The “loss of self” in chronic illness is what really hurts

21 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

People living with chronic illness already know that the triple whammy of ongoing physical symptoms, psychological distress and the discomfort of medical procedures can cause us to suffer. But when California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often dismissed by health care providers.(1)

As she explained in research published in the journal Sociology of Health & Illness, a narrow medicalized view of suffering that’s defined as physical symptoms only ignores or minimizes the broader significance of suffering in a way that may resonate with you if you too live with a chronic illness like heart disease:    

Continue reading

Pregnancy complications strongly linked to heart disease

14 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

My pre-eclampsia baby Ben, age 2, with his Mum, visiting Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

When I was about eight months pregnant with Ben, my first baby, I was diagnosed with something called preeclampsia. This is a serious condition affecting about 5% of pregnant women, identified by symptoms like sudden spikes in blood pressure, protein in the urine, severe swelling and headaches or vision problems. It’s also women’s third leading pregnancy-related cause of death. Preeclampsia is clinically described as:

“…a disorder of widespread vascular endothelial malfunction and vasospasm that occurs after 20 weeks’ gestation”.

Whenever you see the words “vascular” or “endothelial” or “vasospasm” in the same sentence, you know you’re likely talking about the heart. And although preeclampsia typically goes away after pregnancy, its diagnosis may well be an early indicator of underlying heart conditions that may simmer for decades. In fact, studies now show that pregnant women who develop preeclampsia have more than twice the risk of having a heart attack or stroke later in life.

And that is what happened to me. Continue reading

Being sick doesn’t excuse being a jerk

7 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

angry-mobI watched a man recently telling the story of how he’d been “fired” by his cardiologist. All he had done to deserve this, he explained, was to use the f-word during a confrontation with the office receptionist. He complained that he’d been subsequently fired after this receptionist reported his outburst to her boss. He specifically blamed the terms of a recently implemented anti-bullying policy at the medical facility. Because of this receptionist and this anti-bullying policy, he was now stuck in the unenviable state of being without a cardiologist.

No. No. And NO! It was his own decision to behave badly that accomplished that result for him. Not surprisingly, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare staff are fed up with bullies like That Guy, who act as if being a patient means you get a free pass to be a jerk.

It does not mean that at all. Continue reading

How these unique classes help to improve your Cardiac IQ

31 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

by Volkan OlmezWhen I’m not noodling away here on Heart Sisters articles and other writing projects, or doing presentations on women’s heart health, or playing with the world’s sweetest, happiest and smartest grandbaby, one of the activities close to my heart involves a local non-profit agency called Island Heart To Heart. In 2008, as a freshly-diagnosed heart attack survivor – overwhelmed and frightened – I learned so much from the assorted guest speakers at their weekly classes for heart patients! Eventually, I became further involved with this unique organization – first volunteering with patients and family members on the cardiac ward, then as a member of their steering committee, and most recently as one of the facilitators who help to run these ongoing cardiac education classes throughout the year.

With her kind permission, I’m running this guest post by Thelma Fayle (a recent Heart To Heart “graduate”) which sums up beautifully three compelling stories:

  • the awful night her partner Daryl suffered a heart attack
  • what she and Daryl experienced week by week at their seven Heart To Heart classes
  • a moving tribute to the visionary young nurse who started Heart To Heart as a pilot project 29 years ago to help newly-diagnosed heart patients like her own Dad

Thank you so much for this, Thelma!

Continue reading

Turning “Why me?” into “Why not me?”

24 Jul

3heartsby Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Cathy Aumack-Bandy of Florida wrote this open letter in response to another heart patient’s question to her last month. I’m running this compelling essay here with her kind permission. Hold onto your hats . . .

When first diagnosed with cardiac problems, many people ask, “Who Me? No…” My version of the question “Who me?” was “Why Me?” – until the day my Mom asked, “Why NOT you?”  I hadn’t thought of it that way.

I went into the hospital because of a bout with “asthmatic bronchitis” that I just could not shake. I never imagined it might be a heart problem (neither I guess did my former primary care physician). I’d had a full cardiac work-up in October and been declared “heart healthy.”

Talk about shock… Who knew?

Just two days after my admission, a doctor (I didn’t know him at the time, or that he was a cardiologist) came into my room and, totally ignoring me in the bed, told my husband Gary that my heart was barely functioning and that without a transplant, I would not make three months.  Continue reading

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