The “new normal” – and why patients hate it

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

The “new normal”.  It’s what the freshly-diagnosed heart patient is supposed to get used to now. The implication seems clear:  Forget about your old life and the person you once were.”  Many of us fight that “new normal” label, but there might be another way to look at this.   . Continue reading “The “new normal” – and why patients hate it”

The chest pain / panic connection

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     April 28, 2019

For most of us, feelings of anxiety or panic are generally occasional, mild and brief – normal responses to being worried or scared. I never thought of myself as a person who was prone to experience anxiety or panic – until I survived a heart attack. I can now tell you quite confidently that there are few things in life that are more anxiety-producing than being in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack. . . Continue reading “The chest pain / panic connection”

The heart patient’s not the only one in the room

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 17, 2019

 

Leslie Pitt is a marriage and family therapist whose husband Graham suffered a terrifying sudden cardiac arrest in his sleep while on vacation in Hilton Head Island, North Carolina. In this short and compelling video, she talks about the care they each received from 9-1-1 dispatchers and Fire Rescue personnel – care that not only saved Graham’s life, but significantly reduced her own post-traumatic stress.  Continue reading “The heart patient’s not the only one in the room”

Drawing a picture of your diagnosis

 

Part of my latest mandala (a work in progress)

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    January 27, 2019

The late Madeleine Shields was a gifted artist and teacher here on the west coast of Canada. But more importantly to me, she was MY teacher. Her artistic expression of choice was the mandala, a Sanskrit word for “circle”. The mandala practice of Madeleine Shields was not what you might see in adult colouring books or on painted rocks at craft fairs. Hers was based on an ancient spiritual and meditative practice that she compared to “painting a mirror”. I can sometimes still hear her distinctive voice in my ear asking pointedly, “Did you do it well, or did you do it fast?”

A recent study supports what Madeleine had already figured out 20 years before her death, that art can intuitively reflect our deepest emotions in a surprisingly accurate fashion – and that’s especially true when we become patients. Continue reading “Drawing a picture of your diagnosis”

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

kittyWaiting

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

Until I had a heart attack, I didn’t know that one of the biggest risk factors for having a cardiac event like mine is having already had one. Heart disease, a chronic and progressive diagnosis, is the gift that keeps on giving. And as I wrote here, one of the Big Lessons for me has been that, although my doctors can “squish blockages, burn rogue electrical circuits, and implant lifesaving devices”, their heroic efforts do not address what originally caused this damage to my coronary arteries in the first place – likely decades before my heart attack struck.  See also: The Cure Myth

In fact, women are twice as likely to have a second heart attack in the six years following the first compared to our male counterparts.(1)  No wonder sobering stats like this can drive the freshly-diagnosed heart patient to an exhausting and fearful state of acute hypervigilance. Continue reading “Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack”