Paul Kirby is 66 years old and lives in Acocks Green, Birmingham UK. Up to August of last year, he had always enjoyed good health. Then, with little warning, he became one of the 300,000 people in the UK who have a heart attack each year. Here, we tell Paul’s story.
On the morning of his heart attack, Paul experienced some discomfort in his chest. He put it down to indigestion. It came and went throughout the day. During the evening, Paul told his wife it was getting worse.
After contacting the GP out of hours emergency service, they were advised to go straight to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, where Paul was monitored overnight. Having had blood tests and an electrocardiograph of his heart taken, Paul was seen on the ward by Dr Gordon Murray, a consultant cardiologist, who confirmed that Paul had suffered a heart attack and should be transferred to the hospital’s coronary care unit.
After a couple of days’ treatment and rest, Paul had a special x-ray taken of the blood vessels in and around his heart to help Dr Murray see whether any narrowing was restricting the blood flow.
Two of Paul’s vital coronary arteries were, indeed, narrower than they should have been. He was told he would need an operation (known as a coronary artery bypass graft) to deal with the problem.
This was arranged to take place at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, one of the main regional centres for open heart surgery. Fortunately, the surgery went well. Paul returned home five days later, where he was visited by a specialist nurse from Birmingham Heartlands Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Team, who stressed the importance of taking medication to keep his blood pressure down, eating healthily and taking regular exercise.
The nurse noticed that Paul was looking quite pale and arranged for him to have a blood test at his GP’s surgery, which confirmed that his iron levels were low – a problem quickly rectified by a short course of iron tablets.
Paul was also assessed as being suitable to take part in the community cardiac rehabilitation programme which, the evidence shows, speeds up patients’ recovery from heart surgery, builds up their confidence and helps prevent a further attack.
As Paul was to discover, the programme entailed structured physical activity led by a senior cardiac nurse and an exercise physiologist, as well as education sessions with a variety of healthcare professionals, including a stress adviser, a food health adviser, a pharmacist and a smoking cessation specialist.
Paul attended 16 sessions run by Eastern Birmingham Primary Care Trust at Fox Hollies Leisure Centre. These sessions are designed to improve the health of local people and promote lifelong independence. Now that he has completed the programme, Paul undergoes regular reviews with his own GP. He has also purchased exercise equipment so that he can continue with his physical activity plan at home.
Paul found that the programme increased his own confidence following the frightening episode of a heart attack. Whilst not someone who would normally join groups, he felt that exercising with other people had helped reassure him that he was not the only one going through this experience.
What Paul’s story also helps to show is just how many NHS professionals are involved in diagnosing and treating someone with a serious condition and supporting their recovery.
Primary care professionals and hospital specialists work closely together to ensure that people like Paul not only survive the trauma of a heart attack but go on to lead healthy lives.
And it’s not just the ‘hands on’ staff, such as doctors and nurses, who patients meet on the hospital ward or in their local surgery. There’s a vital support team behind them, such as the Cardiac Rehabilitation Team who makes sure that patients’ GPs have all the information they need to consolidate their recovery following surgery.
Said Paul: “The care I’ve received has been brilliant. I had never previously realised how much support I would continue to get from NHS staff after I left hospital. It’s really opened my eyes to what is available to patients like me.”
Paul’s story highlights how important it is for us all – not just heart attack patients – to eat a healthy, balanced diet and take exercise. Paul’s got the message.