The costs of cardiac arrest

News /

Share this

Emma’s cardiac arrest, when her heart suddenly stopped beating, led to major lifestyle and financial impacts. Coping with the effects of a life-threatening illness has presented significant emotional and psychological challenges for Emma and her family.

Recovery from my 2016 cardiac arrest continues. I am so fortunate to live in a country with world-class hospital facilities, specialists and free public health care but, in my experience, it’s the ongoing post-operative costs that you never had to deal with before that add up.

The financial impact of a major health event can be crippling to a household and to your state of mind.

During my nine- week stay at two hospitals, the biggest expense for my family was the car parking. We lived 60-odd kilometres from the hospital, so every day my husband would come see me after work for dinner; that alone would cost $30 a day.

I went from someone who very rarely took medication to being on a first name basis with my local chemist and paying around $100 a month for my medication.

Psychological care is so important for recovery

I see psychological care as so important for my recovery. My life was threatened and, with the extra complications I experienced, counselling wasn’t negotiable. Even with a mental health plan, each weekly session was about $80 out of pocket.

For our family, it wasn’t just me that needed help: my husband and young child had to work through their fears and anxieties as well.

The mental health care for my young son wasn’t claimable and cost $300 a fortnight. It nearly broke us. The guilt of feeling responsible for any issues that my cardiac arrest had brought on drove me to make sure I gave him the best opportunity to work through it.

I couldn’t cope with bills and budgets

Another huge expense was the sudden collection of specialists I needed to see every few months. Cardiologists, psychologists, an endocrinologist each had their own substantial fees. Some of the cost was claimable on Medicare, but you still need to pay the money before you get some back. Sometimes I needed to take leave without pay from work to see my specialists.

Unfortunately, after a cardiac arrest, you can’t drive for six months, and for each episode of your SICD (Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) delivering a shock, it’s another six months. Think of the taxi, bus and train fares adding up to get you where you need to go!

What I found most upsetting was that I couldn’t cope with bills and budgets. I had been in charge of this before my cardiac arrest and, with my husband working full time and getting home late, I wanted to continue to do this.

But, I couldn’t cope with due dates, amounts and this made me so aware of how much my health had impacted our finances. We ended up using a budgeting service to help so I could take some stress away. This costs money and added to the stretch on our budget.

The most significant change for us was that I was unable to cope with full-time work. I can only manage part-time. I work in education and I started the year as full time. It became clear about halfway through term 1 that my body couldn’t cope. The level of exhaustion was overwhelming and my brain function felt like it couldn’t cope. My employer was happy to let me work part-time but, obviously, that comes with less income.

One of our dreams is to take a family trip to Disneyland. Who knows if it will ever happen? What I know for sure is that my travel insurance quote will now be about three times the price compared to the rest of my family.

I don’t know if there’s a service to help us financially; if there is, it has never been talked about, and we struggle on!

The Heart Foundation's Supporting Young Hearts program aims to help younger people connect, support each other by sharing stories and learn about how to manage their condition.

Learn more