Having a Heart Condition

Learning that you have a heart condition is a major event in your life. It can have a significant effect on you socially, physically and emotionally.

Understanding the impact, and learning about your condition and its treatment, are important steps in managing the impact – on you, and on your family and friends.

Like many people, you may have experienced shock, anxiety, grief and other emotions. Your reactions may have taken you by surprise, but rest assured, these feelings are normal. Understanding them will help you and those close to you.

Having Heart Surgery

Having to undergo major heart surgery is a huge shock to many. You’ll be experiencing many feelings as you await the day of surgery. You may feel very alone with your fears. The confusion of being in a new environment can add to this. However, it is perfectly natural to be anxious about having a major operation.

It is important to try to accept support from family, friends and hospital staff – after all, needing support is a basic human desire.

Three things are worth remembering at this stage:

  • It is very likely that you are still coping with feelings of grief over the discovery of a heart condition. This grief is intensified as your surgery approaches.
  • Fear and anxiety are much easier to manage when you express them. You have a better idea of what you are dealing with, and so do others who could help you.
  • Some people find it helpful to use prayer, meditation or relaxation techniques.

If you would like to talk things over, you could ask the nurse to contact the hospital social worker or chaplain.

After Surgery

You have a lot to cope with after heart surgery. Most of your energy and attention will be focused on your physical recovery.

Heart surgery is not a familiar experience in anyone’s life, and it can cause a kind of shock reaction. Many people report that while still in hospital they were relieved to have made it through surgery, but then felt a little numb – some describe it as feeling out of touch or disconnected. It’s as though your emotions are on hold for a while.

Often, patients say they know there are emotions there, but they can’t seem to reach them. Others say the lack of emotions creates a sense or unreality, or that they even feel a little elated. These are very common experiences, and they happen not only after surgery but after any event we are not used to.

Experiencing the Cardiac Blues is a normal part of recovery from a heart attack, heart surgery or heart event and affects approximately 75% of people. It’s important to understand this, know it is normal, and know when you need to seek help. To learn more about the Cardiac Blues click here.

Attending cardiac rehabilitation is essential. You should have received a referral from the hospital for your local group. If not, ask for a referral. On completion it’s important to integrate these learnings into your day to day life. Joining our Heart Health Club enables you to continue this support, receive latest research and expert advice including online webinars with heart health experts where you can ask questions.

As a Heart Health Club member, you have access to connect with others via our private Facebook group where you can share how you are feeling with others who have been in a similar situation and share advice and support.

Support for partners, family and friends

The diagnosis of a heart condition is a crisis point for the family and friends of the patient as well as for the patient.

As partners and family members you may also feel frightened and confused. You may become aware of many feelings, including a sense of numbness, fear that the patient won’t survive, anxiety and vulnerability. It is important to recognise and value your own feelings, as this can help you to best assist and care for the patient.

You will be encouraged to attend cardiac rehabilitation sessions with the patient. This is an opportunity to gain more information about the cardiac condition, to ask questions and to meet with others in a similar situation.

Whilst you are in hospital, the ward social worker can provide support, counselling and information about services and resources to both the patient and family members. The social worker can also provide information about services for those who support someone with a longer term illness, disability, mental illness or chronic condition, or who is frail or aged.

Our Heart Health Club is also available for family, friends and carers. Signing up to this free club gives you access to heart health expert advice including webinars where you can ask questions, latest research, and access to our private Facebook group where you can chat with others in a similar experience. Hearing from others who have been where you are can be a beacon of hope as you navigate what’s ahead.

To read inspirational and heart warming stories from heart survivors who all share a common bond: a second chance at life click here.