Prior to January 2020, Karen MacLaughlin was a strong, independent, fit and healthy woman however all that changed when she was awoken in the middle of the night by the crushing pain of a massive heart attack.
“I worked as a nurse and midwife all of my adult life, and in recent years had moved into primary care for normal working hours and to reduce stress. I felt like I was finally looking after myself. I walked or cycled everywhere and loved yoga,” Karen recalled.
She said on that night in January 2020 she was transformed into “a frail, fragile version of my former self.”
Karen was diagnosed with significant heart failure after her heart attack and was transferred to the Mater to be assessed for a heart transplant which thankfully she didn’t need.
“My survival was a surprise to all, a large scar on my heart that would never recover following complicated emergency stenting, a diagnosis of reduced ejection fraction heart failure and insertion of an ICD,” she said.
“Living well with heart failure requires continuous self-management,"
“I felt completely traumatised, in shock and terrified. The life limitations felt unbearable, symptoms of extreme fatigue were completely debilitating and I suffered from shortness of breath on minimal exertion.”
Karen added that the “physical impacts and psychological fallout are completely overwhelming, with low mood and depression adding to the challenges. Fear became my daily companion…fear of dying, my heart condition worsening, another heart attack. Every day is a fight, our invisible disability not recognised.”
Today two years later thanks to her hard work and dedication to keeping physically active, engaging with psychological supports, and improved medication titration, Karen said she was finally “living well with heart failure” and “beginning to accept the new me.”
Karen said that the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Support Network’ gives her the opportunity to see the stories of others who face similar challenges which enables her to feel less isolated.
“Living well with heart failure requires continuous self-management and the Irish Heart Foundation’s monthly meetings provide connection, valuable further education, and relevant and practical advice which is hugely beneficial,” she added.