“Her Heart Matters”—Making Visible the Cardiac Pain Experiences of Women with Physical Disabilities and Heart Disease: A Qualitative Study
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Women with physical disabilities are faced with challenges in many aspects of life-education, work, income, relationships, as well as their general health. These women are at a greater risk of developing heart disease. This study aimed to explore the cardiac pain experiences of women with physical disabilities and heart disease within a Canadian healthcare context.
In this qualitative study, 8 women with physical disabilities and heart disease from across Canada were interviewed. They were asked about their pre-, peri-, and post-diagnostic experiences in the Canadian healthcare system. Transcripts of the interviews were analyzed using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach inspired by Ricoeur.
Two main themes were uncovered in the analysis of the transcripts, as follows: (i) the diagnostic journey; and (ii) life with cardiac symptoms and a disability. The women indicated that they had experienced difficulties in utilizing the Canadian healthcare system prior to receiving a cardiac diagnosis, including long waitlists, expensive and unreliable transport, issues with accessibility, and dealing with providers' attitudinal barriers regarding disability. Receiving a diagnosis was challenging due to poor relationships with healthcare providers; however, having a same-sex provider seemed essential to receiving adequate care. Self-managing a disability and heart disease had significant physical and psychological impact, which was lightened by financial and social supports, modified lifestyle choices, and self-advocacy.
Women with physical disabilities are often forgotten in discussions encompassing equity and inclusion. The participants' experiences offer insight into what changes are needed within the Canadian healthcare system in order to improve outcomes for these women.