Aim. The aim is to describe experiences of daily life of women and men during the first four to six months after a myocardial infarction. The focus is on problems, managing problems and support from their network.
Background. A cardiac event is traumatic and may influence well-being during a significant period of time. Few qualitative studies have investigated experiences of both women and men after a myocardial infarction and remarkably little research has been conducted on men's experiences.
Design. The study design was descriptive, retrospective and qualitative.
Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 women and 19 men from January 2000 to November 2001. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results. Three themes were generated from the analysis: ‘Threatening ordinary life’, ‘Struggling for control’ and ‘The ambiguous network’. Physical symptoms and emotional distress were the most commonly described problems during the first months after a myocardial infarction. The informants manage the problems by negotiating with themselves, relying on their own capabilities, changing attitudes and behaviours and taking their own decisions and actions. The network was generally supportive but rather often the informants also experienced communication problems when they interacted with their network.
Conclusions. Women and men strive for balance between problems and resources in daily life after a myocardial infarction. How well they succeeded depends on how secure they feel how well they communicate their needs to their network and how sensitive their network is to their spoken and unspoken needs.
Relevance to clinical practice. The findings provide an insight into what kind of problems women and men may experience after myocardial infarction and how caregivers can aid them to increase security in their daily life. Some risk characteristics that may have increased their problems in daily life are suggested, for women and men respectively.