The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

When the Emergency Department physician misdiagnosed my “widow maker” heart attack as acid reflux, I actually felt relieved at first.  I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much. His confident misdiagnosis meant I was temporarily willing to ignore the obvious cardiac symptoms that had propelled me to Emergency that morning: central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm.

Even I knew that arm pain is NOT a symptom of acid reflux, yet somehow that first plausible answer seemed preferable to the far more serious real answer I would receive much later.      .      . Continue reading “The “handlebar gripping” cardiac symptom”

“The doctors want my symptoms but not my stories”

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Marilyn Gardner, in her 2014 book called “Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging“) wrote about a compelling conversation she once had:

Yet our physicians aren’t trained to embrace our stories, but instead to ask right away, “What brings you here today?” to kick-start a brief Q&A that can most efficiently solve the diagnostic mystery sitting across from them.      .     .    Continue reading ““The doctors want my symptoms but not my stories””

Is it finally time to change the name ‘heart FAILURE’?

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

When McMaster University cardiologist Dr. Harriette Van Spall asked her Twitter followers recently to offer topic suggestions for the upcoming Heart Failure Summit, I responded with a suggestion of my own:

“Please please please can we STOP calling this condition heart FAILURE?”    .

Continue reading “Is it finally time to change the name ‘heart FAILURE’?”

Signals, noise, context – and your doctor’s brain

     .    . Emergency physician, professor, author, and patient safety expert Dr. Pat Croskerry

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters 

Emergency physician Dr. Pat Croskerry tells the story of the day he misdiagnosed a patient who was experiencing unstable anginachest pain caused by coronary artery disease, and often a warning sign of oncoming heart attack. But this is what he’d said before sending that patient home:

“I’m not at all worried about your chest pain. You probably overexerted yourself and strained a muscle. My suspicion that this is coming from your heart is about zero.”

In a later interview with Dr. Jerome Groopman (author of a book I love called How Doctors Think), Dr. Croskerry explained how easily that misdiagnosis happened: Continue reading “Signals, noise, context – and your doctor’s brain”

Cognitive dread: the painful uncertainty of waiting

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters 

I live on an island, so we’re often dependent on the ferries that carry islanders to the mainland and back. And because this is Canada’s west coast, high winds or rough seas can very occasionally cause sudden sailing delays or outright cancellations. When this happens, we often don’t know when sailings will resume, and nobody can tell us. Uncertainty like this about what daily life will bring includes both the routinely ordinary (what’s causing this traffic jam?) and the potentially important (when will my test results come in? This state of uncertainty is what psychologists often call “cognitive dread”.    . Continue reading “Cognitive dread: the painful uncertainty of waiting”