A-Z

Derrick

Age at interview: 61
Brief Outline: Derrick had high blood pressure and kidney problems for most of his adult life. He gave up work aged 42 following a “mild” heart attack and blackouts. He had a major stroke 10 years ago. He also has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma and can no longer walk without oxygen.
Background: Derrick is a retired caretaker with two adult children. Ethnic Background: British.

More about me...

Derrick spent 3 or 4 weeks in hospital for a major stroke, after which he felt “there wasn’t any support” from health services. However, he found some through the Stroke Association, who helped get adaptations put in his home. Recovery took time but he now feels he is getting better every year. As a result of the stroke, he lost “3/4” of the use of his legs and finds it difficult to control his emotions.  

Four years after his heart attack Derrick had further trouble with his heart and was advised to have a quadruple bypass. However, he didn’t go ahead as he was advised that he might have a “massive stroke on the table.” Derrick has attended a cardiac rehabilitation course in a healthcare setting and on a “Breathe Easy” group course. He reports being “on oxygen” at night.

Derrick feels he gets most help with his kidney condition. He reports a difference in opinion between a cardiac team and GPs over whether to have an operation on his arteries. Another conflict between a hospital doctor and a GP arose about whether to stop certain tablets or not. “I agreed 100% with my GP.” Derrick feels that he can talk to his GP “Like I’m talking to one of my own family.”

He has changed his diet “completely” over the past 15 to 20 years following advice mainly from a dietician seen in a renal department. Doctors are sometimes unsure whether the shortness of breath he experiences is due to heart or lung problems.  He is critical of a cardiac team who haven’t called him back for follow-ups as indicated.

Derrick can no longer walk uphill. He has to take an oxygen cylinder if he goes out walking. He bought a motorised scooter, but his GP advised him not to use it because he needs exercise. His main strategy in dealing with his health problems is to try “to keep as active as possible”:

 “Well, I just accept now that I’ve got these different conditions and you know, live my life around them and take one day at a time and as it comes.” 
 

It is not always clear to Derrick whether shortness of breath is caused by his heart or his lungs. He learns to control his condition using trial and error of the alternative treatments available to him.

It is not always clear to Derrick whether shortness of breath is caused by his heart or his lungs. He learns to control his condition using trial and error of the alternative treatments available to him.

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If I could ask you now, your conditions, do you see them as being related in any way? Are there are there any connections or do you see them separately?

Yes, I’d say they are connected, the especially the heart and lung and those two because half the time, with my heart condition and my lung condition, they don’t really know where the shortness of breath is coming from half the time. 

Right.

Is it the heart? Is it a throw off from the heart or is it is it the lungs? I’ve got my for the last year or so now I’ve got my own nebuliser.

Right.

In the house here.

Right.

So that that’s helped a lot.

Okay.

If it’s if it’s the heart I’ve got I’ve got options. I can either go on the oxygen or on the nebuliser, you know, and control it so and learning from one to the other how to control these things.

And how do you know which is the appropriate one to use?

Well, if it’s a throw off from the heart, I’ll have a shortness of breath and afterwards then I’ll feel very tired and I’ll have a have a headache.

Right.

And I know, once I get that headache, I know I know, “Oh, it’s alright, this is a throw off from the heart.” 

Right.

It’s the heart playing up and then, if it’s the lungs that’s playing up then it’s only it’s only to be a shortness of breath, and then once I put the oxygen on and for the lung that will help it and after two hours it’ll vastly improve. 
 

Derrick has started eating more healthily because he wants to live to see his grandchildren grow up.

Derrick has started eating more healthily because he wants to live to see his grandchildren grow up.

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Do you feel that there’s anything that is more important, for want of a better word, or is there one that impacts upon you more, or are they all equal or?

Well, you see, it’s hard to know what’s more important I think. For the, in a way that I need to eat healthily to keep to keep the heart going because I’ve got all these grandchildren coming along now and I need to see them growing up and things and. 

Yes, yeah.

If you don’t do as you’re told and I don’t eat the proper stuff and things, it’ll affect the arteries and things and I might not see them grow up.

You know, since these grandchildren have started coming along, I’ve been looking at things as a as a on a different perspective.
 

Derrick found little support after he left hospital following a stroke. The main help came from his wife and the Stroke Association.

Derrick found little support after he left hospital following a stroke. The main help came from his wife and the Stroke Association.

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I was in hospital must have been three or four weeks, I was in hospital.

Right.

In the in the stroke unit and it went from there then. When I came out from there, I had to go into a wheelchair. Basically, there was no support from anywhere. That’s the only disappointing thing that we found, that there wasn’t any support.

Right. Right.

My wife was talking to a friend one day and they told her about this lady in [city 2], which was to do with the Stroke Association.

Right. 

And so she got in contact with her and that was the only time then that we had a very good support off this lady and she was very good, very helpful but, apart from that, the wife was totally on her own. There was no support at all and, funny thing about it was, even the immediate family didn’t want to know, which was surprising.

You know, there was, it seemed to be like almost a stigma on somebody having a stroke.

Right. Right.

You know, that and I’ve never been the same since, you know, and I will notice how, funnily enough, I’ve got to go and see my GP next week because I noticed the going, memory going short again.
 

Derrick gets frustrated that he cannot control his emotions following a stroke. He feels there was a lack of back-up from health services afterwards.

Derrick gets frustrated that he cannot control his emotions following a stroke. He feels there was a lack of back-up from health services afterwards.

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In terms of physically, are you feeling better now since the stroke or are things still a little difficult or?

Things are still difficult, emotions I find a lot. 

Right.

That I can’t close, can’t control my emotions ever since the stroke.

Okay.

When you’re when you’re supposed to be laughing, you’re you tend to cry, you know, and when you’re supposed to be crying, you excuse me, sorry, you laugh then as if as if you are happy all the time, you know.

Yeah, yes.

So it’s that I that I find very, very frustrating. I’ve had a lot to, lot of work getting my head around that.

Yes, yeah.

So things are well, things are never the same after the stroke. I had the stroke on my left side and I’ve never had the strength back in it.

Right. 

I mean I can’t do certain things like I need to, I’ve lost nearly three quarter use of the legs. She won’t she won’t come around, which is very difficult when you’re changing clothes and things that I still get frustrated from time to time.

Okay and are you able, are you mobile now or are you still.

Yes, I’m mobile, yes, yes, yes.

Okay.

Yes, I am able to go around now slowly, yes.

Okay and just in terms of when you had the stroke, did you feel that it was explained to you what had happened and also what you might expect, or did you feel that there were gaps or that type of thing?

Not really. As I say, there was, the doctor did explain what had happened and I had scans and things like that and but, as I say, there was there wasn’t a lot of back-up.

Right. 

After the stroke. They like they didn’t want to bother, for some unknown reason. 
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