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The bumpy road between diagnosis and getting better

23 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    September 23, 2018

bridge-2490738_1280You probably already know that it can be a scary road indeed leading from the moment you hear that initial diagnosis until the day you are able to start thinking of yourself as a person first, who just happens to be a patient. Until then, it’s a bumpy road with often more downs than ups, as I’ve written about here, here and here, for example. But researchers in Spain now suggest that there are actually four distinct stages that are predictably common among most patients on that road. 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

Hypervigilance: waiting for that second heart attack

9 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters    September 9, 2018

511724-0211-23Until 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

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

First the big change, then the big transition

19 Aug

3quotes-Change-is-external--by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 19, 2018

My 30 year-old BREE bag circa 1989

I can’t even remember reading the book when I bought it, hot off the press, back in 1991. It was during the busy pre-Kindle heyday of my career in corporate public relations. In those days, I traveled a lot for work, so on any given day I carried a business book or two in my briefcase to read on the plane. (Remember briefcases? Do people still carry briefcases?)

This particular business book is called Managing Transitions by William Bridges, the “preeminent authority on change and managing change”.  While sorting out old books recently to donate to charity, I cracked open this book to the section called How to Deal with Non-Stop Change. Bill Bridges was writing specifically about dealing with change in the workplace, but his message also made a lot of sense to me as a patient who has seen plenty of changes in my life due to a cardiac event in 2008. The reality is that there is no workplace change – layoffs, restructuring, corporate mergers, you name it – that could possibly compare to the profoundly significant changes that so many of us go through when we are diagnosed with a serious medical condition.   Continue reading