Chris and his son
Thursday 9th June 2016
Sandra’s son, Chris, has been by her side since she received the diagnosis of heart valve disease. Here, he speaks of his experience as a family member, and how he supported his mum.
My Mum had been suffering from a shortness of breath and tiredness. My siblings and I had encouraged her to see the doctor, but I thought these symptoms might be a knock on effect of anxiety or stress.I did not know that these are both key symptoms of heart valve disease.
My Mum has always taken care of herself and had lived a relatively healthy lifestyle. She never smoked and rarely drank alcohol, so I never expected her to have a problem with her heart. When Mum first told me about the GP noticing a heart murmur, I never thought about heart surgery. I had never heard of heart valve disease and thought it could be fixed with medication. When she then received the news that she had to have her valve replaced I was shocked and confused.
Prior to her surgery, I made sure she rested and helped her around the house. Post-treatment I was fully prepared that I would be needed for help and support. I care for my son with autism so helping others is second nature. I knew my Mum was going to be alright when we spoke on the phone and she requested her favourite drink and magazine, which I had already prepared! I've done everything I could housework wise, including ironing and hoovering. I even offered to shave her legs which is something I never imagined I'd do, but it made her feel more comfortable! When someone is recovering and vulnerable they might not ask you to do something for them through fear of being a burden.
I will always be eternally grateful to my mum's GP who first noticed her heart murmur and to the staff of the Great Western and the Bristol hospitals for taking such good care of her. My thanks also go to the practice nurse for healing her wound when it opened and taking care of the strongest woman I know. If you notice a family member struggling with symptoms of something, encourage them to see their doctor. It could be nothing, but it could be something as serious as valve disease.
My advice to anyone caring or supporting a patient who has just had treatment is to show patience and listen. I couldn't relate or understand what she’d been through but I could keep her company and let her know she wasn't alone. Despite causing her discomfort I found humour made Mum feel better, and being positive helps them be positive too! I also advise people to look at the resources that Heart Valve Voice provide.