A narrative inquiry of survivors’ experiences of the time just before and after a cardiac arrest

Gunilla Haydon, Pamela van der Riet, Kerry Inder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: There is extensive research on factors influencing cardiac arrest, however, there is limited understanding of survivors’ experiences of cardiac arrest.
Aim: To explore survivors’ experiences of surviving cardiac arrest in the immediate time before and just after the event.
Methods: Using a narrative inquiry approach individual face-to-face interviews were held from November 2016 to June 2017. A convenience sample of four females and thirteen males were recruited from the community using a newspaper article and snowball sampling techniques. Participants were aged between 48 and 92 years and experienced a cardiac arrest between 3 months and 36 years ago. Collected field text were analysed adhering to Clandinin and Connelly’s narrative inquiry exploring how physical, social and cultural environment, and time impact and shape individual experiences.
Findings: Narrative exploration of the experiences of cardiac arrest revealed survivors were unprepared and confused as a result of the event. Survivors found themselves in a liminal space, of betwixt and between involving ‘what was’ and ‘what will be’. Seven threads were identified: Ordinary to extraordinary, Cardiac pain, Waking up in chaos, Resuscitation pain, Drawing on spirituality, Luck, and Surviving death.
Discussion: The experiences of surviving a cardiac arrest influence follow-up care needed. Nurses and other clinicians need to have a holistic view of the survivor, as the experience of cardiac arrest is an extraordinary time in an individual’s life, especially in the immediate period following the arrest.
Conclusion: A cardiac arrest transforms the ordinary to the extraordinary. Surviving a cardiac arrest is confusing, and survivors have to adapt to a new reality resulting in a liminal transition that is complex. Existential questions about luck, spirituality and survival are intense.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-196
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Early online date14 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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