Heart palpitations: a serious problem or no big deal?

22 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Dr. David Sabgir at one of his
Dr. David Sabgir at one of his “Walk With A Doc” events

I love the concept of Walk With A Doc. This non-profit group was founded in 2005 by Dr. David Sabgir, an Ohio cardiologist. His reason was simple: telling his heart patients to get out and exercise just wasn’t working. His WWAD project involves recruiting volunteer physicians willing to lace up their sneakers and lead scheduled walks in their communities. These docs kick off each walk with a brief informational talk on some aspect of health. WWAD now boasts doctor-led neighbourhood walks all over the U.S. and Canada – as well as overseas in Russia, India, Australia and Abu Dhabi so far.

Walk With A DocIt’s absolutely free to register a Walk With A Doc program, and in return, physicians receive cool stuff like WWAD pedometers, T-shirts, banners, prescription pads so they can write WWAD orders for their patients, and even sample press releases to send to local media.

If your doctor isn’t already leading a Walk With A Doc group in your community, please forward this info about how to get started.

And while you’re waiting, here’s what Dr. Sabgir had to say in a recent WWAD newsletter about how he views the common patient experience of heart palpitationsContinue reading

Carolyn’s Top 10 Tips on How to Treat Your Patients

15 Nov


by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

Dear hospital employees,

After a particularly bizarre experience undergoing a treadmill stress echocardiogram at your hospital recently, I decided to do something that I have never done before.  I called the Cardiology Department manager to complain about her staff.  (Incidentally, a recent opinion survey of international travellers found that Canadians were #1 in only one category:  “Least likely to complain when things go wrong” – so you can appreciate that lodging an official complaint is a fairly Big Deal here!)

In my best PR fashion, I told the manager how distressing the appointment had been for me because of the behaviour of the two cardiac technicians in the room.  Continue reading

Six personality coping patterns that influence how you handle heart disease

8 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

As regular readers already know, I like to include the work of cardiac psychologist Dr. Wayne Sotile on this site, mostly because what he writes about the psychological challenges of heart disease and recovery rings so true for me since my own heart attack.

His 1992 book Heart Illness and Intimacy: How Caring Relationships Aid Recovery looks at the profound emotional impact that the stresses of heart disease can have on patients, spouses and children.

I was especially intrigued by the chapter called The Personality Factor: Can We Change? which explores how our personalities and coping patterns can often determine how we’ll react to a life-changing cardiac event.

Based on the 1987 pioneering work of Stewart and Joines on Transactional Analysis, Dr. Sotile outlines in this chapter the six basic coping patterns that seem to drive our perceptions, our behavioural choices, and our corresponding emotional reactions to both everyday life and to a chronic and progressive diagnosis like heart disease. He explains:

“These six personality drivers become especially influential in shaping our reactions during stressful times like a serious illness.”

I was surprised to recognize myself in more than one pattern on this list. How many of these six personality coping patterns seem familiar to you? Continue reading

The “emotional labour” of living with heart disease

1 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

“My hubby is stuck with me for another 15 years as long as I keep following doctor’s orders.”

“I told my family that I now had a pig valve in my heart – but I was disappointed when the doctor told me I couldn’t keep the bacon.”

“I am determined to outlive my husband – because I want to clean out his garage!”

Heart patients often use humour* like this to distract themselves from the high levels of stress and fear often associated with a life-altering diagnosis like heart disease – such as distressing symptoms, upcoming surgery, diagnostic tests, or even the ongoing awareness of a significantly increased risk of future cardiac events.  So reports Nicholas Lockwood, whose research focused on how heart patients use humour to help them cope with their condition – but ended up showing some surprising results.  Continue reading

Do you think you’re a “somebody”?

25 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I'm the little blonde standing up...
I’m the little blonde with the funny haircut

When I was a little girl in the 1950s, my parents were stingy with praise and magnanimous with criticism. To be otherwise would result in a child developing a “swelled head”, which, as all parents knew back then, would be the worst possible thing that could ever happen to any child.

“She really thinks she’s SOMEBODY!” was a phrase delivered with withering contempt by my mother in describing any person whose sense of self-esteem seemed even remotely healthy.

Continue reading

How Minimally Disruptive Medicine is happily disrupting health care

17 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I’ve been on an adventure recently to a magical, faraway place. It was my second visit to the world-famous Mayo Clinic in beautiful downtown Rochester, Minnesota. My first trip there was exactly seven years ago as a freshly-diagnosed heart attack survivor. I had applied (and was accepted) to attend the annual WomenHeart Science and Leadership Symposium for Women With Heart Disease at Mayo Clinic – the first Canadian ever invited to attend. This is a training program that arms its graduates with the knowledge, skills and (most of all) Mayo’s street cred to help us become community educators when we go back to our hometowns.

Thus, a circle that began with me sitting in a 2008 training audience was completed as I became one of the presenters onstage in front of an audience of cardiologists at a Mayo medical conference on women’s heart disease. (Thank you Drs. Hayes, Mulvagh and Gulati for your persistent invitations!)  But long before I took the stage last weekend, I’d been invited to come to Rochester a day earlier to meet with some pretty amazing Mayo staff. Continue reading


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