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Beckoning the heart: a guided autobiographical approach to understanding women’s recovery following myocardial infarction Bowers, Michele Janice

Abstract

As cardiac research specific to women slowly emerges from the field, there is increasing evidence that women's experiences following myocardial infarction are different from men's (Boogard, 1985) and that younger women may be faced with different developmental challenges compared to their older female counterparts (LaCharity, 1997, 1999). This study explored how women constructed their experience of recovery following a myocardial infarction (Ml). Action research using Guided Autobiography (GA) provided the methodology for addressing the research question: How do women under the age of 55 years, construct their experience of recovery following myocardial infarction? Guided autobiography was utilized as the research tool or method for gathering the research data. Five women, between 48 and 53 years of age, who experienced Ml within the past 3 years, voluntarily participated in a 7-week GA group with other female cardiac patients where they engaged in a weekly reflection and writing practice. Six autobiographical themes were used to guide participant's written accounts. A follow-up session was conducted approximately 8 weeks following the completion of the group to address issues of research validity. Data sources in this study primarily comprised of participant's autobiographies, audio and videotapes of the research sessions and the researcher's field notes. Research sessions were transcribed verbatim and analyzed according to Berg's (1995) method of content analysis. Six common themes emerged across research sessions including a) the experience of loss, b) living with uncertainty, c) changes in self-concept, d) personal needs and self-care, e) care and support, and f) taking care of others. Study findings contribute to the growing body of literature specifically dedicated to exploring women's experiences of Ml and recovery. Findings also demonstrate the value of utilizing Guided Autobiography as a clinical intervention to facilitate emotional recovery in women following a significant cardiac event such as Ml. Other implications for health-care providers are discussed.

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