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From hospital to home

When Catriona, a 52 year old nurse from Edinburgh, suffered a heart attack during lockdown, she feared the worst. But thanks to support from the Hospital to Home team at Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, the NHS and the Scottish Ambulance Service, she’s now back to living life to the full.

And that’s all because of you. Throughout the pandemic, supporters like you have been fundraising, donating and volunteering to help keep our lifeline services running. At a time when we’ve been losing £500,000 of income a month, we’ve seen an 80% increase in demand for our services.

You’re more than a supporter. You’re a hero. During the Covid-19 crisis you’ve provided life-line support for 3,000 people affected by chest, heart and stroke conditions – including Covid-19 – through our Hospital to Home services.

One of those 3,000 people was Catriona, a mum of two who had a heart attack in April this year, just as the pandemic was taking hold in Scotland.

Out of the blue

Catriona’s heart attack came completely out of the blue, while she was at her allotment with husband Gary.

“Normally I go by myself but that day he came along to keep me company by chance really – I don’t know what would’ve happened if I was alone,” Catriona explains.

“I experienced chest pains which came on quite suddenly and at first I thought it was indigestion, but it quickly intensified. I felt very unwell, so I said to Gary I think you’ll need to phone an ambulance.”

Being a nurse, Catriona’s mind was racing with all the worst possible scenarios. Having lost her dad to a heart attack at around the same age she is now, she feared the worst.

“My dad died of a heart attack when he was only 50, so that was going through my mind. I have a strong family history of heart disease and it has always been something I have worried about,” she says.

Catriona was so relieved when the paramedics arrived. They began to treat her straight away.

“Gary couldn’t come in the ambulance with me or come into the hospital because of the virus. He had to wait outside until someone was able to phone him to let him know what was happening.

“I remember crying in the ambulance when the paramedic told me I was having a heart attack but she was very calm and reassuring and I felt I was in safe hands. I was very frightened but I reassured myself that I was conscious, heading to the right place and that I would be okay, that I would survive this.

“I’ve always known paramedics do an important job but they’re quite a hidden part of the health service, even though what they do can be the difference between life and death. They really are amazing.”

Feeling alone

Catriona was worried about the effect Covid-19 might have on her recovery, from the treatment options available to the risk of catching the virus while in hospital.

But the NHS staff did a fantastic job of putting her mind at ease.

“When I arrived at the hospital the cardiology team were waiting for me and I had an angioplasty and insertion of a stent straight away. The team were very reassuring and caring and again I felt I was in safe hands,” she explains.

Recovering in hospital during the pandemic was a lonely experience for Catriona, however. She felt isolated and alone during the four days she spent on the ward.

“No visitors were allowed so I couldn’t see my family or friends, although I was able to speak to them on the phone or by text, I did feel quite lonely at times. It was strange only seeing the staff eyes due to the masks.

“When something major like this happens, the support of people around you gets you through. And usually family can rally together too but they couldn’t all see each other either, or even hug each other, so it was a hard time for my family too,” adds Catriona.

From hospital to home

Because of lockdown, everyday life already felt quite strange – but Catriona’s heart attack amplified this even more.

“I felt anxious and on edge when I got home. The normal face to face services weren’t available, everything was thrown up in the air because of the virus.  The usual support wasn’t there,” she explains.

Catriona didn’t know how long it would be before someone from the hospital would be in touch to help with her recovery. So she took things into her own hands.

“I did feel quite isolated and I wasn’t confident about what to do next, so that’s why I phoned Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

“I started speaking to Wendy from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s Hospital to Home team.

“Wendy phoned me a couple of times a week for around an hour and really listened to me. We talked through all the questions I had about my heart attack – things like diet, exercise, my new medication and where I should start.”

From practical advice and coping strategies to emotional support, Wendy helped Catriona to understand her condition and manage her anxieties.

“I had a panic attack one day and I realised it was because I was feeling very anxious about going outside because I was at higher risk of becoming ill if I caught Covid-19.  Wendy was very supportive and gave me achievable targets to start with, like short walks and how to gradually build these up.

“I feel like I can ask her anything – even if it’s a daft question. And I know I could call her at any time if I feel worried. It is so reassuring to know she is there for me.

“Being a nurse too, I feel like I worry more about things and kept overthinking everything at the beginning. But she understood and was able to help me see the reality of what was going on and helped me carry on with my life without constantly worrying,” explains Catriona.

Living life to the full

Catriona is extremely grateful for the support she received during lockdown.

“The Chest Heart & Stroke Hospital to Home service offered me a listening ear, invaluable practical and emotional support in such difficult times when other services had to change and were significantly reduced.

“I believe Wendy’s support enhanced my recovery and helped me develop strategies to live positively with my condition,” she adds.

Once things began to slowly return to normal, Catriona was also able to receive help from her local NHS Cardiac Rehabilitation Team and Mary, the Nurse Practitioner from her GP surgery.

Working together with the NHS, we’ve been there for people like Catriona throughout lockdown – and it’s all thanks to supporters like you.

Now, Catriona is feeling ready to go back to work. She’s living life to the full, walking almost every day, doing regular yoga and spending quality time with her family and friends.

“I am very grateful for the amazing treatment, care and support I have received when everyone is working in such difficult times,” she says.

To help us make sure our Hospital to Home heroes are there for more people like Catriona, please donate whatever you can at

People are leaving hospital feeling scared and alone. You can change that.

Your donation can help people do more than just survive – you can help them really live.


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