Out-of-hospital cardiac deaths: Voices of African American family members


August 2023

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African Americans experience higher rates of heart disease, which poses the greatest risk of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Sudden cardiac death occurs more frequently in residential homes and public locations and in these settings; it is characterized by the term out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests often has a high mortality rate and affects African Americans two times more than other races. When a family member dies unexpectedly, the surviving family members must resume their lives, while grieving their loss. There is limited research on the perspective of African Americans that experienced the sudden loss of a family member due to OHCA. This study contributed to the body of research on this phenomenon. Heidegger's hermeneutic phenomenology guided this interpretive phenomenological study to explore the experiences of African American adults whose family members died from OHCA. Ten one-on-one semi-structured interviews were conducted. The data transcribed from these interviews were analyzed using Colaizzi’s method for data analysis. Five themes were identified and represented in the following statements: I could have done something, I was open nerves, I can have a heart attack too, They died that day, and They are being removed. The findings showed that sudden death induced feelings of anger, disbelief, and shock among the participants. The findings suggest the need to educate the public about signs and symptoms of myocardial infarction, cultural training for healthcare professionals, and acknowledging the practice of stoicism as a coping mechanism in African Americans.



Health Sciences, Nursing