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Healthy GP talks surviving near-fatal heart attack

LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Dr Carol Ighofose fell ill at the wheel

GP DR CAROL Ighofose has written her first book about surviving a near-fatal heart attack to help others like her.

The now 50-year-old mother-of-two put pen to paper following her discharge from hospital and while recovering at home after an unexplained heart attack last year.

EXAMPLE
The recently published 110-page book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: The Heart of the Matter, describes what happens during a heart attack and talks about how to live well – physically, emotionally and spiritually – after the event.

She said: “The reason I’ve written the book is so that everyone understands that anyone can have a heart attack – I’m an example of that.

“I had none of the conventional risk factors associated with heart attacks. I’ve never smoked, I’m not obese, I have normal cholesterol levels and I’m in good health – and yet one of my main arteries was completely blocked. The majority of cases of heart attacks have a known cause but that leaves a small percentage which are unexplained like mine. It’s a practical and educational book with a mix of medical information and personal testimony.

“Writing the book has been quite cathartic and I want it to be a springboard for me to reach and help other people.”


PICTURED: Dr Ighofose's book

On January 22, 2018, Dr Ighofose was driving home to Humberstone Village, Leicester, from her work as a city GP. She was chatting with a medic friend on her hands-free phone when her suspected indigestion turned into classic heart attack symptoms.

Dr Ighofose, who was now becoming clammy, sweaty and confused, pulled over while her friend called 999. She was rushed to the Leicester Royal Infirmary’s Accident and Emergency Department and eventually transferred to Glenfield Hospital where she had a stent fitted in her artery.

Although Dr Ighofose is now back at work part time, she is still living with the legacy of her heart attack. Her heart now pumps blood at a reduced capacity of around 39 per cent when it should ideally be 65- 70 per cent, and she often feels tired and dizzy. She is also at risk of heart failure and sudden death from a cardiac arrest, but is determined to continue beating the odds.

FRAGILE
She said: “It’s made me appreciate even more how fragile life is. Things that are truly meaningful in life have become even more of a priority now. I have even more sympathy for the care my patients receive from the NHS especially because of what happened to me when the shoe was on the other foot.”

Speaking about what people who have experienced a heart attack should do after experiencing one Dr Ighofose said: “Living well after a heart attack is about taking a holistic approach to getting better.

“Though you have been affected physically, the impact is also emotional, psychological and spiritual; the whole person is attacked – body, soul and spirit. In the book I talk about the first step of recovering physically, both in hospital and then at home, with rest which helps the heart do less work.”

She continued: “I cover the importance of cooperating with the health care professionals, understanding the medications you will be prescribed, the importance of good lifestyle practices including exercise to strengthen the heart muscles and about returning to ‘normal life’.

“It is expected that you will feel sad after the heart attack, particularly as it is usually sudden and a significant life changing event, but it’s important to recognise when this goes too far and the normal emotional reaction becomes depression or anxiety.”

Dr Ighofose added: “I have discussed warning signs and symptoms to look out for. Addressing the spiritual side of things may come in the form of you facing the reality of your mortality and questioning, rejecting or embracing faith. It’s so important to not allow the event of having a heart attack be ‘the end of the world’ and the book is full of practical advice covering things like housework, travelling, a sex life and returning to work.”

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