This documentary film pulls no punches!

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

The important documentary film called A Typical Heart is a triumph.

It’s about the deadly disparity in diagnosis, treatment and outcomes among male and female heart patients. It packs an incredible load of unforgettable facts and quotable quotes into just 22 short minutes.     .

Eight patients were interviewed about their own heart stories (I was pleased to be included in this group of women – thank you to York Region paramedic/co-producer Cristina D’Alessandro for inviting me to participate!) as well as several remarkable experts who clearly explain valuable heart lessons to women – and to their colleagues.

Please watch it, like it, and then share this film with all of the women you care about. A Typical Heart was directed by Chris Beauchamp and Laura Beauchamp of Distillery Film Company; written by Chris Beauchamp and Cristina D’Alessandro; produced by Chris Beauchamp, Laura Beauchamp and Cristina D’Alessandro (who won a $50,000 StoryHive award from Telus to create this film).

A Typical Heart documentary

Watch the official film trailer for A Typical Heart.


On Saturday, September 7th, a first ever public film screening and panel discussion of A Typical Heart took place at St. George’s Church in Victoria, BC. (we were FULL with a waitlist!)  Three of the eight heart patients interviewed in the film – Laurie Blakely, Zamira Vicenzino and Carolyn Thomas – plus one of the seven physicians, Dr. Doreen Rabi from the University of Calgary – participated in this panel on women’s heart health. The event moderator was Barb Field, retired Cardiac Social Worker at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. Many thanks to the amazing St. George’s Church volunteers – especially organizer extraordinaire, Sue Morrison!

Q: What’s your own response to watching this documentary film?


NOTE FROM CAROLYN:   I wrote much more about the cardiology gender gap in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease” . You can ask for it at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use the code HTWN to save 20% off the list price).

See also:

When Your “Significant EKG Changes” are Missed

Yentl Syndrome: Cardiology’s Gender Gap is Alive and Well

How Does It Really Feel to Have a Heart Attack? Women Survivors Tell Their Stories

Diagnosis – and Misdiagnosis – of Women’s Heart Disease

14 Reasons To Be Glad You’re A Man When You’re Having a Heart Attack

His and Hers Heart Attacks

Heart Attack – or an Attack of Heartburn?

Is it a Heart Attack – or a Panic Attack?

What is Causing my Chest Pain?

When Your Doctor Mislabels You As an “Anxious Female”

Heart Disease: Not Just A Man’s Disease Anymore

How Doctors Discovered That Women Have Heart Disease, Too

Gender Differences in Heart Attack Treatment Contribute To Women’s Higher Death Rates

How a Woman’s Heart Attack is Different From A Man’s

23 thoughts on “This documentary film pulls no punches!

  1. Well I had two stints and 3 weeks now still not feeling right. And they told me I could go back to regular duty. Lol yeah ok. I still get chest discomfort; I know they say it’s normal but your body and anxiety takes over so how you go back to normal I don’t understand. Maybe someone else having this problem can tell me something to help.


    1. Hello Floyd – I know this is very frustrating for you. Remember that three weeks is considered very early days for things to settle down, as this article about post-stent “stretch pain” explains.

      About 40% of all heart patients who get a stent implanted will experience what you’re going through as the coronary artery that’s been stretched during your balloon angioplasty heals and goes back to normal – on average about six weeks, give or take. So meanwhile, try to relax, take deep breaths and nice walks outdoors, and remind yourself that this is very likely just your body healing on its own. If you had a broken ankle, by comparison, you would still expect discomfort at three weeks – it will also take time for your heart to gradually improve. As I mentioned previously, if the discomfort becomes severe instead of improving, then contact your doctor.
      Good luck!


  2. Just bought your book A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease. I have 2 stents in my LAD within 3 years. I was having dizzy spells while I walked and then the chest pain would start after jogging a short distance. Couldn’t do steps anymore and I told my primary care physician.

    She would do an EKG but it would show nothing. I exercised, ate healthy, looked a picture of health. Finally had a stress test. Then begin the news of the blockages in my arteries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great educational tool. I am a long time (1994) Heart Stroke CPR instructor. Now I am also a heart attack survivor. I ignored my classic symptoms as I expected A-Typical symptoms, but that is on me.

    I received a good standard of care for the London, Ontario EMS. I was diagnosed with a 100% blockage at the end of my driveway. Everything from there was gold standard. I know I am lucky.

    These women had a tough time and I understand the message, but my one question is, could you diversify the patient pool? All the women were white and appeared to be of a comfortable economical status.

    I can only imagine how much harder all of this is for the other cultures and lower economic status women.

    Thank you for a great film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Laura – thanks for sharing your perspective (especially as a CPR instructor AND a heart patient). Although I was one of the (white, comfortable) heart patients invited to be interviewed for this film, I had no say in how we were selected. I agree 100% with your point about diversity.

      We know that when women don’t encounter others who look or sound like them represented in projects like this, it’s a missed opportunity. This is true across the board – from racial minorities to disabled people – and the female med students who don’t go into the male-dominated field of cardiology.

      I also wanted to pick up on another point you raised: you ignored your classic heart attack signs because you’d actually been expecting those vague atypical symptoms we hear about in women. I’ve heard this before – it’s an example of what an effective (if not always helpful) job has been done to inform women of non-chest pain symptoms that they may or may not experience during a heart attack. Many women did get that message and interpreted it as the ONLY heart attack symptoms women have. Chest pain is still the most common cardiac symptom in both men and women.

      Thanks for your comment. Take care, stay safe. . . ♥


  4. I want to thank all these women for their stories. I too have been dealing with issues, was told around a year ago I had coronary artery disease, 100% and 90% blockages in smaller vessels, and 45 to 50 in major but should not be suffering pain according to doctors.

    Over the last few months things have felt like they are getting way worse. Tried getting into my doctor but have to wait a couple months. Even simple things like making my bed, walking to the mailbox and sometimes nothing can bring on these episodes.

    Dealing with this pain has also started to cause depression and i feel hopeless at the doctors sometimes just like they’re not taking things serious while I know things are not right.. I too have a family history and lost many love ones to heart disease because several of them were not taken seriously and were turned away only to suffer massive heart issues within months..

    Thank you again for your stories of hope and information.
    God Bless you all


    1. I’m sorry to hear of your distressing symptoms, Jeannie. I’m not a physician so can’t comment specifically on your experience. I can tell you that something is causing your symptoms. I hope you’ll get a second opinion so that whatever is causing them can be addressed. Best of luck to you…


    2. Jeannie, Please ask for a stress test. That’s what finally got the doctors to take notice that something was wrong with me.
      God Bless you, Jeannie.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a fantastic film that I will share with contacts… friends of course, but also those with connections to NIH, R&D in pharma, American Heart Association, AMA, and any others to help push for more gender specific research.

    Thanks for such an excellent documentary! Good work, one and all. Especially our leader extrordianaire, Carolyn!

    Ultreia (latin for forward… and beyond)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Paula – so glad you liked this fantastic film, and will share it near and far. It deserves to be widely viewed – by women, by clinicians, by med/nursing students, by EVERYBODY! The length of the film (at 22 minutes) makes it perfect for arranging public viewings, too (we’ve already heard of this film being shown at book clubs, college classrooms, “Lunch & Learn” workplace events and – just this week! – at a cardiologists’ conference held at The Dorchester in London, England!

      “Gratias tibi” for the Latin cheer (I took five years of Latin in high school!!!)


  6. Hi Carolyn,

    Wow, that was an incredible film. So well done. It was so moving to watch and listen to each woman tell her personal story. I was particularly moved by the woman whose heart disease had such a strong hereditary component since as you know, my family’s DNA is prone to cancer. So, I really related to her. Each woman’s story was compelling.

    You did a great job too! I am so impressed and proud of you for putting yourself out there in yet another venue. You are now a film star! But seriously, you are reaching more women every day and helping to break down those barriers that for years have prevented women from being properly diagnosed and treated. Educating and, as a result, saving lives.

    Bravo to all those involved!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your great review, Nancy. I’ll pass that on to the film’s producers – and thanks also for your kind words. It was a real honour to be invited to be one of the patients interviewed for such an important project.

      I thought that the patient narratives were just the right balance to the physicians/researchers. For me, it was the young Mums in the film who were especially compelling and moving). Plus the seven professional experts interviewed – so articulate and convincing! All in just 22 minutes!

      Please tell your friends – I’d love to see every woman out there watching and sharing this documentary.


  7. I loved this movie and shared it with my daughters and friends. I cried through the whole depression part. No one tells you that depression can take over your mind at any point after the trauma of heart attacks (and triple by-pass surgery in my case).

    Still fighting with depression a year after and now I am finally getting help. Thank God! And Dr Petsikis I am a survivor.

    Great short film every woman should watch! And show the men in your life so they can be more supportive!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The video is superb. All the key points were made, even the one about post “event” depression which is so important. What impressed me most is that an EMT was the instigator of this project.

    Having worked in the media I know this would have been tons of work, but she was obviously intensely motivated to get it on our screens. And how much do you want to bet that she did it while working full time at her highly-stressful day job, taking care of family commitments, and solving any outstanding issues related to nuclear fission?

    Thank you Cristina D’Allessandro.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah – I’m going to pass on your comment to Cristina! I know she will really appreciate your empathy! Thank you for that…

      I too was astounded by all of the details that this little film did NOT miss. It would have been understandable to focus on the ‘big ticket’ cardiac issues for women, but this one also covered lesser known but critically important items from pregnancy complications to the VERY important but often ignored problem of situational depression following a cardiac event…

      It made me weep to see so many well respected healthcare professionals speak so eloquently about changing the system on our behalf. Wow….


  9. Thanks you, Carolyn, for all you do to fight the fight. I know this problem with gender bias for women in cardiac situations is not just happening in Canada. It happens in the U.S. too. A woman I was in cardiac rehab with in 2012 went to the Emergency Dept. THREE times at two different hospitals before they were finally convinced she was having heart issues.

    I was lucky – very lucky. I went to an Emergency Dept. that was a designated chest pain center and they took me very seriously right away. My symptoms of pressure and squeezing in the center of my chest along with aching in both jaws that came and went along with a panicky “impending sense of doom” feeling sent me there. At that time I was in denial that it could be anything serious. Thanks to my decision to be seen at that chest pain center the 99% blockage in the “widowmaker” didn’t kill me.

    ALL women deserve to be taken seriously just as I was. More lives must not be lost .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, Holly – this is a worldwide global problem! No women anywhere are immune to a healthcare system that has historically used only males as the primary research subjects. That sets the tone – from diagnosistic tools to treatment decisions to poorer outcomes.

      I too once met a woman who had been turned away from Emergency THREE TIMES (the third time, they suggested she might want to consider taking anti-anxiety meds, and the 4th time was for double bypass surgery…)

      Liked by 1 person

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