What to expect
Having a family member experience a sudden cardiac arrest is frightening, but there are plenty of resources to help you and your family. It is perfectly normal to be going through shock, anger, denial, or sadness at first. Witnessing the event can be especially traumatizing and many family members feel they didn’t do the right thing or know how to help. It is important to talk about these feelings, either with a family member, friend, or a professional. Remember, the key is to focus on the recovery you and your family member still have ahead of you.
Survivors often describe physical, mental, and emotional changes after the event—some that last for a few hours, and others that never go away. While each person’s experience is unique, many have said they share similar feelings and go through the same lifestyle changes, from receiving an implanted defibrillator (ICD) to new thoughts about their own mortality.
You may have similar feelings, including fears that it may happen again or worries about what an ICD is and what to do if it goes off. Many SCA Survivors face challenges after their SCA. Knowing that these are possibilities and are normal reactions can make supporting your loved one an easier experience.
Being someone’s carer probably only describes part of your relationship with them. You may also be a parent, partner, sister, brother, child, friend or another family member. This relationship can be just as (or more) important to you. You may also have other caring roles as well, for example as a parent to other children. Supporting others can be mentally and physically exhausting and the time you spend caring during the survivor’s recovery can really vary too. It is therefore extremely important that you try and maintain your own health and ask for help should you feel things are getting beyond you.
Knowing that these are possibilities and are normal reactions can make supporting your loved one an easier experience. Examples of things that others have dealt with include:
Many SCA survivors will tell you that they were looked at differently by employers and co-workers. Some people will try and be compassionate about the situation. Others will turn and run. Don’t take this personally. They probably just don’t know what to say. If it is appropriate, talk to colleagues about what has happened, and offer to educate them on how to respond if they are with someone who experiences a cardiac arrest.
Chances are classmates of your loved one will know about or may have even witnessed their SCA event. If they are comfortable sharing their story, others will more than likely be interested and want to hear about it. Consider sharing and using the occasion to educate others about the importance of CPR/AED awareness. Seek trusted teachers, coaches or friends, and don’t be afraid to talk with the school pastoral personnel.
When a person survives SCA, it is most likely a big scare for their entire family. Many survivors have had family members start CPR and call 999. Be patient with everyone involved. A common reaction is to be scared something bad will happen again. The best solution is for each of you to talk about your feelings: good, bad and otherwise. If you weren’t doing this before the SCA, now is the time to start.
Many survivors receive an ICD soon after the SCA. Become educated about this device, and make sure your family does too. If it is needed, it will give a shock—one that could save their life. You can find out more about shocks here.
Many times survivors face other challenges as well: physical limitations, memory lapses, diet restrictions, medications, depression, anxiety and fear. Coping There can be many challenges after a life-changing event like an SCA, and many have found joining helps them adjust, both emotionally and physically, to their new lives as survivors.
Finding other people who’ve been through a similar experience will help with fears and anxiety and provide a forum to ask questions to someone who’s already been through this.
Sometimes, survivors find that more formal counselling is necessary. This applies to the family and friends of the survivor as well. Members of Sudden Cardiac Arrest UK can get access to FREE counselling, see here for more information.
If the emotional and mental challenges following the SCA persist or interfere with your life, or if you just need to talk, contact a professional. Help See the following organisers for help with being a carer