The Grinch’s Guide to Women’s Heart Attacks (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

.Chest pain can make women WORRY a lot,

Yet when women seek help, some are told they should not.

“Anxiety, maybe – you’re stressed by the season!

“Your tests all look fine!” No one quite knows the reason.

It could be that these tests weren’t researched on them.

(And, really – aren’t women small versions of men?)

It could be that Grinch docs think women are lying

Or making up symptoms, without even trying.

When we do share our cardiac signs with these docs,

Some Grinches can’t quite think outside of the box.

Often our symptoms seem so vague or small

And some women don’t mention chest “pain” at all.

It’s pressure, or fullness, or a weird sort of ache

And awful fatigue might be what we can’t take.

Shortness of breath, arm hurts – we’re a wreck!

So much is happening from navel to neck.

We think we might vomit, it’s getting worse now!

This does not feel right, we need help – but please, how?

“Acid reflux!” My Grinch doc declares, loud and grim.

My Grinch nurse warns, Stop asking questions of him!

Embarrassed and shamed, I just want to go home.

Made a fuss over nothing, now feel quite alone.

Emergency Grinch, as I leave: “NOT YOUR HEART!!”

So no way I’m returning when symptoms restart.

But back to the ER I go, two weeks later.

Now desperately ill, damned GERD pain is much greater!

But this time, when Emergency staff look at me,

I can tell they’re now taking me seriously.

No Grinches today, the staff leap into action.

A cardiologist is called, and then swift satisfaction:

He can tell from my tests I have serious heart woes

In a fully blocked artery, stainless steel stent goes.

Just two weeks before, I’d been misdiagnosed.

I’d somehow survived fate more deadly than most!

Emergency Grinches delay diagnosis,

But watch for that other Grinch voice – barely noticed.

Our own voice is whispering, “It’s nothing! Relax!”

“Stop making a fuss! Just go back to your tasks!”

We put others first (it’s how women are raised)

Even a heart attack leaves us unfazed!

Yet you know your body when something feels wrong!

Speak up and be brave and do not wait too long.

Treat YOURSELF as you would your own sister or mother,

Then learn about heart health, and share it with others.

Some things never change, I can just hear you say.

But the real Dr. Seuss used to put it this way:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”

Some Grinches aren’t green, and they wear stethoscopes

But some are our voices inside, crushing hope.

Don’t be a Grinch voice, whatever you do!

Trust what women say – and that starts within YOU!

© 2018 Carolyn Thomas –

Wishing a happy, heart-healthy, Grinch-free holiday season to my wonderful readers. . .

Find out as much as you can about women’s cardiac symptoms (both typical and atypical), our unique cardiac risk factors, and myths and facts about women’s heart disease.


In my book, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease(Johns Hopkins University Press), I wrote much more about how to help yourself get an accurate cardiac diagnosis. You can ask for this book at your local bookshop (always the best option – support your local retailers!) or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from Johns Hopkins University Press  – use their code HTWN to save 20%.

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17 thoughts on “The Grinch’s Guide to Women’s Heart Attacks (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

  1. I don’t have heart disease (that I know of) but am a frequent reader of your blog. I think you’re doing an awesome job raising awareness for women. (And you’re a poet, too! Love it!) Just wanted to wish you a happy new year and please keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy New Year to you, too, Lisa, and thank you so much for your kind words! Yours is my very favourite kind of comment – from women who read my blog who are not at all part of my ‘target audience’. This also includes men, and breast cancer patients, and all kinds of folks! It seems to reinforce the similarities between us despite the differences, I think.


  2. A simple theory: A heart attack is a medical emergency. Blocked or reduced blood flow to your heart damages the heart muscle. Blood flow to your heart can become completely cut off or severely reduced when a blood clot gets lodged in any artery that has been previously narrowed by a buildup of plaque. Plaque is a combination of fat, cholesterol, and other substances that can build up in the inner lining of your artery walls.


  3. No need to apologize to anyone other than the Grinch (who I believe has been misunderstood – he is extremely creative, smart, tenacious and unabashedly green – which sounds a bit like you, my friend . . . except for the green).
    Love your grinchy poem and you.
    xxxx jJ

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the poem – you’ve got the “feel” of Seuss perfectly!

    Pam, speak to your primary Doctor about EECP. The therapy is reputed to encourage the growth of ‘collaterals’ which are the body’s inbuilt ‘bypass’ system. The fact you’re still here WITH a blockage proves their existence.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, they DO belittle our symptoms, whereas they expect cardiac problems in males, in females they expect “heart” (emotional) problems and react accordingly.

    Your own inner Pilot Light knows what’s going on with your body, so listen to her! In fact, the ‘feeling of impending doom’ is a genuine symptom – at least in men – and gets their attention!

    My suggestion would be to learn all the classic symptoms (male and female) and when you describe yours, feel free to add a few more from the list!

    And don’t be embarrassed if it all turns out to be a genuine false alarm – they all love those as everyone sleeps well that night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that “inner pilot light”, Janet. And a “sense of impending doom” is a valid (and common) symptom for women, too!

      Speaking of symptoms, I wouldn’t recommend making up any symptoms that aren’t there – in case something equally serious is missed due to the distractions (although I did hear a cardiologist once say she convinces women to admit to “chest pain” even when they have none, by telling them their insurance won’t pay for further diagnostic testing without “CP” written on their charts – a really awful way to practice medicine, I thought!)


  6. Carolyn,
    I would hope Dr Seuss would be proud of your poem!

    You have been such a blessing to me. I had 2 heart attacks 7 months apart requiring stents. My second one, my room was directly across from the nurses station and I was in full blown heart attack mode and couldn’t get help for 20 minutes! I wanted to call 911 from my bed.

    I got a letter of apology from the hospital stating the CNA was new and they were going to retrain her in emergency situations. The first heart attack I had no insurance and they refused a follow up with the cardiologist. I was in shock and 2 yrs later still have 1 more blockage that I guess we are waiting to blow up and I am in therapy for anxiety and PTSD.

    Your blog has been a Godsend to me and I love your poem. Sorry for the rant. Merry Christmas though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you liked the poem, Pam. Thanks for your kind words about my blog – much appreciated.

      I’m still thinking about that letter of apology from the hospital! Holy Moley, that’s a rare event (although if more hospitals did that as part of a common decency policy, I suspect it might actually aid healing in the long run!) Merry Christmas to you, too…


  7. The only time a heart test shows a problem is when I’m actually having ‘an episode’ – chest pressure/pain/shortness of breath. I had ten blocked arteries only found after I went to ER after three in a row severe heart attacks within a week and a half – that led to emergency quad bypass surgery – in which a coma was induced after surgery was done, my heart kept failing.

    I’d had frequent EKGs, stress tests and echos – they never showed a blocked artery, let alone TEN! I’d ignored the first two of the three severe heart attacks because I’d been told so many times it was stress and was being offered Prozac.

    I’d had two mild heart attacks a few years before, mid-forties and just after age 50 … never reported them. And no doctor ever commented on my high cholesterol before that, or cared to know that both sides of my family was rampant with heart disease over the generations. Only I knew it was my heart, no doctor ever believed me.

    The ER happened a few days after my 69th birthday. I’ll be 79 this April … still living, and with six of the ten blocked arteries still in my heart. But I now have pre-diabetes, hypothyroidism and adrenal issues. If only one of the many doctors I’d been to over my adult lifetime would have believed me, I might be a lot healthier than I am now.

    But I’m extremely grateful to have these years after surgery … except, that I lived long enough to get uterine cancer after being on excessive antibiotics for several dental infections that led to several root canals, that led to hair loss – and four months later … diagnosed with uterine cancer.

    If only doctors listened to and believed women. Really: how is it they don’t believe we know our own bodies better than they do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this, Michelle. Not being believed – that’s a profoundly distressing state. As one of my blog readers observed, “men don’t have to fight to be believed…” You’ve been through such a lot (quad bypass, 10 blocked arteries, three heart attacks – and now several other diagnoses. I was going to say “hang in there” – but it seems you’ve done a terrific job all along of managing to outlive every crisis!


  8. How to say it short. What a good poem!! I had my 35 year ‘Birthday’ with 3 bypasses. It is worth celebrating.

    I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Carolyn.

    Liked by 1 person

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