Beth was diagnosed with heart failure 4 years ago after becoming breathless and increasingly tired. She has since had two heart attacks and developed angina and vascular disease in her legs. Inflammatory arthritis causes her constant pain and limits her mobility.
Beth was diagnosed with heart failure about four years ago after becoming breathless and increasingly tired. Before then her blood pressure had been high but she had had no other cardiovascular problems. With hindsight, she wonders whether extreme tiredness she had felt in the past could have been the beginning of her heart failure. She received her diagnosis in a letter that arrived on a Saturday morning, leaving her feeling shocked and angry that no one was available to explain it and provide reassurance until she could see her GP during the week.
Beth’s heart failure is managed with medication; she takes a beta blocker, a statin, lisinopril (an ACE inhibitor), aspirin, amitriptyline and an iron supplement. She also uses a GTN spray for angina pain. Last year she had two heart attacks and was fitted with two stents. The hospital did not follow her up after the heart attacks until she was referred again by her GP because of new symptoms of palpitations and breathlessness again. An echo cardiogram showed the mitral valve of her heart was leaking. She is due to see her cardiologist again soon.
In addition to her heart failure, Beth has anaemia and limited mobility caused by inflammatory arthritis, for which she takes medicines. She has recently been told she has vascular disease in her legs and is expecting to have a bypass operation for that soon. She had to stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs after her heart failure diagnosis and is in constant pain despite taking strong painkillers.
Beth has a blood test every six weeks to check that her arthritis medication is not adversely affecting her liver or kidney function. She has a medication review with her GP every six months and attends a nurse-run heart clinic at the practice once a year for a general check-up. She feels this check-up is not specific enough for her heart condition and would like access to a specialist heart failure nurse when she has concerns. For her own interest she measures her oxygen saturation with a home device when she feels particularly breathless.
Beth feels that she has not been supported enough by the health professionals and has been left to get on with it’. As a result she searched for information on the internet and contacted some heart charities. She has learned a lot about heart failure from the internet although she found some of the material she read quite shocking. Sharing experiences with other patients through a national charity has provided reassurance and helped her to come to terms with her condition. She would like to set up a support group in her local area.
Beth sometimes feels upset by having to take so many medicines and says that one particular drug affected her mental well-being leading to the break-up of her marriage. Her social life has suffered because she is too tired to go out socially. She had to give up her paid job because of her health problems but now does part time voluntary work giving benefits advice to people with cancer. She is concerned that she may have to give that up too unless she is able to get a mobility scooter to get around inside the hospital. Her doctors have advised her against getting a scooter as she should aim to maintain her mobility for as long as possible to avoid further health problems.