Key Takeaways

    • Fear of recurrence and death from a cardiac arrest in the future is normal and felt by many survivors. 
    • You may be hyper-focused on every change in your 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 family members and 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 close family members may worry about it happening again. In this resource, there is information that can help you 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 family. While some symptoms are serious, others may not be. Sometimes it can be tough to know what is serious versus not. 

 Some common issues survivors may experience: 

    • CPR pain: Pain or discomfort in the chest may be from receiving CPR. It saved your 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 your chest can be sore. Your doctors before discharge may have referred to it as costochondritis, which is a pain in the chest from inflammation of the cartilage that holds your ribs to your breastbone. Common recommendations for CPR pain include rest, taking a pain reliever, and using a heating pad. Your medical care team will help you decide what makes sense for you. You will likely have many follow-up visits where you can ask questions or update them on healing.  
    • Medication side effects: Some important and necessary medications prescribed for your cardiac health can cause side effects like dizziness or lightheadedness that may worry you. It is good to discuss the side effects of medications with your medical care team before they are prescribed. Pharmacists who fill medications for you can also be helpful if you have questions. You can also read the information provided with your prescriptions. Continue taking all medications as directed, and if you experience any serious side effects, don’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, you may be paying extra close attention to your 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.
    Communicate and share your concerns with your family and friends

    It is important to find someone you can trust and confide in. This person can be a spouse, adult child, friend, or even neighbor. What matters most is that you feel comfortable sharing your health concerns with them. This person can stop you from denying the seriousness of symptoms, encourage you 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 of you. You are able to feel less alone, and they are able to feel like they are helping you by listening. Expressing your worries or pain can help you emotionally and will be crucial in an emergency situation.

    Make an action plan for serious symptoms

    If you experience symptoms that could be heart related after going home, you may need to seek care. Having an action plan helps in this stressful situation. In emergencies, you may need to call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. In less urgent situations, you may be able to contact your medical care team to get advice. Know the name of your preferred hospital for emergencies and how to contact your 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 you need it.

    Thank you to our contributors

    Jasmine Wylie & Danielle Rojas

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