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Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’

8 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

When California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied the subject of suffering among those living with chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often overlooked by health care providers.(1)  As she explained her findings:

“A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones.

“The experiences and meanings upon which these ill persons had built former positive self-images are no longer available to them.”

Dr. Charmaz also found that this profound sense of having lost the “self” you used to be before being diagnosed is generally the result of both external and internal influences on how we view ourselves.  Continue reading

Experiential learning: How patients go from novice to expert

1 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Unlike the professionals I know in the field of cardiology (the ones who decided they really wanted to spend many, many years of their lives studying All Things Cardiac), people living with heart disease are thrust unwillingly into an intensive overnight learning immersion program. We go from being utterly ignorant to, little by little, becoming increasingly familiar with even the most complex information on the subject of our own diagnosis. As one of my Heart Sisters readers told me she had astutely reminded her physician: “This is your career, but it’s my life.”

And this seems to be true no matter what the diagnosis. I know that, had I been diagnosed with lupus instead of heart disease, I’d be blogging and speaking and writing about lupus right now.
Continue reading

More drugs, less talk for post-heart attack depression?

11 Dec

Pill Box

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

We know that many heart patients (like me, for example), experience some degree of situational depression immediately following a cardiac event. When we seek help, that help is far more likely to come as a prescription for an antidepressant drug rather than a referral to a professional for talk therapy. In fact, talk therapy – either by itself or in combination with medication – is actually on the decline(1) while the rate of antidepressant use has increased by almost 400% in the past two decades.(2)

This is important, because we also know from 2015 research on depression published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that, for most people, there is no statistically significant difference in effectiveness between talk therapy and taking drugs.(3) When researchers tracked treatment outcomes for those suffering from depression, they found patients responded equally to either treatment. So why hasn’t the rate of talk therapy gone up by 400%, too? Continue reading

Pill splitting: which ones are safe to divide?

4 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Physicians and other prescribers are often frustrated by their non-compliant patients. (Full disclosure: as I’ve written about here and here, even the word non-compliant makes me cranky, as it sounds so much like it has punishment at the end of it). These frustrating patients are generally described as those who are not following doctor’s orders (there’s another patronizing term for you) or more specifically, are not taking the medications prescribed for them.

A Consumer Reports Health prescription drugs survey reported that many people are splitting their pills in half to save money on high-priced prescription drugs. The bad news, however, is that many have also learned to save even more money by taking half-doses every other day. Continue reading

“Can’t go to my support group meeting because my husband’s expecting dinner”

13 Nov

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-1-45-37-pmI opened an email recently from one of my Mayo heart sisters. She had dropped me a note because she was concerned about a woman (a recent heart attack survivor) who had told her she really wanted to attend their community’s next WomenHeart support group meeting for women living with heart disease (this one was a monthly meeting held from 3-4:30 p.m.). But this woman claimed that she couldn’t go to the meeting – because she “had to be home to cook dinner for her husband.” Although her hubby was retired and at home all day long, the heart attack survivor explained that “he expects to have dinner ready at the regular time that I have had it for him all the years he was working.”

My initial reaction (after checking the calendar just to make sure it’s not still 1950): I need to go have a wee lie-down to recuperate from reading this story. Continue reading

Does your hospital have a Women’s Heart Clinic yet? If not, why not?

16 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

teacup-heartFocused Cardiovascular Care for Women is the name of an important report about women’s heart health published in February of this year. One of the report’s highlights (or lowlights!) was that very few if any hospitals actually offered focused cardiac care specifically for women before the year 2000.(1) One reason for this may have been that, as the report’s authors explained, “the concept of Women’s Heart Clinics was met with hesitation from many cardiologists.”

Yes, you read that right, ladies. Until recently, even the very idea of establishing a heart clinic devoted to the unique realities of the female body was not warmly welcomed by the very physicians you’d think would be most supportive.  Continue reading