Trapped in a disrupted normality: Survivors’ and partners’ experiences of life after a sudden cardiac arrest
Whitehead L., Tierney S., Biggerstaff D., Perkins GD., Haywood KL.
© 2020 Elsevier B.V. Aim of the study: Advances in resuscitation science have resulted in a growing number of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) survivors. However, we know very little about the natural history of recovery and the unmet needs of survivors and their partners. This qualitative study sought to address this knowledge gap to improve understanding of the consequences of surviving cardiac arrest. Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were undertaken separately with survivors and their partners between 3 and 12-months following the cardiac arrest. An interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) to data analysis was adopted. Developing themes were discussed between members of the research team. Results: 8 survivors (41–79 years; 5 male; mean time 6.3 months post-hospital discharge) and 3 partners (1 male) were interviewed. The key (super-ordinate) theme of being ‘trapped in a disrupted normality’ was identified within the data. Five related subordinate themes included: existential impact, physical ramifications, emotional consequences, limiting participation in social activities and altered family roles. Conclusion: Recovery for survivors is hindered by a wide range of physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual challenges that disrupt perceptions of ‘normality’. Survivors and their carers may benefit from focussing on establishing a ‘new normal’ rather than striving to achieve a pre-cardiac social and physical position. Survivor-centred assessment should support rather than undermine this goal.