Adapting to life following a sudden cardiac arrest

Adapting to life following a sudden cardiac arrest

Many of the people we speak to at Arrhythmia Alliance who are recovering from sudden cardiac arrest have questions about implantable devices and how their lives may be affected following implant of a device such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). ICD's are fitted to monitor your heart rhythm and shock your heart back into normal sinus rhythm if an abnormal rate is detected. There are actually three circumstances when an ICD might come into action:

• If your heart rhythm is too slow, the device can give your heart extra support by working as a normal pacemaker. This is called anti-bradycardia pacing.

• If your heart beats too fast, the ICD can give you a burst of extra beats at slightly faster rate which will normally return your heart back to a normal rhythm. This is called anti-tachycardia pacing (or ATP).

• If the anti-tachycardia pacing doesn’t bring your heart back to a normal rhythm, or if the ICD senses a faster dangerous rhythm called Ventricular Fibrillation, the ICD can then give a shock. This is called defibrillation.

It is important to adapt to life with a device and understand any lifestyle changes you may need to make. Following implant for example you will have to make the DVLA aware that you are now fitted with a device. It is also important to keep your device identity card on your person at all times.

Finding a suitable travel insurance provider can also be difficult, information is available on our website here

Download our ICD Patient Information booklet;

5 Replies

  • Our little boy,3 years old at the time, suffered a cardiac arrest in his sleep in June 2012. Initially we thought he was having a fit as neither myself or my husband had never witnessed either before but once arriving in A and E we were told it was a cardiac arrest. It was a very bewildering time for us and we had lots of questions to answer by the healthcare staff as they tried to figure out what had happened. Our son was transferred to a specialist hospital where, after suffering a second cardiac arrest on arrival, he thankfully made a full recovery and spent 7 weeks on the children's ward before being allowed home.

    The first few months at home were very stressful and although we were glad to be home, we had felt 'safe' in the hospital. It took a long time before we stopped watching our son's every move, the ever important 'rucksack' containing the aed went everywhere he did and staving him to a monitor every night became second nature.

    Our consultant discussed fitting an icd with us but we made the decision while still the in hospital to try not to do this until our little boy was older and to manage on medication for as long as possible. However just before Christmas it was agreed that fitting an icd was the safest option and three weeks ago the operation took place.

    Our lives have changed again and we are still adjusting to this change while still trying to come to terms with the events over the past 10 months. We have a great support network of family, friends and health professionals that we have made full use of and probably shall continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

    And we are very very lucky to have our (now) 4 year old still with us causing mischief!

  • Thank you for sharing your story on your son's recovery, it is interesting to learn more about sudden cardiac arrest in the very young. We would love to place your story on our website to highlight both that SCA really can effect anyone and the importance of an AED. Please email for more information.

  • I was diagnosed with ARVC a few years back, being relatively healthy, sporty and undertaking a stressful job in the City not taking on board my condition. It was with some reluctance on my part an ICD was fitted in July 2010 and within in a few months after returning to work I had a VT episode resulting in a number of shocks where I was hospitalised with my ICD being replaced. I can’t thank the rehab and support staff at St Thomas’ Hospital enough for their help and returned to work in February 2011. I still found it difficult to accept I had an illness or there were any psychological issues and focused on work which now I realize if anything was compounding the problem. I collapsed on New Year’s Eve 2011 having had several severe episodes of VT requiring admission to ICU Papworth hospital for consideration of heart transplantation, luckily this never happened. I returned to the cardiac rehab sessions now with psychological worries about getting further VT storms. I was planning to return to work in March 2011 on a phased basis but had further VT episodes whilst swimming with my children, which was frightening for all concerned leading to having an ablation. I found returning to work in May 2012 very hard and come July I was readmitted to hospital as there was concern over one of the leads and having the ICD replaced. I returned to the cardiac rehab sessions in September with Psychological counseling in October which are still ongoing. I can’t stress enough how much the counseling has helped, I now accept my illness and how lucky to have the ICD. I have not returned to work and understand in view of my condition unable to do my duties involving long haul travel, long hours and stress as not idea for my arrhythmia and progression of the condition.

    I’m fitter than I have ever been for a long time and continue with regular excise and swimming with a positive outlook going forward. I would like to let other sufferers know of my experience and to be involved with support groups.

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences, the psychological aspects of living with an ICD are of great interest to us - it's brilliant to learn about your positive experiences with counseling.

  • I had my SCA in Jul 2010 whilst at work. My colleagues (paramedics) were there to save me. I think quite a few people have seen mine as it was filmed for the program 'Helicopter Heroes' it is also on the Arrhythmia Alliance web page. Since mine I have stopped smoking and also not drinking anymore (not that I had to) but just did. I get out on my bike every now and then. the simple answer for me is to take each day as it comes. I have been given a second chance. it was not my turn to go just then. I have had 3 extra years now, I have seen 3 lovely grand daughters grow up (2 of which were not even born).

    I know this is not much but this is me. I want to help promote CPR in schools and also teach it, I am doing training for this. I also go to conferences to talk about my experience, not just to laypersons but professionals as well they all see the DVD and cannot believe what they have seen.

You may also like...