A film that equates climbing a mountain with common symptoms of heart failure provides a powerful reminder to clinicians of what it is like to live with the condition, according to a specialist nurse who supported those involved in the project.
The production, launched by heart failure charity the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, follows relatives of heart failure patients as they climb Mount Snowdon in Wales in order to gain a better understanding of the symptoms, like breathlessness and fatigue, experienced by their loved-ones.
“With the right support and treatment, patients can lead full lives despite having heart failure”
Louise Clayton, a senior heart failure specialist nurse at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, was among those supporting climbers and their families on the day.
She told Nursing Times the concept was an excellent way of raising awareness of the challenges faced by her patients and others.
She said: “What can sometimes be most difficult for a heart failure patient to communicate to friends, family members or even their clinicians, is exactly what it feels like to live with their condition on a daily basis.
“The film does exactly that – it relates common symptoms of fatigue and breathlessness, with something tangible like walking up a mountain,” said Ms Clayton.
“It wasn’t until I put myself in the patient’s shoes, physically for a day, that I understood the true impact”
The film – Parallel Hearts: Reaching New Heights for Heart Failure – shows fit and healthy friends and relatives of three heart failure patients take on the challenge of climbing Snowdon.
Ms Clayton said the film was a compelling way to raise awareness of heart failure, which affects roughly 900,000 people in the UK, and said she planned to use it as an educational resource.
She also features in a short social media video clip, filmed as part of the campaign, in which she explains heart-failure related fatigue is not simply “tiredness” but “total body fatigue”.
“In my clinics, I regularly see new patients struggling with the symptoms of heart failure and we often hear of delays in patients getting a diagnosis because heart failure isn’t always the first thought when seeing symptoms that are indicative of various conditions,” she said.
“That is why it is so important to raise awareness of heart failure and its symptoms,” she said. “With the right support and treatment, patients can lead full lives despite having heart failure.”
Nurse backs film aiming to boost empathy about heart failure
The friends and relatives were also joined on the climb by a group of heart failure clinicians, including GPs, cardiologists and surgeons, to experience the physical impact of walking up the highest peak in Wales.
Dr Fozia Ahmed, consultant cardiologist at Manchester Royal Infirmary, said: “I see heart failure in my practice every day and, as a cardiologist, my patients tell me about the impact of the condition on their lives.
“It wasn’t until I put myself in the patient’s shoes, physically for a day, and climbed Mount Snowdon that I understood the true impact of the breathlessness and fatigue that is associated with heart failure,” she said.
Dr Ahmed said clinicians could help reduce the impact of such life-limiting symptoms, which included stressing the importance of remaining active and prescribing regular exercise.
The film, alongside three shorter ones focusing on the three patients, was launched to coincide with February’s Heart Month.