Key Takeaways

    • Fear of recurrence and death from cardiac arrest in the future is normal and felt by many survivors. 
    • Your loved one may be hyper-focused on every change in their body. At the same time, it can be tough to know what symptoms are serious or not.
    • CPR pain, medication side effects, and stress or anxiety can cause worrisome feelings that may mimic heart-related symptoms.
    • Make an action plan with your loved one and their medical care team on how and when to seek emergency care.
Knowing when and how to take action

Upon leaving the hospital after a cardiac arrest, you and your loved one may worry about it happening again. In this resource, there is information that can help you and your loved one know when to take action. Read on to learn how not to confuse heart-related symptoms with something else and the importance of not ignoring certain symptoms.

Symptoms survivors may experience

There are some common symptoms of survivors of cardiac arrest that may concern you and your loved one. While some symptoms are serious, others may not be. Sometimes it can be tough to know what is serious versus not.  

Some common issues your loved one may experience: 

    • CPR pain: Pain or discomfort in the chest may be from receiving CPR. It saved your loved one’s life, but sometimes ribs may have been broken in the process, and this can be painful while healing. Other times, ribs didn’t break, but there may still be a time period when the chest can be sore. Doctors, before discharge, may have referred to it as costochondritis, which is a pain in the chest from inflammation of the cartilage that holds the ribs to the breastbone. Common recommendations for CPR pain include rest, taking a pain reliever, and using a heating pad. The medical care team will help your loved one decide what makes sense for them. There will likely be many follow-up visits where your loved one can ask questions or update doctors on the healing process.  
    • Medication side effects: Some important and necessary medications prescribed for your loved one’s cardiac health can cause side effects like dizziness or lightheadedness, which may be worrisome. It is good to discuss the side effects of medications with your loved one’s medical care team before they are prescribed. Pharmacists can also be helpful if you or your loved one have questions. There should also be information provided with the prescriptions. Your loved one should continue taking all medications as directed. However, if they experience any serious side effects, they shouldn’t hesitate to seek medical advice.
    • Stress and anxiety: Stress and anxiety can cause symptoms that may seem heart-related. After a serious medical event like cardiac arrest, your loved one may be paying extra close attention to their heart. Stress and anxiety can cause symptoms like a fast heart rate, dizziness, and sweating. Working with a mental health provider or learning stress reduction techniques can be helpful. It is also important to rule out medical causes for these symptoms.
    Have your loved one communicate and share concerns with family and friends

    It is important that your loved one can find someone they can trust and confide in. This person can be a spouse, adult child, friend, or even neighbor. What matters most is that they feel comfortable sharing their health concerns with another person. This person can stop the survivor from denying the seriousness of symptoms, encourage them to seek professional help when appropriate, and provide a different perspective.

    Although it might feel burdensome or uncomfortable to share every concern with another person, it is beneficial to both involved. The survivor can feel less alone, and the trusted person can feel like they are being of help by listening. Expressing worries or pain can help your loved one emotionally and will be crucial in an emergency situation.

    Make an action plan for serious symptoms

    If your loved one experiences symptoms that could be heart related after going home, they may need to seek care. Having an action plan helps in this stressful situation. In emergencies, you or your loved one may need to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. In less urgent situations, your loved one may be able to contact their medical care team to get advice. Know the name of your loved one’s preferred hospital for emergencies and how to contact their medical care team. There may be a certain staff member who is best to contact. Every place of care is different. Having a list for contact information is helpful to have on hand. It’s best to have this information before it’s necessary.

    Thank you to our contributors

    Jasmine Wylie & Danielle Rojas

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