A Mother’s Day without my mother

13 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Based on a post originally published here on May 13, 2012

As Christopher Buckley wrote in his memoir, Losing Mum and Pup, when the last of your parents dies, you are an orphan. This is poignantly true if that parent is your mother.

“You lose the true keeper of your memories, your triumphs, your losses. Your mother is a scrapbook for all your enthusiasms. She is the one who validates and the one who shames, and when she’s gone, you are alone in a terrible way.”

This month marks both the occasion of my mother’s birthday (she would have turned 90 on May 7th, which was coincidentally the third birthday of Everly Rose, the adorable great-granddaughter she would never meet) and yet another Mother’s Day when I didn’t send my Mom a card and flowers. I’m getting used to that reality by now. She died six years ago on February 21st, 2012.  Continue reading

Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!”

6 May

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories on what it’s like to become a heart patient, this one involves a woman with not one but several medical diagnoses. When distressing symptoms were initially diagnosed by her oncologist as lymphoedema (a condition sometimes associated with cancer treatments), her first response was: My future looks positively bleak.” But when she finally heard the corrected diagnosis of heart failure from an internal medicine specialist one year following her chemo treatments and radiation, her surprising reaction was this:

“I just about hugged the internist when he told me it wasn’t lymphoedema after all – it was just my heart!  I thought he’d given me my life back again. And he had! Like receiving my own Magna Carta. And in a single week, with the help of my new cardiac medications, off came the 30 extra pounds of fluid I’d been hauling around.”

That was certainly a first for me (somebody thrilled by a heart failure diagnosis!?) Today’s Dear Carolyn letter focuses on a favourite subject of mine: resilience in the face of a medical crisis, and it starts with a woman known to us simply as Honey BeeContinue reading

A letter from your heart disease

29 Apr

To whom it may concern. . .

Congratulations! You have been selected to be the host for heart disease. You will begin to experience many or all of these symptoms — and may even deal with several of them all at the same time.

  • Pain! We are equal opportunity destroyers, therefore we will choose many places for you to experience pain. We have even devised many different types of pain, but we’ll throw in some nitroglycerin to keep your mind off the pain temporarily. We are continually improving our repertoire of pain categories, so expect updates.
  • Mental confusion: This can be accompanied by embarrassment, memory loss, shortness of breath, poor co-ordination, inability to concentrate, and sensations of confusion or even having somehow lost your sense of self. We try to simulate the experience of riding a never-ending roller coaster to satisfy your adventurous spirit. No safety harnesses required, and you have no choice of when the coaster ride starts, ends, or how fast it goes. Continue reading

Post-hospital syndrome, revisited

22 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters      April 22, 2018

What does jet lag have in common with being discharged home following a hospital stay? After Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz returned from an overseas trip suffering from a particularly bad case of jet lag, he described the similarities like this:

“People were talking to me, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was a little clumsy. I could have fallen. I realized that I felt just like my hospital patients do when they go home.”

He recognized that many hospital stays can actually confer jet lag-type disabilities. In his article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Krumholz dubbed this post-hospital discharge distress post-hospital syndrome. (1)
Continue reading

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