Published: Friday, May 6th, 2016
The Impact of Heart Failure
As the home of regional and national heart services for NHSScotland, the Golden Jubilee National Hospital is proud to support European Heart Failure Awareness Day which takes place today, Friday 6 May 2016.
Heart Failure is a life-limiting condition which currently affects 50,000 people in Scotland alone. Many individuals suffering from this condition can live with disabling, isolating, symptoms for many years, requiring dedicated care by a Heart Failure multi disciplinary team, specialist nurses and advanced treatments.
European Heart Failure Awareness Day takes place on Friday 6 May 2016 and aims to emphasise the importance of early diagnosis and specialist treatment from a dedicated team of multi-disciplinary medical professionals.
Discussing the impact of Heart Failure, Dr Mark Petrie, Consultant Cardiologist at the Golden Jubilee, said: “On a daily basis, we see the devastating impact this illness can have on people from all walks of life. Contrary to popular belief, Heart Failure is not a heart attack and it is not a cardiac arrest. It can affect anyone, of any age group and it is essential that individuals are diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Some of these symptoms include a combination of shortness of breath, persistent coughing or wheezing, swollen ankles or legs, and general fatigue.
“In recent years we have made some incredible progress in life saving treatments and technologies, and we are currently working alongside healthcare professionals from all across the country as part of the Scottish Heart Failure Hub, to ensure people have access to the right care at the right time. We are helping more people than ever lead as healthy and normal a life as possible.”
One patient who is celebrating a major milestone this week is 64 year-old Stephen Kirkham who is approaching the first anniversary of his heart transplant following a ten year battle with Heart Failure.
As an infantry soldier for 26 years, before moving on to life as a Vicar in Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire for a decade, Stephen, led an extremely active and healthy lifestyle and initially assumed nothing was seriously wrong, when he unexpectedly collapsed just after Christmas in 2005.
Stephen said: “My heart failure journey started just after Christmas 2005, when I collapsed exhausted. This didn’t seem like it would be anything to worry about, I had always been very fit, and exhaustion could describe the feeling every Vicar has after the preparations and activities of the festive season.”
Stephen was suddenly diagnosed with a form of Heart Failure known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and despite initial fears he would need a transplant, for many years he was able to manage his condition with a strict regime of medication and exercise, even managing to battle the odds and return to work after six months on a reduced schedule.
He said: “At the time I was determined not to let it beat me; I was 53 and still felt I had a lot to give. Unfortunately as time went on my condition continued to decline. I increasingly felt that I was letting people down trying to be a ‘part-time’ Vicar, and while physically I was able to get by, I wasn’t coping well emotionally. This was really taking a toll on my health, so in 2007 I reluctantly took doctors advice and retired.”
Stephen moved toScotlandto be nearer his family in 2014 and was fitted with a Cardiac Resynchronisation Device (CRT) in 2015 in an attempt to reduce the symptoms of his condition. It quickly became clear, however, that this was not having any effect and he was referred to the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service at the Golden Jubilee.
Discussing his condition, Dr Petrie said: “Stephen had been living with Heart Failure for the better part of ten years and as such it had taken a serious toll on his health. When I met him, what had once been simple, everyday, tasks had become impossible and his condition was very advanced. Originally he was very reluctant to admit how ill he was; our team had to work very closely with him and his family to help him understand and come to terms with the fact that he was now terminally ill and that, sadly, a heart transplant was his only option.”
Within just a few days of being admitted to the Golden Jubilee, Stephen suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and had to undergo an emergency intervention, before being placed on the urgent transplant list. Amazingly, within just two weeks a donor heart was found and Stephen was successfully transplanted in May 2015.
He said: “The care I received at the Golden Jubilee was absolutely fantastic. Thanks to everyone from the consultants, to the nursing and support staff, I am no longer living with heart failure and for the first time in years, my family and I can look to the future. While I need to be attentive day by day, this is a chance to make the most of my new life. In January, I climbed a ‘big hill’ in my local area and am hoping to have tackled a Munro by September.”
Many people living with this condition require a complex balance of medication, lifestyle adjustments and specialist care offered by Boards all across Scotland, linking directly with the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital to help ensure patients get the right care, at the right place and at the right time.
As part of Heart Failure Awareness Day, awareness raising events and information sessions are taking place all across the country. If you are concerned you, or someone you know may be suffering from heart failure, please contact your GP as soon as possible.