BACKGROUND: Although anecdotal data suggest that spouses of aborted sudden cardiac death survivors become enmeshed in the physical and emotional recovery of their mates, few longitudinal studies address the personal struggle of aborted sudden cardiac death survivors and their spouses during recovery. OBJECTIVE: To identify and explore phenomena experienced by aborted sudden cardiac death survivors and their spouses, and to determine implications for care. METHODS: This was a phenomenological study; qualitative interviews were conducted within 3 weeks of aborted sudden cardiac death and continued through 24 weeks after arrest at 6- to 8-week intervals. A total of 180 interviews were conducted with 40 survivors and 30 spouses. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for recurrent themes. RESULTS: For the spouses the point of focus, or reference point, for future decision making was the arrest; for the survivors the reference point was prearrest life. These different reference points led to different concerns between spouses and survivors, from which spousal protectiveness and entrapment emerged. CONCLUSIONS: Acknowledgment of different reference points is essential in planning interventions for aborted sudden cardiac death survivors and their spouses. This population must be encouraged to express their questions, concerns, and fears early. Differences in perspectives should be identified to avoid troubled communication and conflicts.

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