Introduction: In case of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) influence of a bystander spouse is decisive for the chance of survival.
Aim: To describe spouses' experiences of witnessing their partners' cardiac arrest at home, focusing on the time before the event and when it happened.
Methods: Interviews with fifteen spouses were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative content analysis was conducted.
Results: In the domain entitled "Time before cardiac arrest", four themes emerged in the analysis process: "Lack of early warning signs", "Difficulty interpreting early warning signs", "Interpreting signs in the light of previous illness" and "Denial of serious illness". In the domain entitled "The cardiac arrest event", three themes emerged: "Perceiving the seriousness", "Being unable to influence" and "Doing what is in one's power". The emergency call services' (ECS) ability to instruct and help the spouses to do what they can becomes evident in these themes.
Conclusion: Spouses who experienced OHCA demonstrated a lack of confidence in or ability to interpret early warning signs and symptoms. This lack of confidence also extended to the process of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The support from the ECS and CPR training was acknowledged as helpful and important. Further research is required to determine which interventions can improve people's ability to intervene as early as possible.
(c) 2009 European Society of Cardiology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.