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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

“A Typical Heart”: how YOU can help create this documentary!

30 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    July 30, 2018

Do you sometimes wish that everybody (and their healthcare providers) were more aware of the unique differences in male and female heart disease? ….  I know you do! Cristina D’Alessandro is a Toronto-area paramedic and healthcare researcher who has that same wish. She’s a healthcare professional who, like so many of us, is concerned about what’s known as the cardiology gender gap in diagnosing and treating women’s heart disease. She asks, for example, this brilliant question: 

“In paramedic school, they teach us about the ‘atypical’ signs of a woman’s heart attack. But why exactly do they call it ‘atypical’ when women are more than half the population?”

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“I am lying in a surprisingly bright glass-walled room…”

29 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters    July 29, 2018

Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria, BC - CanadaI am lying in a surprisingly large and very white, bright glass-walled room in the CCU (the coronary intensive care unit) of our local hospital. Through these walls I can see several people who look like nurses and doctors seated at a long desk outside my glass box, staring at computer monitors. It’s action central out there, where staff can observe and monitor every heart patient, each of us in one of the glass boxes.

I can see assorted tubes, lines and beeping machines surrounding my bed or attached to my body. Two nurses are looking down at me, one on either side of my hospital bed, closely examining my right wrist.  They are checking the wound that has been opened up there in order to insert a catheter through the radial artery, up my arm, around the bend of my shoulder, and into my beating heart. I find it oddly touching that each of these women is gently holding one of my hands. I feel like weeping, and so I do.

I have no more pain. No more pain crushing my chest or radiating down my left arm. No more of the increasingly debilitating symptoms I’ve been suffering for the past two weeks. If anything, I’m simply feeling surprised. I have had a heart attack. I HAVE HAD A HEART ATTACK! I, Carolyn Thomas, have had a frickety-frackin’ heart attack. . .
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Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?”

8 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     July 8, 2018

As part of my occasional Dear Carolyn series featuring my readers’ unique narratives about how they became heart patients, I offer today a medical mystery from an Oregon reader. After dueling physicians differed in their opinions of her diagnosis, Lynn Bay now wonders if she actually did have a “real” heart attack, as one of them had diagnosed. Her story may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever had your medical experience dismissed or minimized. Here’s Lynn’s story, with her permission: Continue reading

When you’re about to become a hospital patient

17 Jun
A guest post by Karen Friedman MD and Sara Merwin MPH, authors of The Informed Patient: A Complete Guide to a Hospital Stay (Cornell University Press).

Linda was having a busy day: 9 to 5 at the office, and now grocery shopping. But she wasn’t feeling right. She was a little warm and dizzy and felt heart palpitations. She finished shopping and hurried home because she knew something was wrong. But what had her doctor told her? Chew an aspirin if she ever had heart attack symptoms.* Call 911. Linda wasn’t taking any chances: too many people depended on her. She called a friend to meet her in Emergency, grabbed her pill bottles and her printed medical history, and stuck them in her purse.

Linda is savvy. She had symptoms that could have been confused with any number of things, but she made a series of wise decisions: she followed her doctor’s advice, called a friend to help out, and went to the hospital armed with her important records.
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