As if fear of dying weren’t bad enough . . .

28 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

In the astute words of the late Irish soccer star, George Best:

“People say you have to hit rock bottom, and I can tell you that almost dying is as rock bottom as it gets.”
Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, we have important news from the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious: feeling terrified by the immediate possibility that you’re dying is “quite common among patients suffering a heart attack”, according to U.K. research published in the European Heart Journal.(1)
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In fact, researchers observed that “although heart attack survival rates have improved tremendously over the last few decades, many patients remain quite frightened during the experience” (an understatement, by the way, that could only have been uttered by somebody who’s never actually experienced a frickety-frackin’ heart attack). 
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But it turns out that the intense distress caused by this fear of dying in mid-heart attack is not only a common emotional response, but is also linked to actual biological changes during the weeks following a cardiac event – changes that are ironically associated with a higher risk of suffering yet another heart attack.

Continue reading

Non-inspirational advice for heart patients

21 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I know I’m not the only one who wonders why famous inspirational speakers and writers are so often NOT inspiring.  Call me cynical, but maybe I’ve heard once too often:

  • Follow-your-dreams!
  • Reach-for-the-stars!
  • Eat-more-kale!

These pep talks are typically delivered with varying degrees of cheerleading conviction by speakers who invariably spend considerable time boasting about their own amazing dream-following, star-reaching and kale-eating accomplishments.  Continue reading

Kindness in health care: missing in action?

14 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I don’t remember much of what happened during that fateful visit to the Emergency Department.  I remember the on-call cardiologist saying something to me about my “significant heart disease”. After hearing those words, I felt so stunned that – although I could see his lips moving and could hear sounds coming out of his mouth – he may as well have been speaking Swahili.  (Doctors, please remember this in the future when delivering life-altering diagnoses to your patients!)

What I do vividly remember, however, is a small but profound act of kindness later that day when I was brought to my bed in the CCU (the cardiac intensive care unit). Continue reading

Your Heart, Your Health: two hours in one fantastic picture

7 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

What you’re looking at is called a graphic recording. It’s live visual notetaking of one presentation – drawn by Vancouver illustrator Sam Bradd. As Sam explains, this kind of on-the-spot graphic recording “helps people remember and care about ideas. It supports interaction, reflection, and seeing the next steps.”  When I spoke recently at the public panel discussion event called Your Heart, Your Health hosted by Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Sam started the evening up near the stage with a blank page about 4’x8′ wide.  By the end of the evening, we had what you see here!

Afterwards, I loved being described by event organizers as aknowledge translator along with Sam for our roles both during this presentation on women’s heart health as well as in the ongoing work we do with patients. Continue reading

When you know more than your doctors about your diagnosis

31 May

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

One of my blog readers needlessly suffered debilitating cardiac symptoms for a number of years before she was finally correctly diagnosed (thanks to a second opinion) with coronary microvascular disease (MVD). During those years, she’d read everything she could get her hands on in a desperate effort to solve this mystery. But when she asked her own physician if MVD might be the culprit, he dismissed this diagnostic possibility, adding that he “didn’t believe” in coronary microvascular disease.

Didn’t believe in it?!

Please note, darling readers, that we’re not talking about the Tooth Fairy here.

We’re talking about a woman living with a cardiac condition that’s been well-studied (as in, peer-reviewed studies done by respected heart researchers and published in actual real-life medical journals).

Continue reading

Heart attack explained in 10 easy minutes

24 May

by Carolyn Thomas 

I’m selfishly reluctant to tell you about Khan Academy’s amazing little film that brilliantly explains in about 10 minutes what a heart attack is all about. This reluctance is because once you visit Sal Khan‘s website, you’ll abandon Heart Sisters as well as all other sites you love, and may never come back. His Khan Academy is the thinking person’s version of those addictive cute kitty time-wasters on YouTube.   Continue reading

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