Recovering from a heart attack can be both emotionally and practically challenging. Listening to others who have experienced similar situations is often re-assuring and can be helpful for you, your loved ones or when preparing questions for your doctor or a specialist.
The patient, a retired teacher aged 63, had a heart attack February 2003. She had a stent fitted and is currently taking a number of medicines.
This interview has been sourced from healthtalk.org, award-winning research into patient experiences in conjunction with the Health Experience Research Group at Oxford University, UK.
healthdirect doesn't endorse any personal opinions expressed in the video, and we recommend you discuss any questions you have regarding unfamiliar terms or descriptions, as well as how this experience compares to the Australian health care system, with a health professional.
The nurses told her strict bed rest, the doctors wanted her to have a treadmill test: she wondered who to believe.
But even though I'd had this heart attack, the doctors insisted that I had the treadmill test. I felt a bit of conflict and because the nurses were saying to me don't get out of bed, you're not to do any exercise and I got admonished for going to the toilet and walking and she said, “no, you're not to get out of bed, if you want to go to the bathroom I come or we use other facilities”.
And so they were telling me on the one hand, don't move, stand still, sit still and on the other hand I was being sent downstairs to have a treadmill test, which not really easy, it's quite a hard test. I just then felt quite confused of where do you go, what, who's right? Should I have had the treadmill test at that particular time and was that the proper, the proper procedure?
High blood cholesterol was the only risk factor that might have contributed to her heart attack.
I do try to be careful, I always ate well and I've always eaten carefully; lots of fruit and veg, semi this and semi that and no fat this. So it was rather disappointing to learn that in fact the reason that I'd had the heart attack was because of cholesterol. I know that cholesterol is not necessarily from food; you've got your body cholesterol, which may be unbalanced or could be a cause.
But they could find no other reason; no heart trouble in the family. I don't smoke, I did when I was younger, I think everybody probably smoked in the sixties, but not heavily, one a day. I don't drink, except at Christmas and I eat carefully and I do exercise so I seem to be doing all the right things but there you go.
They said it was cholesterol?
They said, that was the only thing, that was the only thing that came up positive. Cholesterol was the only one that was over the limit, so they put it down to cholesterol.
It took a bit of time to accept what had happened to her, but then she made a conscious effort to put it behind her.
One has to stay positive. One has to say that the doctors have done what they can do and when they tell you this is mended, this is the way it's going to be. Then you just have to say, yes I believe and say that it's over and done with and go from there and just build your life again. You might not be able to do all the things that you did before. Your mind might not be able to think as clearly as it did before, but you can get over it. You can build up your life. You do slightly less if that's what it takes.
You don't, you don't have to spend time thinking about it. You do some activity, maybe physical activity, or an activity with friends. I spend a lot of time sewing, so that keeps my mind busy. And just take each day as it comes and enjoy it as much as you can and just say well that's one chapter of my life that's done with. Let's go on to the next one and enjoy it as much as you can and think that life is good and there's only one life to enjoy so you might as well enjoy it.
Support from the staff and talking to other heart patients at cardiac rehabilitation helped her to recover.
The cardiac rehabilitation programme, what were the benefits of that?
It was not just the exercise; it was not just actually doing the physical part. I found the support of the staff, they were great, they were always there for you and they cared for you and checked you and made sure you felt good. They sent me home once when I didn't feel good and refused to let me do it.
But they were always so positive saying, “Yes, you're going to feel better. Every time you come it's your benefit.” And then you go there and you meet other people who have been in exactly the same situation as you, some worse, some not so bad, and you talk to them and they laugh and smile and so you end up smiling. And as time goes on it does recede, it recedes from the front of your mind.
When you first have this and you've just come out of hospital, you can't think much beyond what's happened to you, which is probably a very selfish attitude but nevertheless this is at the forefront of your mind.
But seeing other people doing other things and being told that everything's fine then it gradually recedes to the back of your mind and then of course you only think about it periodically when things come up to remind you of it.
A cough, some hair loss and vivid dreams are the side effects of her medicine.
As a result of taking the medicine, I've found that I've had quite a few reactions to the medicine. We changed one, more or less a month after I'd started and the second one, the statins; we changed about two months ago.
I'm having a look and see if this [new] statin's any better. The side-effects were, or are should say, a cough which gets worse for a period of a couple of weeks, recedes slightly but never actually goes and then, then returns again.
My hair is falling out quite severely. I've lost a good volume of my hair severely, and I've been having horrendous dreams at night. Really worrying dreams, really complicated dreams that I have no way to sort out. There's no way that my mind can get round the problem that's presented in this dream.
And so those three are the three main side effects that I've had from the tablets. They still are continuing, they're still there and I'm just hoping I can get a reasonable cocktail that will eliminate at least one of them or two of them.
Describes what having angioplasty was like.
Well I wasn't scared about it. I did find out quite a lot about it before the procedure so and the nurses and the doctor did actually explain to me what was going on. Was a bit surprised to find it was just down in the x-ray department, as opposed in a theatre. So it seemed to be very low key and I think that kind of puts you in a low key mood.
The doctors were there and they just explained that they were going to put the [stent] through the femoral artery. The [TV monitor] was there, so I spent my time watching the [screen].
Then they went in and when he showed me the heart, he said, “you can see that the actual artery is blocked”. He told me which one it was but I can't remember at the moment and then he explained that he was looking at it and then they were going to push the stent up and blow it up.
They did give me an injection just to calm me down a little. I wasn't particularly agitated but its impossible to be perfectly calm, when you know they're going in to your heart. If they're going in to a muscle or something its a different thought but there they are actually going in to one's heart.
It is a thought so I had a bit of a tranquilising drug just to calm me down and I just watched them put in the stent and blow up the balloon and take it out.
I did have quite a lot of pain after the process had finished. I had a morphine injection because the pain was quite severe and that was it. I don't know how long it took, half an hour or maybe more or less I was back in the ward and felt good.
She made little change to her diet.
Well I'm certainly eating more fish but I find it difficult to make a great deal of change because I was already having skimmed milk and fruit and veg and [eating carefully]. What else can I change? Very little in the diet. We have increased the fish. We never really ate a great deal of red meat anyway.
We've probably reduced it a little but it's kind of from not much to a little and the fish from not too often to more often. But still, I still look at the fat content of the food that I buy. I never fry, I never cook in oil. I haven't for twenty, thirty years.
We don't go to [fast food venue's], we don't eat fish and chips and things [laughs] and we don't have big English Breakfasts so it just seems a bit unfair, however who says life's fair?
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Last reviewed: September 2016