The Lived Experience of a Heart Attack: Individual Accounts of Primary Coronary Intervention Survivors -- Carol G. Laberge
The purpose of this study was to understand what sense or meaning people make of their experience of heart attack treated with primary percutaneous coronary intervention at an urban hospital. The research focused on people living in rural areas, defined as communities of more than 10,000 people, and at least one hour commute by automobile to the urban center.
A blended hermeneutic-phenomenological and narrative inquiry methodology was utilized to explore the subjective embodied experience of 10 individuals. The participants were between 30-70 years old, and they all resided in rural communities in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Three females and 7 males were interviewed, and everyone had to have been home from hospital for at least 3 months, but not more than 18.
A qualitative, interpretive analysis revealed 9 meaning structures that characterize a participant’s journey from the onset of heart attack, through the coronary medical intervention, and subsequent follow-up in their home rural communities. The 9 meaning structures include: operating in a fog, disbelief and trust, impact on health restoration, knowing versus not knowing, taking stock and realization, advocating follow-up care, transforming lifestyle patterns, appreciating luck, and living with cardiac disease in rural areas. In turn, the 9 structures were organized into 3 overarching thematic patterns: cardiac disease and rural living, the impact of lifestyle pattern change, and meaning through emotional expression. Through original poetic compositions, I sought to capture and share the emotional, expressive meaning of each study participant.
The study offers an understanding about the meaning people make of an acute illness experience, and that emotional expression plays a central part. It is noteworthy that rural-based people become very resourceful, given the lack of institutional supports in their regions. Overall, the insights and findings call for new, expanded, and fresh ways to deliver information and provide resources to support post-heart attack patients living in rural areas.
Key Words: heart attack; primary percutaneous coronary intervention; lived experience; meaning-making; poetic composition; rural community.