Last week, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) ran a compelling opinion piece from Boston physician Dr. Abraar Karan on why some patients just don’t seem to understand what their doctors are telling them. Here’s how he opens his essay:
“‘Why am I here?’ Mrs. S looked up at me for the first time since I had entered the room and begun speaking to her. I had spent the past five minutes talking about the need for her to start new medications for her heart failure. She had nodded along for most of the conversation, but I wondered if she had heard, or more importantly understood, anything I had been saying. She had had three admissions for worsening heart failure in the past few months. And yet she looked at me and said, ‘Do I have heart problems? No one ever told me!'”.Continue reading “Denial? Or doctorly deference?”→
Open heart surgery. Is there any medical procedure in history so surrounded by genuine awe and surreal mystique? Cracking open the sternum to reveal the beating heart beneath, and then somehow trusting a heart-lung machine to temporarily take over the jobs of both the human heart and lungs – now, that’s heroic! But when it comes to explaining just how that happens, few of us might guess that the most compelling and straightforward description comes not from the world of medicine, but from the venerable magazine, Popular Mechanics. Continue reading “Heading home tips following open heart surgery”→
If you – like me – have had a heart attack, you are now likely taking a fistful of medications each morning, everything from anti-platelet drugs to help prevent a new blockage from forming inside your metal stent to meds that can help lower your blood pressure. All of these cardiac drugs have been studied by researchers before being approved by government regulators as being safe and effective for us to take every day.
“Little is known about the benefits and risks of longterm use of cardiovascular drugs. Clinical trials rarely go beyond a few years of follow-up, but patients are often given continuous treatment with multiple drugs well into old age.”
Breaking up is hard to do. That’s how my blog reader Tommie O’Sullivan described to me the sad news that she lost first one, and then a second trusted cardiologist. It’s nothing personal. Important family reasons. Retirement. She understands these things. But still. . .
As part of my occasional and ongoing “Dear Carolyn” series of guest posts written by women who have learned firsthand what becoming a heart patient is all about, I’m happy to share this, with her permission. Tommie’s words reminded me that, so far, I’ve been lucky in never experiencing the loss of a favourite physician. I suspect that – in this age of increasingly empowered patients, critical doctor reviews online, and second opinions from Dr. Google – her sentiments are what every physician longs to hear one day from their patients:“I will really miss you!” Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Breaking up is hard to do””→
When you open a non-fiction book, you’ll likely find a section called the foreword, written by somebody who is not the book’s author. It addresses a reader’s questions about the book: Why is the author of this book particularly qualified to write it? What will I gain or learn by reading this book?
The Chicago Manual of Style writing guide describes a foreword as “written by someone eminent to lend credibility to the book”.
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 “Deep thoughts about death and heart disease”→