Documenting and understanding the unique and personal experiences of Aboriginal people from remote communities who access specialty cardiac services in hospital formed the basis of my Master of Nursing, in research I did from 2004-2007.
I thought this was a great opportunity for Aboriginal people to share their stories about what it was like for them to leave their country to access health care in the ‘big smoke’.
This research identified several concerns the patients had, including an intense fear and anxiety of dying. The patients said that they died during the surgery and would be resuscitated by the doctor after the surgery. This intense fear may be compounded by the experience of kin who may have had relatives leave their community for hospital care, never to return home.
One of the elderly men that I talked to described his experience of coming to Adelaide:
“Sometimes when they get there, they lose their memory. Their memory won’t wake up again. Adelaide, you get to Darwin, you wake up.” (Mr. H, 2006)
One of the men told me that the reason for his sick heart was as a result of some wrong doing by a relative in the past and he needed to suffer the consequences.
Another man said to me that his son’s heart condition resulted from climbing up the side of the house as a young boy and when he fell down, he injured his left foot. The father then proceeded to draw an imaginary line with his finger, from his left foot up to the left side of his chest, connecting the left foot injury with the heart.
As a nurse, I needed to listen to the patient, respect their cultural understandings and also spend some time talking about non-Aboriginal understandings of ill health.
Using visual aids and drawing pictures was a useful way to explain to the patient about the nature of their heart disease
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