When Dr Sarah Osborne’s father Eddie had a heart attack earlier this year at the age of 59, she realised that not everyone recognises the signs and symptoms of having a heart attack.
By sharing what happened to her and her family, she wants to increase awareness of heart attack symptoms, in the hope that people will seek medical advice sooner to try and prevent complications.
Sarah said: â€œMy father was one of the lucky ones, so please read about our experience and learn from it.
â€œIf you have any of the symptoms listed below then I would advise that you seek medical advice. You’re not wasting anyone’s time – as like my father thought. We would rather see you and reassure you, than not see you, and then discover you’ve had a heart attack. Heart attacks need prompt treatment to try and reduce the chance of complications.â€
In April my parents came up to York to look after our dog, whilst I went to run the London marathon. Unknown to me, my father, Eddie, experienced shortness of breath and indigestion-type pains, whilst walking my dog on the Friday. These symptoms came on with exercise/walking and eased when he rested (which in hindsight is very suggestive of angina).
Later that night, when he went to bed, he found that he couldn’t settle. He developed severe indigestion-type pain/central chest discomfort that went up into the right hand side of his jaw. He also had tingling in his right arm, shortness of breath and he felt warm and sweaty. He went to the window to get some fresh air and to try to cool down. He also tried some anti-indigestion tablets that had no effect on his symptoms. After a few hours his symptoms settled and he fell asleep.
The following morning he told my mum about the episode. Both parents, being non medical, thought that it couldn’t have been a heart attack, as his symptoms had been on the right side of his jaw and right arm and not the left side which are commonly advertised as being classic heart attack symptoms. My dad later told me that he had thought that, even if he had suffered a heart attack, it was ok as â€œhe had survived itâ€ and so didn’t need to seek medical advice.
During the Saturday he remained symptom free, but on Sunday his symptoms returned. Again, whenever he walked the dog or exerted himself, he developed the same central chest discomfort (which was similar to his indigestion). He felt short of breath and generally unwell. His symptoms would improve with rest, but return again as he started exerting himself again (again highly suggestive of angina). By this time my mum was beginning to get concerned. My dad, however, kept reassuring her that he was fine.
Returning home on the Monday, I heard about what had happened and managed to convince my dad to go to the emergency department to get checked over in York Hospital. He took some persuasion, as he has never liked hospitals and he â€œdidn’t want to waste anyone’s timeâ€. In the emergency department he had an ECG which turned out to be normal. He also had blood tests which confirmed that he had had a heart attack (s).
As we waited for a bed in the coronary care unit, my dad’s condition started to deteriorate. His heart went into an abnormal heart rhythm and he had a cardiac arrest, for which he needed to be shocked with a defibrillator. He was so lucky as he was in the best place for this to have happened. It allowed him to receive the electric shock within seconds of his heart going in to this abnormal rhythm. If he had been anywhere else his chances of survival would have been much less, and if he had been driving home with my mum (like he had wanted to) I doubt that both of them would still be here today.
If you have symptoms listed below then I would advise that you seek medical advice. You’re not wasting anyone’s time – as like my father thought. We would rather see you and reassure you, than not see you, and then discover you’ve had a heart attack. Heart attacks need prompt treatment to try and reduce the chance of complications – see below:
Common symptoms of Heart Attacks
Please note, these can vary from person to person
Chest tightness, heaviness or pain.
Pain or an abnormal feeling in either arm, either side of the neck, jaw, back or stomach.
Short of breath.
A sense of that something bad is about to happen.
Abnormal heart rhythm
Rupture of the heart muscle
Inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis)
Heart valve disease.
For more information please visit: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/symptoms.aspx