After a heart attack, 36-year-old Debbie Siddons was too scared to pick up her 18-month-old baby. Rehabilitation helped her move on with her life.
It was the usual rush in the Siddons household as Debbie raced around getting her four children ready for school. But as she strode into the living room to summon her eldest, she was suddenly stopped in her tracks by a sharp pain in her chest.
"My heart was racing, the pain was awful, and I had pins and needles in my lower jaw and down both arms," she says. "I sat down on the sofa hoping the pain would stop, but it didn't. I knew something was very wrong. I was on my own with the kids, so I got my eldest to bring me the phone. I called my mother-in-law and my father and told them I didn't feel very well. My dad was over in 10 minutes. He took one look at me and called an ambulance."
In the ambulance, paramedics gave Debbie an electrocardiogram (ECG) to test the electrical activity in her heart. She was then given an aspirin to chew. Once she got to the hospital, doctors gave her a drug to dissolve any clots in her blood that might have caused the heart attack.
"I knew it was serious, but I didn't guess how serious," she remembers. "When I got to the hospital, it was madness. Everyone was rushing around, hooking me up to machines. It didn't take the doctor long to tell me I'd suffered a heart attack. It didn't quite sink in until my mother-in-law got to the hospital and I had to tell her what had happened to me."
Debbie stayed in hospital for a week. On the sixth day, she began to experience pins and needles in her left arm. Doctors were concerned that she might be having another heart attack. As a precaution, she was given another ECG and sent for an angiogram, a procedure that checks the arteries for blockages. The angiogram was clear and Debbie didn't have another attack. The cause of her original attack is still unknown.
Back at home, she realised how much the experience had shaken her. "I was frightened to do anything. I was nervous about going up the stairs, and I was too scared to pick up my 18-month-old daughter in case I had another heart attack," she says.
"Then I was sent for rehabilitation, which really helped. We learned about healthy eating and exercise, but a big part of it was finding the confidence to carry on with our lives. The nurses reassured me that I could live a perfectly normal life again and they were right. By the end of the six-week course, I'd got my confidence back."
Two years on, Debbie still takes several drugs every day, including aspirin and a statin, to help prevent another attack. She sees a consultant once a year. But so far she hasn't had another heart attack. "It was a very frightening experience, but I came through it," she says. "I'd urge anyone who's had one to make the most of rehabilitation and use all the help they can get. It certainly helped me to move on."