Nurse who suffered a heart attack joins specialist team

PERSONAL JOURNEY: Heart failure specialist nurse Julie Harris.

Tameside Hospital has appointed a dedicated heart failure nurse.

Julie Harris is a specialist nurse with more than 25 years’ experience supporting patients who have had heart attacks.

Julie joins the Trust from Wythenshawe Hospital, where she trained in the very specialised form of nursing after being chosen as one of only 76 nurses to qualify for a Big Lottery Fund grant.

“I’ve always had an interest in cardiac support, and it became very personal when my mum passed away in 2003 from heart failure and I had a heart attack myself three years ago,” said Julie.

“I wanted to come to Tameside and Glossop. For me it’s a wonderful opportunity to share my skills and create a service that will encourage patients to get optimum treatment and allow me to give advice and support.”

Heart failure affects an estimated 900,000 people in the UK, with one million inpatient bed days attributable to heart failure in the UK annually. 

Common causes for heart attacks include heart disease and high blood pressure.

Married with two grown- up children and one grandchild, Julie lives in Urmston and starts her day with 15 minutes of yoga to ‘get me in the right frame of mind.’ Her other must have is ten minutes of meditation every day. 

She says: “Life is all about balance and moderation and I make sure I take as many long walks as I can with my two dogs. My ambition for my new role is to work with the other cardiac rehabilitation nurses to create a great service.”

Julie says she never imagined she would become a heart patient herself. 

Rare

But in June 2018 she had a heart attack at the airport, on her way to the Spanish resort of San Sebastián. Her attack was caused by a rare condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), where some of the layers of a heart artery wall get torn apart, causing the heart’s blood supply to become blocked.

“The fact that it all happened out of the blue had a big impact on me,” says Julie. 

“There’s no time to adjust. You’ve got to just get on with it. Connecting with others was key to my emotional recovery. 

“It was really useful for me to know there were other people with the same condition. 

“Because of this I’m a member of the European Society of Cardiology’s patient forum and I’m keen to raise awareness of SCAD.

“Since my heart issue I feel very positive about the future and feel lucky that I have made a complete recovery and now have the opportunity through my work with the ESC patient forum to raise awareness not only around SCAD but also around the burden of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in women in the UK and worldwide.”

Trust Chief Executive Karen James said she was delighted to welcome someone with Julie’s depth of experience to the specialist nursing team. 

She said: “Managing heart failure is challenging as patients are often from an older age group and may require social support. 

“Many older people with heart failure, also have other long-term conditions, requiring different medications. 

“This means they may receive treatment from several different health professionals, which can result in fragmented care. Julie will be vital in ensuring a joined-up approach to give our patients the best possible service.”

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