AIM: To explore and gain in-depth understanding of how out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survivors experience the short- and long-term consequences on daily life.
DESIGN: A qualitative exploratory design.
METHODS: A purposive sample of 32 survivors of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Data from six audiotaped focus group interviews were collected in either November 2018 or in March 2019. Analysis and interpretation of the transcribed texts was performed using a phenomenological-hermeneutic approach guided by Ricoeur for unfolding lived experiences.
RESULTS: Three narratives were identified. The survivors narrated how they in the early phase after the cardiac arrest experienced: (a) 'a fragmented memory at the mercy of the system'. The analysis further showed how the participants were: (b) 'living in the shadow of anxiety and mixed feelings' and with the: (c) 'lost sense of self' up to several years after survival.
CONCLUSION: The participants in our study experienced distinct bodily impairments, suffering, and the lost sense of self in the return to daily life from early on to several years after resuscitation. There seem to be an urgent need for an early initiated post-arrest transitional care program led by an expert cardiac arrest nurse. In particular, the healthcare professionals need to pay attention to survivors in employment and with children living at home. Facilitated cardiac arrest peer support groups might minimize the long-term suffering, heighten the self-image, and install a new hope for the future.
IMPACT: To ease the post-arrest return to daily life for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survivors it seems important that a transitional care program from the inhospital setting to the community consist of: (a) screening for and education on bodily losses at an early stage, (b) provision of support on the often prolonged emotional reactions, and (c) referring for further individual and targeted psychological and neurological follow-up and rehabilitation if needed.