A man in his 30s has revealed how he went to bed one night and woke up in intensive care a month later with a diagnosis of heart failure.
When Alan Ferron, 36, from Kiltipper in Dublin, suffered a heart attack in bed, he says it felt like someone was sitting on his chest.
“My girlfriend rushed me to hospital, and when I got there, I collapsed on the floor and went into cardiac arrest.
“After being revived, I had another cardiac arrest, and was then fitted with a stent.”
While in hospital, Ferron contracted pneumonia and his family was told he had a very low chance of survival, and due to the condition of his heart, likely wouldn’t make it through the first night in ICU.
“I had a lot going on! But the main thing is that I pulled through.
“I have hazy memories of waking up at times during that month, but I couldn’t breathe on my own so I needed intubation and ventilation.
“But after all that, I got out of hospital just in time to sit my fitness instructor exams a few weeks later and I passed!
“Now, living with heart failure as a result, the left side of my heart doesn’t work at all, and the right side pumps all the blood around to each of my organs.”
With a new diagnosis of heart failure, Alan has made changes to his lifestyle.
“I need to be careful – if I’m leaving the house I usually need to rest beforehand, as the fatigue can hit you hard.
“I exercise regularly, either in the gym, or walking or cycling and I take medication each day and monitor the amount of fluid I drink. In recent months I had an ICD implanted in my chest which gives me great peace of mind.
“Once the ICD is settled in and my 20-month-old daughter is in the creche in a few months I hope to go back to work as a fitness instructor.”
Alan is encouraging all those who have been diagnosed with heart failure to be aware of the symptoms of heart failure and engage with the Irish Heart Foundation’s Heart Support Network – a private Facebook group of those living with the condition.
“I found it very helpful when I came out of hospital initially – everything was new to me so it was nice to hear from and read about people who had gone through the same thing as me.
“It helped me understand that it’s not all doom and gloom, and it helped to get me back on my feet – a great help at a time when I needed it.
“I would definitely encourage people to engage with the supports, to talk it through and not to bottle things up.”
The Irish Heart Foundation says that although heart failure can sound frightening, it is important that patients understand their heart is not about to stop.
“Heart failure describes a heart that is not working as well as it should and can affect people of any age,” said Dr Angie Brown, the charity’s Medical Director.
“It occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body, because the walls of the heart have become too weak or too stiff to work properly. It is estimated that 90,000 people live with the condition in Ireland.
“The most common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, especially with activity or when lying flat, swollen feet, ankles or abdomen, weight gain over a short period of time.
"Others may include loss of appetite, dizziness or near fainting episodes, rapid heartbeat, changes in mood or a reduced ability to exercise.
“Symptoms like these happen when your heart is not pumping blood around the body efficiently, allowing excess fluid to pool in your lungs and elsewhere in your body, most usually your feet and ankles.
“However, it’s important to note that heart failure can be prevented. Reducing your risk factors for heart disease will help prevent heart failure, such as not smoking, controlling high blood pressure, eating healthy food, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, and drinking moderately.
“Heart failure generally responds very well to a combination of medicines and lifestyle changes and some people may need operations, pacemakers or similar devices.
“With modern treatment, people with heart failure can lead long, quality lives.”
For more information on heart failure and to check your symptoms, visit irishheart.ie.