What’s up doc?

As a cardiac arrest survivor your cardiologist may be the most important physician you have in your life. Getting time with them can be vital to aiding your recovery but we know they are much in demand. So, if you get an appointment, it’s vital to know what to ask your cardiologist when you see them.

With that in mind, here are some of the common questions you might think about asking your doctor…

Primary

  • What is the best way to contact you if I have any future questions?
  • If I can’t get hold of you who should I contact?
  • Why did my cardiac arrest occur?
  • Where can I find out more information about this?
  • What damage, if any, has occurred?
  • Am I at risk of it happening again?
  • What can I do to stop it happening again?
  • Why was I diagnosed as idiopathic and what more can we do to find out the cause?
  • How does my family history affect my heart health?
  • Will genetic testing be required? (for me? for my family?)
  • Are my direct family members at risk of it happening?
  • Are tests for my direct family members applicable?
  • Will my level of risk change over time?
  • What symptoms might indicate a worsening of my specific condition?
  • Will the symptoms I am experiencing now change over time?

Treatment

  • I experience [pain/dizziness/personality changes/emotional swings/anger/low mood/anxiety] – is this normal and can it be treated?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • What if I don’t want any treatment?
  • How often will I need to see you and why?
  • What should I do if my symptoms get suddenly worse?
  • Are further tests applicable?
  • Why are you prescribing this particular treatment/medication?
  • Why are you prescribing this particular dosage?
  • Will the dosage vary over time?
  • How long will I have to take this medication?
  • What are the side-effects of taking this medication?
  • Are there any medications, foods, drinks, supplements I should avoid?
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to help my situation?
  • Will my current stage of life (age/pregnancy/menopause etc) have any influence on my treatment plan?
  • Will the fact I have [x] affect my risk or treatment plan?
  • Who else might I get referred to?
  • How soon will I be able to see them?
  • Can I still have other forms of medical treatment such as an operation or MRI?

Sport and Activities

  • What precautions do I need to take now I’ve had a cardiac arrest?
  • Will I still be able to exercise or take part in sports?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid doing now?
  • Do I have to keep my heart rate within a certain range?
  • Can I wear a Fitbit/Apple Watch to monitor my heart rate?
  • Should I get a fitness tracker/heart rate monitor if I haven’t got one?
  • What can trigger my particular arrhythmia?
  • I love doing [x] – can I still do it?
  • Will I get cardiac or another form of rehabilitation?
  • If I don’t get any rehabilitation – why not?

ICD’s

  • Why do I have an ICD?
  • Why do I not have an ICD?
  • How long will my ICD wound take to heal?
  • What restrictions are there if I have an ICD?
  • How long does an ICD battery last?
  • What does a shock feel like?
  • What do I do if I get shocked?
  • Will I get a home monitor? If not, why not?
  • Who should I contact if I have an issues with my device?
  • What should I do if I am unable to contact anyone about my device issue?

LIFE

  • How do I explain what has happened and/or my condition to my family/friend/colleagues?
  • Will I be able to work again doing [x]
  • How soon will I be able to return to work?
  • Am I ok to drive?
  • Do I need to contact the DVLA?
  • How do I ensure that my driving licence is only suspended and not revoked?
  • What is the process to get my licence back and when should I start it to get it back as to minimise the time I am unable to drive?
  • What can I do if I do not feel comfortable driving anymore? (see Access to Work/Bus pass)
  • Will my condition affect my sex life?
  • Will my menstrual cycle have any effect on my medications?
  • Will I be able to get pregnant still?
  • Are there any extra risks if I get pregnant?
  • Do they know about Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK? If not, get them some of our leaflets so that they do and future survivors can benefit from our help sooner.
  • Where else can I get more support about my condition/operation?
  • Can I have a copy of my medical report?
  • What does [x] mean on my medical report?
  • How can I help in future trials or research?
  • How important do you think it is to adopt new treatments and procedures?
  • Can I still drink alcohol, coffee or other caffeinated drinks?
  • Am I ok to travel/go on holiday?
  • Will the heat or cold affect me more?
  • Does my condition mean I am more vulnerable to Coronavirus?
  • How can I get my confidence back in my own body?
  • I think I or my partner/family member is having emotional/mental health issues because of my cardiac arrest – can I/we see a counsellor?
  • How can I get a second opinion?
  • I have Critical Illness insurance, can you help me make a successful claim on it

We hope you find these useful and if you have any further suggestion for questions please let us know.

Four Not Out

It seems only last week I was writing a piece on the 3rd anniversary of my “minor” cardiac incident and referring to Paul Swindell’s doorstop post. And now, I am at the fourth anniversary, slightly older, slightly thinner, slightly greyer, and, possibly, slightly wiser.

I am not sure that another year has given me any more insight into surviving cardiac-arrest or dealing with the aftermath. I view my life now as pretty much back to normal interspersed with the odd hospital visit and check-up (not arrest related but definitely cardiac related).

It wasn’t always so, the first year post-resuscitation was a struggle psychologically, as I think, it is, pretty much for everyone. So if I were to offer any advice I would say that things can improve and recovery can be made, although this comes from the perspective of someone who didn’t really suffer very much because of his arrest and I do appreciate that, for some people, some families, the “recovery” can be slow or non-existent.

I have questioned, over and over, what happened to me and why and how I survived and I can only rationalise it as the result of randomness: the chain of random events that lead to my arrest, the chain of random events that lead to me surviving. My faith in a god or supernatural being has not been shaken or diminished, as I never had any faith in the first place, nor do I now. So I feel intellectually satisfied that my world-view has remained intact. I have a sanguine and very comforting view of my life: I didn’t exist for the first 14 billion years of the universe, and, pretty soon, I won’t exist again (although I almost “ducked out” early) so I feel a joy, every day, of simply being here and being alive. And, if there is anyone to praise for being alive, it is not some non-existent deity, it is those people who worked so hard in July 2016 to ensure that I remained here.

I had a brush with Corona in March, not something I would recommend as I did face the irony of actually considering the fact that, although I may have dodged the bullet of cardiac-arrest, I was going to succumb to Covid-19!

My life has definitely changed from pre-arrest, in fact, I do actually feel as if the “old David” died and a “new David” replaced him, even though this appears to be contradictory. My life has changed direction slightly, I am marginally more “famous” than before as my arrest was captured on CCTV (looking very fat in a pair of swimming trunks) which has proved useful for training and raising awareness (of cardiac-arrest and CPR, not obesity), I have given talks about my experience and I have become an ambulance service Community First Responder (CFR) and have paid back the compliment of surviving by helping to resuscitate more than one person in cardiac-arrest. I also feel I have made a contribution to society by serving people as a CFR during the current pandemic (via several layers of PPE).

Beyond this, I am not sure I can offer any great insight or sage-words, especially during this rather weird time of Corona semi-lockdown.

So, in cricket parlance….I’m four, not out.

My Coronavirus (COVID-19) experience with Dr Tom Keeble

In episode #39, Paul talks with LACA regular consultant cardiologist Dr Tom Keeble.

Dr Keeble talks about the current COVID-19 pandemic including his personal experiences as both a doctor treating patients and as someone who has has a suspected case of the disease. He also answers some questions from members of SCA UK on this topic.

Video about life after cardiac arrest features Basildon Hospital ...

Available to listen on the link below or Spotify, Apple , Google, YouTube and your favourite podcast player.

If you enjoyed this podcast please do leave a positive review on Apple or other podcast providers as it helps us to spread the word.

Presented and edited by Paul Swindell.

Recorded April 2020.