.

Elaine: It's piped in

Norman: If I feel a need I can put it on, but I put it on at night-time, just like charging your batteries. So when the morning comes I can lead a good sensible day, and it's been a great, great help, and the only problem it's a great big machine in there and that’s the…

Elaine: And it makes a lot of noise doesn’t it?

Norman: I can have a life without the oxygen – when we go on holiday I don’t take it, but it's hard.

Elaine: We know he's without it.

Norman: I have to remember…

Elaine: And it's only a fortnight

Norman: I'm going to slow… I'm going to slow down; take things… life can wait for me, we'll go at my pace, and it's there to not only for me to have an enjoyable life, but to give Elaine a rest and a chance and to enjoy. So, let her have her fun and I'll tag on and get pleasure out of it, and that’s it, it's… I'm glad I've got it, I'm really glad I've got it. It … I sometimes… I did feel sorry at first because it makes a noise – don’t bother me, but it bothers Elaine, but we're now getting used to it. 
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