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Six ways NOT to motivate patients to change

15 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters  July 15, 2018

In classic scientific understatement, U.K. researchers Drs. Michael Kelly and Mary Barker observed that “most efforts to change health behaviours have had limited success.”(1)

No kidding. Right now, even as you read this, academic researchers all over the globe are applying for (and getting) grant funding to embark on yet another new study examining smokers who don’t quit, couch potatoes who don’t get off the couch, or overweight people who don’t lose weight. I can’t be 100% certain, of course, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that these studies will no doubt conclude that, yes indeed, those people do need to change their behaviour, and “further study is required”. Continue reading

Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!”

6 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories on what it’s like to become a heart patient, this one involves a woman with not one but several medical diagnoses. When distressing symptoms were initially diagnosed by her oncologist as lymphoedema (a condition sometimes associated with cancer treatments), her first response was: My future looks positively bleak.” But when she finally heard the corrected diagnosis of heart failure from an internal medicine specialist one year following her chemo treatments and radiation, her surprising reaction was this:

“I just about hugged the internist when he told me it wasn’t lymphoedema after all – it was just my heart!  I thought he’d given me my life back again. And he had! Like receiving my own Magna Carta. And in a single week, with the help of my new cardiac medications, off came the 30 extra pounds of fluid I’d been hauling around.”

That was certainly a first for me (somebody thrilled by a heart failure diagnosis!?) Today’s Dear Carolyn letter focuses on a favourite subject of mine: resilience in the face of a medical crisis, and it starts with a woman known to us simply as Honey BeeContinue reading

A letter from your heart disease

29 Apr

To whom it may concern. . .

Congratulations! You have been selected to be the host for heart disease. You will begin to experience many or all of these symptoms — and may even deal with several of them all at the same time.

  • Pain! We are equal opportunity destroyers, therefore we will choose many places for you to experience pain. We have even devised many different types of pain, but we’ll throw in some nitroglycerin to keep your mind off the pain temporarily. We are continually improving our repertoire of pain categories, so expect updates.
  • Mental confusion: This can be accompanied by embarrassment, memory loss, shortness of breath, poor co-ordination, inability to concentrate, and sensations of confusion or even having somehow lost your sense of self. We try to simulate the experience of riding a never-ending roller coaster to satisfy your adventurous spirit. No safety harnesses required, and you have no choice of when the coaster ride starts, ends, or how fast it goes. Continue reading

Tin Heart: poems for a heart transplant

15 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters      April 15, 2018

Today, I have a magical little gift to share with you. It’s not a gift that will arrive with tissue paper and a satin bow in time for your birthday, but one that landed in my own mailbox recently. The gift filled me with awe and gratitude, and also a need to share it with other heart patients and those who love them.

The gift is a collection of poetry called Tin Heart (Corazón de Hojalata) by Margarita Saona, translated from Spanish by Marco Dorfsman, and published in 2017. But Margarita’s not your average poet. In January of 2017, she underwent a heart transplant procedure – and that’s what she writes about.  Continue reading

What I wish I’d known before my hospital discharge

8 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters      April 8, 2018

I was feeling dead chuffed (as my UK friends would say) to be published again in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) recently.(1)  As part of their What Your Patient Is Thinking series, my guest essay includes what I now wish I’d known before being sent home from the Cardiac Care Unit following my heart attack diagnosis and treatment.  

Continue reading