When you’re about to become a hospital patient

17 Jun
A guest post by Karen Friedman MD and Sara Merwin MPH, authors of The Informed Patient: A Complete Guide to a Hospital Stay (Cornell University Press).

Linda was having a busy day: 9 to 5 at the office, and now grocery shopping. But she wasn’t feeling right. She was a little warm and dizzy and felt heart palpitations. She finished shopping and hurried home because she knew something was wrong. But what had her doctor told her? Chew an aspirin if she ever had heart attack symptoms.* Call 911. Linda wasn’t taking any chances: too many people depended on her. She called a friend to meet her in Emergency, grabbed her pill bottles and her printed medical history, and stuck them in her purse.

Linda is savvy. She had symptoms that could have been confused with any number of things, but she made a series of wise decisions: she followed her doctor’s advice, called a friend to help out, and went to the hospital armed with her important records.
Continue reading

“Dear Carolyn: I was never one to complain. . . “

10 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    June 10, 2018

Sometimes, the story of how another woman first discovered she had heart disease can seem eerily familiar to our own. It’s that familiarity that first attracted me to this Dear Carolyn episode (our fourth in the occasional series that features my Heart Sisters readers sharing the unique experience of what it can feel like to become a heart patient).

This particular blog reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, explains her reluctance to seek medical help while repeatedly blaming her distressing symptoms on non-cardiac causes. I completely identified with that reluctance because I went through that same surreal refusal to seek help for my own worsening cardiac symptoms after being misdiagnosed in the E.R. with acid reflux. If you, too, have ever engaged in what researchers call “treatment-seeking delay behaviour” during a heart attack, her story might feel familiar to you, too. Continue reading

Do you need a robot to help with your hospital gown?

3 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters   June 3, 2018

hospital Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, yet another academic news release has crossed my desk, bursting with life-changing hype. This one is about hospitalized patients, especially those who are too ill or too weak to put on their own attractive hospital gowns.

The news from the Georgia Institute of Technology says that a million of us need daily assistance in getting dressed because of “injury, disease and advanced age.” What we need when we are admitted to hospital, apparently, is a robot to help us get dressed! (What we actually need, Georgia Tech, is to replace those hideous hospital gowns with what’s known as adaptive clothing, along with adequate healthcare staffing levels). Continue reading

Typical vs. “atypical” heart attack signs in women

27 May

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  May 27, 2018

Before I was misdiagnosed with acid reflux and sent home from the Emergency Department, the heart attack symptoms I was experiencing had seemed pretty dramatic during that eventful early morning walk. They were, in fact, what all physicians (and Dr. Google) would consider to be classic heart attack signs. 

My most debilitating symptom at the time was the chest pain that doctors know as angina pectoris (a Latin name that translates gruesomely as “strangulation of the chest”). I also felt like I was going to vomit, I was sweating profusely, and I had pain radiating down my left arm. (None of those textbook symptoms, by the way, helped to convince the Emergency physician that I was, in fact, having a heart attack. Read more about misdiagnosis of women’s heart disease here). 
Continue reading

Deep thoughts about death and heart disease

20 May

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I loved reading the late Yale Medical School professor Dr. Sherwin Nuland’s highly-recommended book How We Die – which is not nearly as grim as it may sound. In fact, it’s an endlessly fascinating read. For heart patients, the concept of death can suddenly become far more personally compelling than most of us ever imagined it to be.

But we live in a death-denying society. People don’t want to think about death, much less talk about it. As Dr. Nuland wrote, death to most of us occurs “in sterile seclusion cloaked in euphemism and taboo”. We don’t even like using the ‘D’-word. Instead of ‘dying’, some of us prefer to just “pass away” or “go to be with Jesus”. Continue reading