Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Ford, J. (1987). The experience of living with the history of a heart attack. Unpublished Dissertation. Edmonton: The University of Alberta.


< Abstract >

The intent of this study is to gain insight into and a deeper understanding of living with a history of a heart attack for males at least two years after the event. A heart attack is a sudden, dramatic and sometimes fatal event; we suspect that it is a profound experience which affects the very core of the individual’s being. But how is the heart attack and particularly life after the event experienced? What is it like to live with a history of a myocardial infarction (heart attack)?


In order to address this question, I used a human science approach which aims, through description and interpretation, to illuminate the participants’ experiences and to reveal their meaning. The descriptive interpretive work of the study is based on conversations with seven men who had heart attacks and all of whom subsequently returned to work. Each person begins his story with the event and progresses through time to the present.


The stories of the seven interviewees are presented in the form of re-constructed narratives. In each person 5 story we can detect a certain pattern of meaning, a thematic concern. These same patterns were shared to some extent among the various narratives; but they did not occupy, in the same manner, centre stage.


The inquiry, however, moves beyond the individual since the quest S to identify and explicate aspects of life after a heart attack which are possible shared human experiences. These possible human experi-nces I refer to as “the experiential characteristics which emerge from descriptions focusing respectively on corporeality, sociality, temporality, and spatiality. The experiential characteristics reveal that the body emerges as a separately experienced entity as it impedes choices and action; that the other has the potential for assisting the post-MI patient to re-engage his world or for distancing him from it; that the past lives in the present; that to live authentically the post-MI patient has to create a world where he can feel secure and in control.


Finally, this inquiry raises the question of how to access the individual’s experience, a question which is focal to nursing practice.