John

John had a heart attack at 52 after which he retired. A spinal condition has the biggest impact on his life. He is not allowed to take some of the recommended treatments because of his other health conditions. John advises people to talk to others about their health problems and seek advice on the Internet.

When John had a Myocardial Infarction in 1989, hospital waiting times were long, but John was able to obtain quintuple bypass surgery privately through a company insurance scheme. He quit work after a hospital consultant suggested that his current lifestyle would likely lead to further heart problems. Eight years later four of the bypasses had to be re-done and in 2002/03 he had stents fitted following a further attack. Kidney (renal) problems were diagnosed during the second coronary artery bypass graft and followed later by a left renal artery bypass graft in 1998.

John’s day-day life is mostly affected by problems with nerves trapped in his spine. He has had repeated operations for this, which lasted over a course of 4 or 5 years. He also has a large hernia at the site of a previous surgery scar, although he has decided not to intervene in this as doing so might make it harder if anybody needs to go in again and there is a one-in-three chance of death with the operation. Having multiple health conditions has limited the number of treatments available to him. He is also allergic to opioids, which limits the drugs he can take for the pain in his spine. At the time of interview, John had been suffering repeated urinary tract infections following the removal of a small tumour from his bladder.

Managing health conditions and multiple medications has caused problems, especially when away on holiday. His changing health and responsiveness to treatments (or not) means he has to be prepared to move lifestyle goals that he sets himself. There’s nothing more that can be done surgically for John’s back and the recommended physiotherapy seemed to make things worse. His account suggests that once treatment options have been exhausted one simply has to learn to cope with a certain level of pain or limitations on what can be achieved.

John’s biological employment background and the expertise he has gained from being involved in patients groups, hospital management and research projects seems to make it easier for his GP to involve him in a care partnership, where his opinions and feelings are valued. However, his recent involvement with the health service leads him to point to low staff morale, money wasted on senior managers and the high level of cuts imposed on health services. John is an advocate of electronic health records accessible on demand by whoever needs to have access.

When asked what advice he would give other people with multiple health problems to help them cope better, John advises talking to family members, getting informed about symptom progression (e.g. via resources on the Internet) and finding support groups.

John wants to see better health records in the NHS accessible to patients and anyone involved in their care. For example, it would help with getting prescriptions on holiday.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

John’s advice is don’t keep your problems to yourself, work out what might cause most problems in the future and find support via the Internet.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

A surgeon told John that an incompletely healed wound from a hernia operation could be repaired using sheets of mesh. However, this comes with risks and would create problems if he needed surgery again.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

John does not tolerate opioids, including codeine. He has to be careful he doesn’t use too many products containing aspirin for pain relief.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

John encourages people to accept their health problems as see them as an opportunity to do things that they never thought of doing before.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

Because of John’s multiple health conditions and existing medicines list his treatment options are limited. This affected a recent episode of recurrent urinary tract infections.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male

A surgeon has told John there is nothing else that can be done for his back pain. A hip operation would not help as his condition is caused by trapped nerves, not joint problems.

Age at interview 77

Gender Male