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How a $5 Tim Hortons gift card changed my life

11 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    November 11, 2018

I settled in at the impressive boardroom table of a chic downtown ad agency, where I’d been invited to review a new patient website that this agency had created for its client, our provincial Ministry of Health.

This agency wanted to know if an average patient like me seeking online health information would be able to easily navigate this new website. My volunteer assignment that morning was to noodle around the site in response to a dozen or so search prompts that the young agency hipsters seated around me would provide. When I hit the “Search Health Topics” tab, it revealed a pull-down menu with many diagnoses listed. But I noticed immediately that “heart disease” was oddly missing from the health topics pull-down. I did see that the diagnosis of “hemorrhoids” was up there. What kind of health website for patients forgets to list our #1 killer? Continue reading

Our cardiac meds – in real life, not just in studies

16 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 16, 2018

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.

But one particular study on this subject published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology(1) raised a unique point:

“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.”  

Continue reading

The medical apology: have you ever received one?

26 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 26, 2018

I’ve been invited to participate in an academic study on an interesting concept: the medical apology. My first reaction was to decline the invitation, explaining that never once have I had a healthcare professional apologize to me when something went wrong. And I’ve had a few things go very, very wrong.

I could have used an apology at age 16, for example, when the infirmary nurse at my convent boarding school repeatedly refused my pleas to call the local doctor for my severe appendicitis symptoms, instead blaming them first on the flu, the next day on my period, and the third day on exam anxiety. I was finally hospitalized with a ruptured appendix and near-fatal peritonitis that required a month-long hospital stay. A little “I’m sorry” would have been nice. . .

But I’m thinking that some of you might have some interesting personal experiences about receiving a medical apology to share on this subject. If you’d like to get involved, here’s how to contact the researchers: Continue reading

When patients feel like hostages

22 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    July 22, 2018

When his 6-year old son became very ill and was hospitalized, Dan Beckham observed how his own behaviour in the hospital began to dramatically change compared to his real life. Although he would readily send a restaurant meal back if it weren’t properly cooked, now when his son received poor care (e.g. a healthcare professional who did not wash his hands), Dan hesitated to be assertive “for fear of alienating the physicians and nurses whose goodwill he needed to maintain.” Here’s how he explained this:

“I felt dependent and powerless, as if my son was a hostage to the care he received and the system that delivered it. It was as though I was compelled to negotiate for his safe release from potential harm.”

Such a reaction is an example of what’s known as Hostage Bargaining Syndrome (HBS), as described in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.(1)  Continue reading

Dr. Martha Gulati’s fabulous foreword to my book

24 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters  ♥  June 24, 2018

Dr. Martha Gulati

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 needed to find someone eminent (definition: famous, respected, important) to agree to write the foreword for A Woman’s Guide to Living With Heart Disease because, unlike other heart books out there written by cardiologists, my heart book was written by a heart patient with zero medical training. To many, that translates as zero credibility. Continue reading