When you’ve been through great pain, there is something within, that wants to help prevent that pain for another, or at least help them get through it, if indeed they have to bear it. It is hard to explain that feeling, or why it is there, but throughout the world, we hear this reaction from so many who have lived through tragedy, how they hope no-one else will ever have to go through that same pain and even sometimes, see people commit to working hard to make sure that that same terrible experience doesn’t happen to anyone else.
After I got ill, I thought and felt these things too. I wanted to make sure that no one else was misdiagnosed with SCAD, as I had been. Misdiagnosis had led me on a dark path of repeated heart attacks, cardiac arrest, open heart surgery and heart failure, with a defibrillator needing to be fitted into my body to make sure I survived. I most certainly didn’t want anyone to have to go through all the physical hardship of that, or worse, the fear and terror that came with it, that I might not live long enough to raise my kids.
But first, I had to go inward and try and heal enough to be of help to anyone. After lots of physical rehabilitation, counselling and emotional work, a time came where I saw that I could make a difference by setting up ‘SCAD IRELAND’, to provide support to SCAD patients on the island of Ireland and to represent SCAD and the consequences of its misdiagnosis, to the medical community, initially in Ireland and later abroad too. The work has been time staking but incredibly rewarding. Seeing that new patient enter our group, who feels shocked, alone, afraid and broken and being able to in some way help them, is incredibly rewarding. Being able to speak up for our patient community at a national or international level is also incredibly fulfilling, especially when it’s breaking through a previously closed door to, or misinformed opinion about, SCAD, in the medical community.
As someone also diagnosed with the condition heart failure, and as a female cardiac patient too, I have had the same urge to help make a difference. There are all kinds of issues these labels, conditions and situations present that are often unseen, unheard of, or not understood by those outside the groups who bear them. There is such a need to drive change and improve conditions, views and attitudes for these groups in the medical word and in our societies. I am therefore only too glad when I am asked to work with heart organisations to help represent these patient groups, or asked to give a talk at a medical conference, an educational institution, or some event where I can put the patient voice forward, to those who can help make a change in how these patient groups are treated.
What I have discovered through all this work, is that when we do something for someone else in the same boat, or represent those who need more help and understanding, that it is not only healing for them, but healing for ourselves too. It can reassure, encourage, offer hope, friendship and a lifeline to the person in the miserable situation, but it gives purpose to the pain of the giver and that can help with our own healing, especially when it comes to acceptance.
Acceptance of our life challenges can often be the hardest stage to crack even after a lot of other healing work is done, the one that keeps coming back to haunt us in the form of ‘what if?’. I believe when we help another, instead of thinking ‘what if?’, we think ‘what now?’, and so, instead of feeling life has ‘happened to us’, we are making life ‘happen for us’, and that includes helping something better happen for that next person in the dark, who is desperate for the light to shine through. And that is surely a win, win for all.
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