Dear Carolyn: “I went into labour during my heart attack”

Nicole, her husband Victor, and children Renee and William

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

Nicole Nickerson always knew that she had a significant history of heart disease in her family: her mother had a heart attack at age 30 (due to a congenital heart defect that had been missed at birth), and her father had quadruple bypass surgery at age 40 (likely due to stress and smoking). But it was only after her 25-year old sister died of a heart attack six years ago that Nicole’s heart was checked, too.

In the ninth of our occasional Heart Sisters series called Dear Carolyn, Nicole’s letter reminds us of an under-reported and shocking reality: young women with serious heart disease:          Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “I went into labour during my heart attack””

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

“Are we there yet?” – the timeworn wail from kidlets in the back seat on family road trips. When he was very little, I gave my son Ben five nickels at the start of one memorable trip (it was back in the 1980s, when a nickel was worth a nickel!) with one strict condition: every time he whined, “Are we there yet? How much longer?”, he’d have to forfeit one nickel. After giving up the first two nickels, we heard not one more peep from that little boy tightly clutching his three remaining coins. (Parents: if you try this strategy, considering inflation, you’ll probably have to give your kid five $10 bills up front).

After months of our current COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are as frustrated as Ben in the back seat. We’re hearing more every day about “re-opening” our communities, but are we really there yet?     .    Continue reading “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

Unlikely companions: grief and gratitude

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

Whether we plan to or not, we often end up re-creating ourselves after a significant health crisis. Researchers like Dr. Kathy Charmaz call this phenomenon the loss of self, a type of grief experienced while we’re learning to somehow adapt and adjust to an unfamiliar new life.

Nothing is as unfamiliar to us right now as the profound changes introduced by the COVID-19 virus.  And just as Dr. Charmaz identified in those of us with chronic illness, we can also  experience this loss of self during a global pandemic.            .   Continue reading “Unlikely companions: grief and gratitude”

When this is over, will it be “over”?

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

This week, author Charles Wu wrote a compelling piece in The Atlantic, in which he said:

“Human civilization – thanks to advancements in science, medicine, social and governmental structures – exists inside a bubble, protected from the kind of cataclysmic event we are currently experiencing.”

Wu makes a solid point about this “bubble”, particularly for those of us living with a chronic and progressive illness like heart disease, which makes us particularly vulnerable to the “cataclysmic event” called COVID-19.         Continue reading “When this is over, will it be “over”?”

Empty beds: when heart patients are afraid to seek help

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

Barely a month ago hey, remember a month ago? – my GP ordered a number of routine blood and urine tests following a meds review. So I booked an appointment online at my local testing lab – but within hours, I decided to cancel. All I could think about was this: “Lab waiting rooms are filled with sick people!”  There was no way I was going to put myself at further risk during this COVID-19 pandemic.

It turns out that heart patients like me are not only reluctant to walk into lab waiting rooms, but cardiologists are now reporting that many of us are reluctant to seek urgent medical care – even during a heart attack.       .       . Continue reading “Empty beds: when heart patients are afraid to seek help”

It’s okay not to feel “normal”

 by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

What is “normal” around here anyway? What the world is experiencing now during the COVID-19* crisis is unprecedented –  meaning nothing like this has happened before. A global viral pandemic is just not “normal”.  At least, to us.

We long to somehow translate each new development or warning or news report into what our brains can recognize as a return to normality. But there’s nothing about unprecedented events that should feel “normal” to any of us.    . Continue reading “It’s okay not to feel “normal””