Yet another cardiac risk calculator? My response in the British Medical Journal

17 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I was contacted by Juliet Dobson at the British Medical Journal recently, who asked me for a heart patient’s perspective on a new cardiovascular risk calculator.  It’s been launched by the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), and claims that it can tell you your real heart age. Here’s what I wrote . . .   Continue reading

Post-Traumatic Growth: how a crisis makes life better – or NOT

15 Mar
Norwegian researchers asked this question to heart attack survivors (all of them females, between three months to five years after their first heart attack):
“All in all, was there anything positive about experiencing a myocardial infarction?”
Well, here’s what they found. About 65% of the women studied reported positive benefits of their MI experience. (1)  
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Full disclosure: I’ve always felt a bit squirmy when patients facing a life-altering medical crisis cheerfully declare that this diagnosis is not only NOT dreadful, but it’s actually quite fabulous! But having said that, let’s look at this positivity phenomenon.

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Do we need to change the name of cardiac rehab?

8 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Once discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked by how physically frail I felt. Simply taking a shower meant a 20-minute lie down to recover. Just walking to the corner with my son, Ben, required me to clutch his arm for support. But it wasn’t only this new weakness that alarmed me. As a former distance runner, I felt suddenly afraid of any exertion that might bring on the horrific heart attack symptoms I’d so recently endured. That’s where cardiac rehabilitation (a 2-4 month supervised exercise and education program for heart patients) literally saved me. Continue reading

Patient bloggers at health conferences: ‘real’ journalists?

1 Mar
Like some of my most deliciously niggling inspirations these days, this one started on Twitter. Patient advocate, speaker and a Stanford University Medicine X ePatient Scholar Britt Johnson (who blogs at The Hurt Blogger) tweeted this:
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To which patient advocate, speaker and also a Stanford University Medicine X ePatient Scholar Carly Medosch (who blogs at Chronic Carly) responded:
 
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It was Carly’s observation that caused one of my eyebrows to flick skyward, unbidden.

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“I rang the bell again. No one came.”

22 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

There are a number of big issues that leaped out at me about the hospital story you’re about to read.  Let’s see how many of them you observe, too – and how many could have been prevented.  This story is told by Ann, an Australian heart patient whose cardiac journey began in 2007 when she was 51 years old. But over the years since then, she has continued to suffer debilitating cardiac symptoms almost every day.

Her symptoms include not just chest pain, but pain throughout her upper back, jaw, shoulder, neck or arm, occasionally with severe shortness of breath. Despite taking a fistful of daily heart meds and wearing a nitro patch to help manage pain, Ann is rarely able to sleep through an entire night without being awoken by these symptoms. And here’s why . . .
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“It’s no hobby. It is a vital service.”

15 Feb

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by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

Hobby: häbē/ noun. an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. “Her hobbies are reading, knitting and gardening”

I’m guessing that those of us who have ‘graduated’ from the WomenHeart Science and Leadership Symposium For Women With Heart Disease (a training program held each fall at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota) rarely consider our volunteer contributions as a “hobby” in the birdwatching/jewelry-making/focaccia-baking sense of that word.

We already know that our Mayo training gives us ‘street cred’.  The days we spent experiencing world-class “cardiology bootcamp” in Rochester opened doors that allow us to share what we’ve learned as community educators, media spokespersons or heart patient support group leaders. So far, over 600 WomenHeart ‘champions’ in the U.S. (and two of us here in Canada) have been trained to be “the boots on the ground” in the fight against women’s heart disease – our #1 killer. According to WomenHeart, 45% of the women who graduate from this annual training at Mayo have been credited with saving someone’s life.

But sometimes, we are smacked upside the head by those who simply have no clue about the difference between a volunteer and a hobbyist. Take, for example, this story from my heart sister, Leslea Steffel-DennisContinue reading

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