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“Never been sick in my life” – so how could she have a stroke?

11 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“The doctor showed me an x-ray of my brain. He pointed to a small spot and told me, ‘That’s where the blood vessel burst in your brain!’ It was surreal.”

My heart sister Dina Piersawl (affectionately known to some of us as Dee Mad Scientist) had just celebrated her 41st birthday when she survived an ischemic stroke. A professional scientist – and a former athlete and personal trainer in Chicago who describes herself as “never been sick in my life” – Dina sure didn’t look or feel like any stereotypical stroke patient you might imagine. Continue reading

The Patient Dignity Question meets the “Care Effect”

4 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“What do I need to know about you as a person to give you the best care possible?”

Tina was our longtime former housekeeper at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. She somehow knew that this question was the key to her remarkably close relationships with patients and their families at our 17-bed Victoria Hospice in-patient unit. During her 30+ year career spent cleaning patient rooms day in and day out, amid rotating nursing shifts and a blur of end-of-life care consults, Tina’s friendly face was often the one predictable constant for patients. She chatted with them while she worked, got to know family members and other visitors by name, and remembered details about each patient’s real life (meaning, before they became patients) that made them feel unique and cared about. And it was reciprocal – everybody loved Tina!

Tina didn’t invent this question, but as a kind and naturally compassionate person, she knew intuitively that what’s known as the Patient Dignity Question was very, very important to patients and their families. Continue reading

The “big disconnect” in women’s heart health

7 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

hearts sunday_link_loveDr. Holly Andersen is a New York cardiologist who once told a Clinton Health Matters conference audience how frustrating it feels when she is able to impact only the women who come in to see her. She believes that increasing public awareness of heart disease can save lives, and this must start with women. Dr. Holly likes to say that “if you can educate a woman, you educate the family.” Here’s her sobering take on what she calls the “big disconnect” in women’s heart disease awareness, prevention and treatment: * Continue reading

My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you

12 Mar

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

As a person who lives with and writes about coronary microvascular disease (MVD), I feel lucky that my family doctor, my cardiologist and my pain specialist are all believers. It’s like the trifecta of diagnostic wins for a heart patient! I say that because one of my blog readers, after asking her physician if her puzzling cardiac symptoms might be due to MVD, was told:

“I don’t believe in coronary microvascular disease.”

I guess it’s time to remind such physicians that we’re not talking about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy here. Continue reading

A plea for the return of the classic bed jacket for patients

5 Feb

Hospital patients make an immediate trade that none of us want to make. The non-negotiated trade goes like this: We’ll take away (or, in some cases, cut off) your own nice clothes, toss them in this plastic sack, and in exchange, we’ll let you wear this shapeless, backless hospital gown and some goofy-looking booties while you’re here.

This is a trade designed for hospital workers, not for patients. But herein I launch my one-woman campaign to consider a revisit to the timeless yet under-appreciated garment called the bed jacket in order to combat the hideousness of those much-hated hospital gowns. Continue reading