False hope: better than no hope?

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

My former colleagues in palliative care often spoke about the concept of hope as being a fluid, ever-changing state of being. When we’re suddenly face-to-face with a frightening medical crisis, for example, we hope at first that maybe the diagnostic tests were wrong. When the diagnosis is confirmed, we hope that this treatment/this procedure/ this drug will be the cure. But if we’re not cured, we hope that our symptoms can be managed so we don’t suffer. If we do get worse, we hope that our suffering won’t become a burden to our families. Then we hope that after we’re gone, our loved ones will be taken care of.

There was never talk about “no hope”.  There is always hope.  But our hope changes.     .             . Continue reading “False hope: better than no hope?”

Precarity: the perfect word for our times

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters   

I learned a terrific new word recently. The word is precarity, meaning the state of being precarious, unpredictable or uncertain. Any woman who is freshly diagnosed with heart disease already knows the precarity of life following a cardiac event – a reality that suddenly feels precarious, unpredictable and uncertain as we try to make sense of something that makes no sense. And after 19 months of navigating a global pandemic, we now know yet another kind of precarity.       .          .  Continue reading “Precarity: the perfect word for our times”

Learn or Blame: when mistakes happen in medicine

by Carolyn Thomas   ♥   @HeartSisters

Mistakes happen in medicine, just like in every other workplace. As intensive care physician and president of The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) Dr. Samantha Batt-Rawden reminded us in a BBC Newsnight interview:

“If patients are looking for a doctor who has never made a mistake, they simply won‘t find one.”       .          .         .

Continue reading “Learn or Blame: when mistakes happen in medicine”

A tale of two studies – 268 years apart

lemonsICEby Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters 

I wrote last week about patients who tend to believe medical studies whose findings they like – but not so much if they don’t.  Hardly surprisingly, many physicians may also tend to promote the results of studies when conclusions match their own clinical experience – and not so much if they don’t. That’s exactly what Dr. James Lind worried about, too – way back in the year 1753.  Dr. Lind’s story may have been one of the earliest examples of what’s often called the “bench to bedside” delay between research findings and the time they take to ultimately trickle down to alter actual patient care.   .    .     .  Continue reading “A tale of two studies – 268 years apart”

Discordance: when patients and docs aren’t on the same page

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

In her Netflix comedy special, “Not Normal”, Wanda Sykes recalls  having severe post-operative pain following the double mastectomy she underwent after her breast cancer diagnosis. She asked hospital staff for pain medication, but was offered only ibuprofen (or, as Wanda now describes it, “ibu-f***ing-profen!”)  Her white male friends, by comparison, told her that they’d each been given far more effective meds for far less severe pain after their own hospital procedures.

Her recommendation to women now is: “Bring a white man to do your complaining for you! ”   That’s pretty funny. But we all know that the reality is not funny at all.              .        .
Continue reading “Discordance: when patients and docs aren’t on the same page”

Stroke survivor Sharon Dreher: “Don’t use a 1-10 pain scale on women who have delivered a baby”

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters 

When I first watched the video of her story at the 2019 Canadian Stroke Congress, I almost fell off my red chair. Unlike most stroke patients, Sharon’s symptoms did NOT follow the typical F.A.S.T. model (short for: Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services).        .     .   Continue reading “Stroke survivor Sharon Dreher: “Don’t use a 1-10 pain scale on women who have delivered a baby””