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Support Group with a Heart

Ian Shuttlewood's experience of a heart attack was not a textbook one. There were none of the classic symptoms - crushing chest pain, arm or back pain, shortness of breath and nausea that he had seen in 37 years of working in the ambulance service.

“I had felt a bit unwell during the day and had a sharp stabbing pain under my left armpit,” said Ian, who is retired and lives in Barrow. Despite the pain worsening as the night wore on, Ian didn’t suspect a heart attack - but his wife Lizzie was not taking chances and called an ambulance. He was taken to Glenfield Hospital where doctors ran tests and confi rmed that he had had a heart attack, a shock diagnosis for both of them. He had two stents placed in an artery and was left to process what had happened.

It was then that the couple asked themselves the question posed by many heart attack patients: “What now?” Lizzie recalls sitting at Ian’s bedside wondering how their lives would change. Would Ian be able to lead a normal life? Would they be able to travel? Would he be able to lift things?

Questions spun in her head and while walking through the hospital foyer, she came across a book sale in aid of Take Heart Leicester (THL), a support group for heart patients, manned by Janet Finnigan, the wife of THL volunteer Terry Finnigan, who had a heart attack 14 years ago.

Terry was doing ward visits and popped in on Ian, offering words of encouragement and describing how he had recovered and was now leading a healthy life. On discharge, Ian and Lizzie decided to attend THL meetings.

There they met others who were recovering well and swapped stories of what worked for them. Ian says in the weeks after his heart attack, he was nervous of every twinge, but as time went by, he gained confi dence and the advice from fellow heart patients helped him get back to normal living.

He subsequently started doing ward visits to give back something of what he had received and Lizzie took on the role of secretary of the group. Three years have passed since his heart attack and he is now completely well.

Ian and Lizzie fi rmly believe that the road to recovery can be aided by support from other patients, through organisations like THL. Glenfield Hospital has a reputation as a centre of excellence for cardiac conditions and it is home to the University of Leicester British Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Research Centre. Cardiovascular disease kills more than 160,000 people in the UK every year and the centre brings together scientists, doctors and patients to improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment available.

A Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) group dedicated to the cardiac research project meets to receive and comment on updates from the research teams and to help the professional staff by giving the patient and public perspective.

To contribute to the PPI group, contact the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences on 0116 256 3021 or email sp504@le.ac.uk.

Lindsay Ord

Take Heart Leicester, which has been running for 31 years, serves the whole of Leicestershire. There are five Barrow residents who attend meetings and Lizzie would like more people to be aware of the group which is for patients and carers.
Support group meetings are held at Glenfield Hospital Education Centre on the fi rst Saturday of the month from 10am to 12 noon. Tea and coffee is served and sometimes there is a speaker. About 45 people of all ages attend. Open meetings are held regularly at the hospital and volunteers visit cardiac patients in wards.
Take Heart walks of about an hour are held in various locations and are open to all, including children and dogs. The walk is followed by a pub lunch - there are those who skip the walk and come for the lunch, and that’s fine too!
THL also holds fund-raising events to buy items needed by the cardiac wards, like visitors’ chairs, more over-bed tables and a television.

For more information, visit www.takeheartleicester.co.uk, email thl@takeheartleicester.co.uk or call Lizzie on 01509 414930.