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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

Just shut up and listen!

25 Mar

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by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    March 25, 2018

A Heart Sisters article that I first ran here five years ago is called When Are Cardiologists Going to Start Talking About Depression? 

As you can imagine, it’s a serious subject. And it’s an important subject, given how common – yet pervasively overlooked – the situational depression associated with heart disease is. A freshly-diagnosed heart patient who becomes depressed is not only miserable, but this is a person who’s significantly less likely to take meds, exercise, eat heart-healthy foods, quit smoking, follow medical instructions – and is generally at significant risk for poor cardiac outcomes.

Dozens of my readers shared their moving and vulnerable stories about their experiences in response to this post. For example, this comment from a reader named Christie, sent to me nine days after her husband survived a heart attack:  Continue reading

Good news: your story is not yet locked in

18 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    February 18, 2018

I’ve been thinking about storytelling lately. I encounter a lot of patient stories from my Heart Sisters blog readers here, as well as from the women who raise a hand during my Heart-Smart Women public presentations. (I’ve learned that even the briefest of questions often hides a story behind it). I also tell stories – both my own, and other women’s. A heart patient’s story often kicks off with a profound this-can’t-be-happening-to-me sense of disbelief as we try to make sense out of something that makes no sense at all. Telling the story to others helps us do this at first. “How did this happen?” demand our worried family and friends while we lie there, overwhelmed, and thus our storytelling begins.

I’ve also learned that the way we tell that same story to ourselves and to others changes over time. And as NPR broadcaster Glynn Washington (of Snap Judgment) said in a recent interview, when you start changing your story, you change the storyteller:  Continue reading

Hello pacers! A little Q&A about your pacemaker

28 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, I’m often contacted by readers with impertinent questions like: “Why don’t you ever write about ______?” (insert your own specific diagnosis here). One in particular was a 2015 reader question that read: “Why don’t you ever write about congenital heart defects?” On that particular morning, I was feeling tired, sick and “grumpy” (as our little Everly Rose calls every feeling she has that’s not happy). I wanted to snap back at this reader that I’m not running the Encyclopedia Britannica here…

But in a remarkable coincidence – and luckily before I had a chance to snap – on that very day, another reader named Aletha happened to share with me her own amazing story as an adult living with a heart condition she’d had since birth. That weekend, I ran my first ever blog post about this cardiac condition, called “When babies with congenital heart defects grow up“. 

And recently, a similar reader contact reminded me that I’ve never covered the topic of cardiac pacemakers – until now. Continue reading