St Helens resident, Judith Barrow, 66, experienced a heart attack in October 2021 but the diagnosis came as something of a surprise to her.
After attending a gender reveal party with family, Judith experienced a short spell of breathlessness which passed quickly but returned the following day as she walked around the supermarket.
Worried she had caught COVID-19, she returned to her car waiting for the feeling to pass, but the next morning contacted her GP after noticing some blood spots when she coughed. Her GP immediately arranged for her to attend the Emergency Department at Whiston Hospital, where she started to feel a heaviness in her chest, and a blood test confirmed she had had a heart attack.
Judith says, ‘I wasn’t in any pain, so it didn’t even cross my mind that it could have been a heart attack, as I’d not had any of the symptoms you hear about, like the tingling in your arms and the pain in your jaw. When the nurse told me I’d had a heart attack, I was shocked but surprisingly calm about it all, because I had complete faith in the NHS staff around me. Even when I was transferred to the Heart and Chest Hospital, I offered to wait at home until they were ready to do my surgery, which my consultant quickly and strongly advised against.’
‘I couldn’t fault the care I received, but the worst thing about my experience was missing my family. I’ve been married to my husband Doug for 43 years and we’re very rarely apart from each other, it was so difficult not being with him. He’s my best friend.’
Just a week after her life-saving operation, Judith returned home and was reunited with Doug, her sons Philip and Stuart, and grandchildren Maya, 13, Jack, 11, and Victor, 9. She said ‘After the op, the cardiac team encouraged me to start doing things for myself, so even though my sons wanted to wrap me up in cotton wool, I was soon back to doing jobs around the house like ironing. They still won’t let me do big jobs like swapping the bedding over just yet though.’
On the road to recovery, Judith is now midway through a community based cardiac rehabilitation programme led by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and is looking forward to picking up her hobbies again. She said ‘It feels like my recovery has been quick, but I’m still cautious about what I can and can’t do. The cardiac rehab team are supporting me to build my strength back up gradually through exercise, and I’m starting to feel more confident about returning to swimming again. It’s just so very reassuring to know I’m being monitored by the cardiac nurses.’
She also has this advice for others, ‘If you’re concerned about anything at all, get checked out as soon as possible, whether it’s by your GP or dialling 999. I didn’t know that feeling breathless was a sign of heart attack, and I’m so glad I didn’t leave it any longer to contact my doctor. If you’re concerned, just pick up the phone.’