“A Typical Heart” Film Screening/Panel Discussion September 7th

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters     August 11, 2019

.UPDATE: This event was  FULL with a WAITLIST. Thanks to all who attended its first public screening in Canada! You can watch this film here.

“A Typical Heart  is a short but powerful documentary film about women’s #1 killer. Heart disease, in fact, will kill more women this year than all forms of cancer combined. Yet until very recently, cardiac research on diagnostic tools, drugs and procedures has been done only on (white, middle-aged) men.(1)  Even the lab  mice used in early cardiac research were exclusively male animals.(2 ) No wonder many women still consider heart disease to be a “man’s problem”.

This remarkable documentary was the brainchild of paramedic and researcher Cristina D’Alessandro of York Region Paramedic Services north of Toronto, who first asked the profoundly important question:
If women make up over half our population, why are our heart attack symptoms still called ATYPICAL?”        
As a front-line first responder, Cristina saw first-hand how her patients with heart disease were being approached differently – depending on if they were male or female. She knew that female heart patients she was transporting to the Emergency Department were at significantly higher risk of being misdiagnosed there and sent home compared to the male heart patients who had called 911 for help.
When she attended the Ottawa Heart Institute’s Women’s Heart Summit, she learned even more about what she now calls the “deadly disparity” in cardiac research, diagnostic testing, treatments and outcomes between men and women. 
In the film, she cites the landmark 2018 Heart and Stroke Foundation report called Ms. Understood that warned:
“Women’s hearts are victims of a broken system that is ill-equipped to diagnose, treat and support them.”
In my own review of this astonishing report, I wrote:
“This means that despite study after study, report after report, expert after expert confirming this pervasive cardiology gender gap, the reality remains that when women seek help, they don’t always get it.
This free September 7th film event includes the first public screening of “A Typical Heart” here on the west coast of Canada, followed by a panel discussion featuring three Vancouver Island heart patients (three of the eight patients interviewed for the documentary):
  1. Laurie Blakeley (Port Alberni, BC) who survived a heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) – a condition largely experienced by young, healthy women with few cardiac risk factors.
  2. Zamira Vicenzino (Victoria, BC) who passed a full physical “with flying colours” just one week before suffering a heart attack caused by five blocked coronary arteries
  3. Carolyn Thomas (Victoria, BC) who was misdiagnosed with acid reflux in mid-heart attack and sent home from the ER despite her “textbook” heart attack symptoms of chest pain, nausea, and pain in her left arm.
  4. Dr. Doreen Rabi, MD (Calgary, AB) is an endocrinologist, researcher and associate professor in the U of C Departments of Medicine, Community Health and Cardiac Sciences.

The moderator for the panel discussion is Cardiac Social Worker Barb Field. Admission to this important event is FREE, but space is limited, so please reserve your seat early.

The eight of us who were interviewed for this film because we are heart patients represent a cross-section of Canadian women diagnosed with a range of cardiac conditions.

The compelling patient narratives are what illustrate the main messages, and the seven eminent cardiologists, researchers and activists interviewed alongside us hammer home a grim reality in a way that few experts have been able to do until now.


When you watch this film, you’ll immediately understand why reviewers have raved:
  • “Amazing!”  – Dr. Sharon Mulvagh, MD
  • “Full of heart and love!” – Dr. Doreen Rabi, MD
  • “Brilliant!”  Vesta Giles, filmmaker
  • “Fantastic!”  – Dr. Najah Andreak, Cardiovascular Surgery Researcher
  • “Powerful!”  – Jackie Ratz, heart failure patient
  • “Important!”  – Allan Batt, Paramedic
  • Essential for all health care professionals and the public!” – Morven Dunn, British Heart Foundation
  • “Informative and heart-wrenching!”  – Nicole Nickerson, Women’s Heart Health Advocate
  • A must-watch for every woman!”  – Jill Murphy, Doctor of Physical Therapy


Here’s the official 1-minute trailer for “A Typical Heart”.  The full 22-minute film can be viewed here,

Watch, like, and – most importantly – share this link!

1. Editorial, “Cardiology’s Problem Women”.  The Lancet, Volume 393, issue  10175, P959, March 09, 2019.

2. Benjamin Hibbert, “Sex Bias Is Increasingly Prevalent in Preclinical Cardiovascular Research: Implications for Translational Medicine and Health Equity for Women”. Circulation. 2017;135:625–626

The Canadian documentary film “A Typical Heart” was created with financial support from Telus and StoryHive. Producers: paramedic Cristina D’Alessandro at York Region Paramedic Services, and Chris Beauchamp and Laura Beauchamp of Distillery Films.


Q: Will more public awareness be able to move the dial in this “deadly disparity” as described in “A Typical Heart”?

NOTE FROM CAROLYN:   I wrote much more about the key points covered in this documentary 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 their code HTWN to save 20% off the list price).


See also:

Does your hospital have a Women’s Heart Clinic? If not, why not?

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

The symptomatic tipping point during heart attack*

The sad reality of women’s heart disease hits home*

Women under age 55 fare worse after heart attack than men*

Researchers openly mock the ‘myth’ of women’s unique heart attack symptoms*

Why female shift workers may be at risk for heart disease*

Cardiac gender bias: we need less TALK and more WALK

Women’s cardiac care: is it gender difference – or gender bias?

Unconscious bias: why women don’t get the same care men do

How can we get heart patients past the E.R. gatekeepers?

Heart disease – not just a man’s disease anymore

When your doctor mislabels you as an “anxious female”

Why are women with atrial fibrillation treated differently?

Women missing the beat: are doctors ignoring women’s cardiac symptoms?

Yentl Syndrome: cardiology’s gender gap is alive and well

The breast/uterine cancer study with no women invited 

* Heart Sisters posts written about cardiac research on women’s heart disease presented during the 2011 or 2014 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver, BC Canada. In the 2011 conference, out of over 700 scientific papers presented, only four (FOUR!) focused specifically on women’s heart disease. Three years later, that number had jumped to 12.


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