When we expect to die, but don’t

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Shortly after I was freshly diagnosed with coronary microvascular disease (MVD), one of my readers told me that, for the past 12 years, she too had been living with MVD after surviving her own “widow maker heart attack”, just as I had.  Immediately picturing the future prospect of somehow coping with ongoing bouts of exhaustion, shortness of breath and debilitating chest pain, my surprising gut reaction was:

“12 years!?  TWELVE YEARS?!?!?!  I can’t do this!”

Well, Happy Heart-iversary to me: on May 6th this week, exactly 13 years have passed since my initially misdiagnosed heart attack was finally correctly diagnosed and appropriately treated, but even more amazing to me, I’ve now lived with MVD for 12 of those 13 years.     .      .     Continue reading “When we expect to die, but don’t”

When heart disease wears a smile

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

I love this photo of three generations of our family, taken during the weekend of my late mother’s 80th birthday. That’s her on the left, me in the middle, my daughter Larissa Jane on the right. Happy smiles all around – yet one significant problem:  I was very, very ill while smiling for the photographer. In fact, I was admitted to the hospital the day after it was taken.  And this time – unlike my first trip to the Emergency Department two weeks earlier –  my “widow-maker” heart attack was appropriately diagnosed and treated.         .            .   Continue reading “When heart disease wears a smile”

How to avoid six common errors in motivating patients to change

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters 

In a classic understatement, U.K. researchers Drs. Michael Kelly and Mary Barker observed that “most efforts to change health behaviours have had limited success.”(1)

No kidding. Right now, even as you read this, academic researchers are applying for (and getting) grant funding to study smokers who don’t quit, couch potatoes who don’t get off the couch, or heart patients who stop taking their cardiac meds. I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that these studies will no doubt conclude that, yes indeed, those people DO need to change their behaviours, and “further study is required”.    .     . Continue reading “How to avoid six common errors in motivating patients to change”

Diagnostic error: will it go away if we just don’t talk about it?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

As Audre Lorde once warned us:

“My silences have not protected me. Your silences will not protect you. Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

I am exquisitely aware that when I write or speak about the subject of diagnostic error in medicine, some people will feel uncomfortable. It’s difficult to talk about being misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack and sent home from Emergency while somehow making that story sound flattering to the medical profession.        .    .  Continue reading “Diagnostic error: will it go away if we just don’t talk about it?”

Heart FAILURE vs. heart FUNCTION

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters   

A number of cardiologists seem to be revisiting the warnings of their late colleague Dr. Bernard Lown, who often cautioned physicians against using words that hurt – specifically, the name heart FAILURE * (what he termed “doom forecasting”).  Imagine being a patient hearing for the first time the words, “You have heart FAILURE.”  A terrifying – and worse, often inaccurate – name.  I’ve been told that changing the name of this condition would be impossible. But a recent editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has suddenly offered a glimmer of hope. 

Continue reading “Heart FAILURE vs. heart FUNCTION”

Auricular amputations of confectionary rabbits

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  

Imagine a bright Easter Sunday, back in the mid-1950s. The sun is shining, church bells are ringing, cherry trees abloom, and I and my sister Cathy are decked out in our brand new matching pink Easter outfits. We have been invited out to lunch at the home of our friends, the Moskal family, after Easter Sunday Mass.

We enjoy a delicious lunch of baked ham, deviled eggs, potato salad and – our favourite! – traditional Easter paska, after which the children are dismissed from the table to play while our parents finish their coffee. And that’s when things suddenly go sideways. . .    .       . Continue reading “Auricular amputations of confectionary rabbits”