Taking each day as it comes - Dawn's story

“I have to have an outlet which is mine. I think this is important for all carers. I’m doing a degree as well as developing my painting which is very important to me.”

My partner Paul was ill for almost a year before he was finally diagnosed with DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy). In all that time I didn’t really believe that it was anything serious because he had always been so strong and apart from having PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) he was never ill. His angiogram result was quite shocking and it meant that he was going to be referred to hospital in Newcastle.

His first echo showed an ejection fraction* of 17-22% and hasn’t ever improved over the 10 years he has had the condition despite all his medication. We went from being a normal couple running our own business and getting out and about to something very different. Paul didn’t have the energy to run a business anymore and decided to work for someone else as a driver which didn’t sit well at all. I decided to give up work and be there for when he came home.

I think the hardest part for me was finding the balance of being a carer and trying not to wrap him up in cotton wool. He gets very frustrated when I do things that he wants to do. I’ve had to learn to let him do what he can and not be too bothered if things take longer than I could do myself (he has to stop a lot and rest). I’ve also had to learn to slow down and take life at his pace and not get too het up if something we plan doesn’t come off because he doesn’t feel well. I’m not the most patient of people and some of these things have taken time. I’m not a natural carer and will be the first to admit it.

One difficulty is his mental health. He already had PTSD but his lack of energy has really got him down. I have to have an outlet which is mine. I think this is important for all carers. I’m doing a degree as well as developing my painting which is very important to me. When he finally gave up work three years ago (at 45, which is far too young) he became depressed. Then things got trickier because I felt I had to stay even stronger. 

It took some time to get into a new routine but I think the trick is not to dwell on what might be or could be but just take each day as it comes and where possible let the grumpy outbursts slide by as much as possible. 

*Ejection fractions measure the amount of blood pumped out (or ‘ejected’) from the heart when it beats.

©Cardiomyopathy UK. October 2017