Relatives' experiences of everyday life six months after hypothermia treatment of a significant other′s cardiac arrest

Authors

  • Ewa Wallin RN,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Surgical Sciences - Anaesthesiology & Intensive Care, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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  • Ing-Marie Larsson RN,

    1. Department of Surgical Sciences - Anaesthesiology & Intensive Care, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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  • Sten Rubertsson MD, PhD,

    1. Department of Surgical Sciences - Anaesthesiology & Intensive Care, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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  • Marja-Leena Kristoferzon PhD, RN

    1. Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden
    2. Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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Correspondence: Ewa Wallin, Department of Surgical Sciences – Anaesthesiology & Intensive Care, Uppsala University, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden. Telephone: +46 18 6114840.

E-mail: ewa.wallin@surgsci.uu.se

Abstract

Aims and objectives

To describe relatives' experiences of needing support and information and of the impact on everyday life six months after a significant other survived cardiac arrest treated with therapeutic hypothermia at an intensive care unit.

Background

Being the relative of a cardiac arrest patient has been described as an unexpected chaotic situation. It is a unique experience because the event was unexpected, but also because of the heart disease and the uncertain neurological impact and outcome.

Design

The design of the study was qualitative.

Methods

Interviews with 20 relatives were conducted six months after a significant other's cardiac arrest. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using qualitative content analysis.

Results

Three main themes were identified: ‘Difficulties managing a changed life situation’, ‘Feeling like I come second’ and ‘Feeling new hope for the future’. The most common support to relatives came from family and friends, but relatives felt abandoned by healthcare personnel when the significant other was discharged from the intensive care unit and hospital. Relatives lacked information concerning prognosis, rehabilitation and follow-up. They wished to meet others in the same situation and share experiences. Relatives also felt people around them did not understand their situation.

Conclusions

Everyday life was still affected six months after the event, involving increased domestic responsibilities, restrictions in social life and constant concern for the person stricken by cardiac arrest.

Relevance to clinical practice

The study shows that healthcare personnel need to improve provision of support and information and provide follow-up appointments for relatives to clarify prognosis and rehabilitation issues.

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