Sven-Tore followed his heart

Sven-Tore (© Marit Haugdahl)

Sven-Tore Dreyer Fredriksen (born 1954) is a graduate student, and will soon be receiving a doctorate in public health. Sven-Tore didn’t let his congenital heart defect prevent him from following his chosen career path. This is his story.

Dream of becoming a nurse

My heart defect Tetralogy of Fallot and the stays in hospital during my childhood are one of the reasons I became interested in working with people. I originally thought about becoming a dentist, but then I realised that wasn’t going to be the right choice for me. I had to become a nurse!

Taking my doctorate

I started training to become a nurse, and also underwent special training in intensive-care nursing. I then went on to study nursing and public health, majoring in special education. I began to teach and do research. Now I am getting my doctorate in public health. I'm doing research on factors associated with being an intensive-care patient, and working at Harstad University College in northern Norway.

Understanding the experiences

When I was working as an intensive-care nurse, I discovered that the intensive-care patients had many psychoses. But why was this the case? I couldn’t find the answer in scientific literature, and that formed the basis for my own research. I discovered phenomenological hermeneutics, which relates to how we understand experiences. This in-depth research has given me a totally new understanding of the so-called intensive phase: the bodily sensations that are experienced by patients in serious situations.

Be content with what you have

I have not personally been an intensive-care patient as an adult. I underwent surgery twice as a child, when I was seven and again at 12, and since then I have felt very healthy. I never thought that my heart defect should restrict me in any way. I have recognised my own inner drives, and that has been the most important thing for me. When I was younger my parents never said to me “don't do that” or “be careful with that” – instead, they supported me in my choices, which helped me when choosing a career. Yet my mother sometimes says “you need to calm down and be content with what you have. You don't always have to be moving ahead.”

No support

Before I began studying at university, my parents took me to a public office to find out whether I could get financial support for my education. They were told, in no uncertain terms, that a nursing career would involve too much heavy work for me, and that I should become a bioengineer instead. But I knew what I wanted to be. I stuck to my guns and studied to be a nurse, and I have never needed any financial support to make it happen. I am happy in my choice of career and take great joy in my area of study. I have also been involved in making important developments in my field of expertise. It is a privilege to develop knowledge that can benefit people.

My advice to young people with a congenital heart defect who are choosing a career is to follow your heart! And of course your common sense.

Author(s): Marit Haugdahl
Last updated: 2010-04-14