Having a Heart Condition

Heart health problems

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.

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.

Within the 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.