Since your cardiac arrest, have you ever experienced any of the following?
- Changes in thinking skills (memory, concentration)
- Insight (being aware of difficulties)
- Personality changes
- Communication difficulties
- Drowsiness/reduced level of consciousness
- Balance impairments
- Physical weakness
- Difficulties swallowing
- Low mood
I’d hazard a guess that you have, as these are very common issues post-SCA.
Acquired Brain Injury
As I’m sure you know, a cardiac arrest is when the heart stops, which in turn stops oxygenated blood from being pumped around the body. When the heart is not beating, the body’s organs become deprived of oxygen. The brain can be affected by this lack of oxygen (hypoxia). This is known as a hypoxic brain injury or more generally, an acquired brain injury, and people may experience a range of neurological problems as a result (sequelae).
As you’ve seen, an acquired brain injury may cause a variety of difficulties ranging from subtle to obvious.
The majority of cardiac arrest survivors have some degree of brain injury and impaired consciousnessAmerican Heart Association
There’s a good chance that if you had some of the issues listed above, you weren’t given any help with them or any specific rehabilitation. Currently, an SCA is largely seen as being a cardiac issue, which is true for the cause, but for many survivors, life after means living with the fallout of an acquired brain injury.
Unfortunately, this lack of recognition reflects in the poor post-discharge care that many survivors experience.
As more people are surviving cardiac arrest, focus needs to shift towards improving neurological outcomes and quality of life in survivors. Brain injury after resuscitation, a common sequela following cardiac arrest, ranges in severity from mild impairment to devastating brain injury and brainstem death.Professor Gavin Perkins (a leading UK out of hospital cardiac arrest researcher)
Call for Evidence
So what can be done about this lack of recognition and rehabilitation?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a current call out specifically for survivors of a cardiac arrest, but there is a more general call for evidence on defining a new strategy for those with an acquired brain injury.
The government is seeking the views of people living with acquired brain injury or other neurological conditions and their families, as well as professionals working in this space.
Rather than a formal consultation on specific proposals, this call for evidence constitutes a request for ideas that can be built on.
Perhaps the level of recognition of an SCA causing an ABI is shown in the documentation as although hypoxia is referred to, it does not reference cardiac arrest directly – a sad state of affairs.
However, YOU can change that by completing the survey (it’ll only take 10 minutes) and help raise the profile of our situation and maybe even play a part in the new strategy.
Don’t forget to mention a sudden cardiac arrest as much as you can and remember, the call for evidence closes at 11.45 pm on 6 June 2022.
You can preview the survey using this easy to read version below.acquired-brain-injury-call-for-evidence-easy-read
After our first meet-up in February 2015, I realised I was not alone. It was the first time since my cardiac arrest the previous year that I had spoken face-to-face with someone who had experienced what I had. This was also true for my wife, who also happened to be my lifesaver. From that meet-up, the idea of SCA UK was born. Since then, we have achieved a considerable amount, primarily providing information, resources and support to others in a similar situation but also raising the profile of survivorship and the need for better post-discharge care. We are starting to get traction in this, and with the formation of the charity, I genuinely believe we have a bright future ahead and will make a significant difference in the lives of many who join our ranks.