With an active life and a busy career at Rolls Royce in north Bristol, Robert Barker did not expect to fall seriously ill in early 2015. The engineer started to feel unwell in March, when he experienced shortness of breath when lying down, and ongoing flu-like symptoms.
Freely admitting that he is “not someone who likes to bother his GP”, Robert paid a visit to his surgery when the symptoms would not clear up. After listening to his heart, his GP made an immediate referral to the Community Heart Failure Service in Bristol Community Health.
Robert was given a ‘one stop’ diagnostic clinic appointment in Yate, where he received an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram and was reviewed by a consultant cardiologist and one of the
senior Heart Failure specialist nurses in the team. A subsequent Cardiac MRI was performed at the Bristol Heart Institute and at this point, cardiomyopathy was confirmed. Cardiomyopathy occurs when the walls of the heart chambers have become stretched, thickened or stiff, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. The condition was most probably caused by a viral infection which had infected his heart and was causing it to struggle.
Robert‘s care was managed in the nurse-led clinic within the heart failure service. He was prescribed medication to stabilise his condition, reduce his blood pressure and support his heart pump, allowing him to feel much better. Throughout the summer, Robert attended the clinic every fortnight for an appointment; during these
sessions his symptoms were closely monitored and managed. He also had regular access to the Consultant Cardiologist at the same clinic who retained oversight of his treatment plan.
After six months of treatment, Robert is now feeling much better. “My employer has been very supportive, enabling me to work shorter days until I recover completely. And the service I’ve received from Bristol Community Health has been excellent – highly professional,” he explains. “It was really worrying to learn that my heart was not functioning properly, but I’ve been very reassured by the treatment they’ve given me and the time they’ve taken to explain everything. It’s really put my mind at ease.”
I’ve been very reassured by the treatment [Bristol Community Health] has given me…
Now that he’s feeling better, Robert is focused on being even healthier than he was before. “I’m eating really well, staying away from salt – anything that could put extra strain on my heart,” he says. “The whole situation has made me appreciate how easy it is to take your health for granted. You’ve only got one life – I’m determined to take care of it!”
You can find out more about the Heart Failure service at: briscomhealth.org.uk/our-services/ heart-failure.