Exploring the experience of living with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD). A Heideggerian phenomenological study
Noonan Sweeney, Orla
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Abstract Sudden cardiac death has been identified as one of the principal causes of death in Europe and America. According to the American heart association (AHA) statistics, sudden cardiac death is responsible for more deaths annually than the total number from stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Thousands of these cardiac deaths occur daily and are secondary to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. In Ireland, approximately 10,000 people die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) annually. In an attempt to prevent the onset of sudden deaths many of these patients are offered implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs). The aim of the study was to explore the lived experience of people living with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD). Guided by an interpretive qualitative approach underpinned by Heidegger’s interpretive phenomenology, in-depth interviews were conducted with 27 ICD recipients (13 males and 14 females) aged between 22 and 78 years. In the context of Heidegger’s philosophical focus, the key themes revealed were ‘Being Supported and Informed’ ‘Being Towards Death’ and ‘Being on a Journey of Acceptance’. These findings revealed that individuals were ‘living with an alien’ which threatened their mortality. Acceptance of this ‘alien’ emerged as an overarching theme relative to participants’ life worlds (lived body, lived relations, live time and lived space). For some participants, social structures impacted negatively on their individual social capital and served as a barrier in accessing services and supports, thus, restricting their ability to accept and live with an ICD. The study findings offer a rich illumination of this phenomenon and have the potential to inform healthcare professions in supporting individuals following ICD insertion and policymakers in future developments in cardiac services.