How soon are heart patients safely fit to drive?

9 Jul
by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Almost all freshly-diagnosed heart patients are warned not to drive for a specific period of time following hospital discharge, ranging anywhere from 24 hours to several months, depending on the specific cardiac issue.  And in the earliest days or weeks, we may have mixed emotions even thinking about getting behind the wheel of a car again.

Some of us might feel afraid to drive (“What if I have another cardiac emergency while driving by myself on the highway?”).  A Swedish study that followed drivers living with chronic illness (including cardiovascular disease) over a 10-year period found that very few road accidents were directly caused by either the disease or its treatment after early driving restriction time periods had passed (just 0·8% of all cases).  Despite those stats, the researchers reported that many individual drivers voluntarily surrendered their driving license post-diagnosis because of the personal decision that “my state of health was no longer compatible with safe driving.” (1)
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Excuse me while I bang my head against this wall…

2 Jul
by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters
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Last week, the disturbing results of a study on women and heart disease were released, attracting media headlines like Women and Heart Disease: New Data Reaffirms Lack of Awareness By Women and Physicians. I had to go have a wee lie-down after I read this paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.(1)

The study’s lead author, cardiologist Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, of Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, announced that “increasing awareness of cardiovascular disease in women has stalled with no major progress in almost 10 years”, and (far more intensely disturbing, in my opinion): “little progress has been made in the last decade in increasing physician awareness or use of evidence-based guidelines to care for female heart patients.”

No wonder I had to lie down. But taking to one’s bed in response to yet another discouraging study about cardiology’s gender gap is no longer enough. Perhaps it’s time for female heart patients like me to simply throw our collective hands in the air while banging our heads against the nearest wall. Continue reading

Eight things you can stop apologizing for, starting today.

25 Jun
by Carolyn Thomas   ♥   @HeartSisters
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Despite textbook heart attack symptoms, I was sent home with an acid reflux misdiagnosis from the Emergency Department (in the same hospital where I worked!) My only reaction at the time was to feel embarrassed and apologetic because I’d just made a big fuss over “nothing”. I felt so embarrassed that I even sent my hospital colleagues in Emergency a sheepish little thank you note the following day, apologizing once again for wasting their very valuable time. I felt so embarrassed, in fact, that when my heart attack symptoms continued (of course they did!), I refused to return to Emergency for two horrific weeks.
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I wrote about this urge to apologize in The Heart Patient’s Chronic Lament: “Excuse Me. I’m Sorry. I Don’t Mean to be a Bother” – about a heart patient who was stunned to add up how many times she had needlessly apologized to her family, friends and especially to staff throughout her hospital stay.
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Why do we feel this urge to apologize?

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Report card: my month of eating Mediterranean

18 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

May, as you may recall, was National Mediterranean Diet Month, celebrated at our house with a helpful Oldways calendar posted on the fridge with 31 daily suggestions on how to introduce more heart-healthy Med Month changes into our regular routine. As threatened promised, here’s how I did:  Continue reading

Video

“Never been sick in my life” – so how could she have a stroke?

11 Jun

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

“The doctor showed me an x-ray of my brain. He pointed to a small spot and told me, ‘That’s where the blood vessel burst in your brain!’ It was surreal.”

My heart sister Dina Piersawl (affectionately known to some of us as Dee Mad Scientist) had just celebrated her 41st birthday when she survived an ischemic stroke. A professional scientist – and a former athlete and personal trainer in Chicago who describes herself as “never been sick in my life” – Dina sure didn’t look or feel like any stereotypical stroke patient you might imagine. Continue reading