Joanne Ward on Mending Broken Hearts

24 May 2015        

Joanne Ward

Mum-of-two Joanne Ward was left with heart failure in her thirties after suffering a heart attack. In 2011 she helped launch the Mending Broken Hearts Appeal. 

She never expected to see research breakthroughs just four years into the appeal.

Ten years ago I had a heart attack aged 30.  Six years on, when I was still a relatively young mum and trying to cope with the diagnosis of heart failure, the British Heart Foundation turned 50 and I helped launch the 50th anniversary Mending Broken Hearts Appeal

It was the charity’s most ambitious appeal ever and I was excited to be a part of it.

Mending Broken Hearts aims to find new treatments, or even a cure, for heart failure, which is a devastating condition to live with for me and half a million other people in the UK. But I never expected to see research results so soon, just four years into the launch.

It is very exciting to hear about the findings from the two research teams in Oxford and London. I know there is more work to be done, but the results suggest it could be possible in the future to reduce or repair the damage to hearts following a heart attack. 

It’s always interesting to read about research breakthroughs in the papers, but for me this particular research has a lot more meaning. It’s about my future, and my family’s future.

Shock

It was the last thing I expected after having a baby, but in 2005, four days after my second son was born I had a heart attack. It was quite an unusual heart attack as it was caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, which meant one of the arteries in my heart tore open. I had to undergo emergency heart bypass surgery.

It was devastating. I thought after the operation I would be ‘fixed’.  But I developed heart failure. I had never even heard of heart failure, and I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t realise the implications and the huge impact it would have on my life. The restrictions it would impose on me.

Doctors explained that the heart attack had damaged my heart muscle and it wasn’t beating as strongly as it should. I couldn’t pick up my baby, or do many of the things a new mum looks forward to so much. Even an everyday task like hoovering was exhausting.

I had to take a lot of time off of work and have tests for a possible heart transplant. Thankfully, with the aid of medication and having a special pacemaker  combined with a defibrillator  fitted, things slowly began to get more manageable. Within the last year, I’ve seen some improvement to my health and I am managing to do more things than ever before. But many things still remain a struggle.

I want to be as well as possible in the future. Not only for myself, but also for my family. I was only in my thirties when I developed heart failure and I want to be able to look forward to a future in which I’m well and physically able.

That’s why I will continue to support the Mending Broken Hearts Appeal. It gives people like me who have had heart attacks real hope of finding new treatments or even a cure in the future. In the week that we’ve seen these two fantastic research breakthroughs it’s something that I’m very proud to be a part of.

Mending Broken Hearts has made great progress towards finding ways to repair a damaged heart after heart attack but there is much more to do. Find out more about four years of progress from our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg.  DONATE