Tag Archives: denial during heart attack

The symptomatic tipping point during heart attack

28 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I’ve been fascinated by studies on why women wait so long to get medical help despite heart attack symptoms ever since the spring of 2008 when I spent way too long before seeking help for my own increasingly debilitating signs.  I sometimes replay that two-week experience in my little peabrain, and I ask myself the same question being asked by a team of Harvard researchers in a new study:

“Why do women wait longer than men before seeking help even when they’re in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack?”   .

Continue reading

The day I made peace with an errant organ

3 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Here’s my theory: few health crises in life are as traumatic as surviving a cardiac event. I developed this theory while I was busy having my own heart attack in the spring of 2008.

For starters, heart attack symptoms often come out of the blue (in fact, almost two-thirds of women who die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.(1)  Having a heart attack can feel so unimaginably terrifying that almost all of us try desperately to dismiss or deny cardiac symptoms. And according to a 2013 report published in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, women are twice as likely to die within one year even if they do survive a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(2)

So if – and each of these is still, sadly, a great big fat IF for too many women – we survive the actual cardiac event, and if we are near a hospital that’s able to provide an experienced team of cardiologists/cardiovascular surgeons/cardiac nurses, and if we are correctly diagnosed, and if we receive timely and appropriate treatment, and if the resulting damage to our oxygen-deprived heart muscle is not too severe, we get to finally go home, safe and sound.

And that’s where the real trauma starts.   Continue reading

The weirdness of Post-Heart Attack Stun

14 Oct

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Jodi JacksonI‘m laughing right out loud as I type this post, although I am the last person you’d think would ever laugh at another person’s heart attack story. Usually. But I love Jodi Jackson’s concept of “Post-Heart Attack Stun” – and I just had to laugh at her delicious examples of this concept at work, both during and after her heart attack at age 42 exactly two years ago.

Although I didn’t realize until I read about Jodi that there was even an official name for this cardiology concept, I sure knew what she was talking about.   

Post-Heart Attack Stun is what Jodi calls the period following a heart attack where everything seems so surreal that you really don’t absorb what has just happenedContinue reading

Denial and its deadly role in surviving a heart attack

4 Dec

by Carolyn Thomas 

Dr. John Leach is one of the world’s leading experts on survival psychology. He likes to tell a story about London’s King’s Cross underground station fire in 1987. As the fire spread, trains kept on arriving in the station, and hurried commuters headed right into the disaster.

Officials unwittingly directed passengers onto escalators that carried them straight into the flames. Many commuters followed their routines despite the smoke and fire, almost oblivious to the crush of people trying to escape – some actually in flames! Thirty-one people perished in the King’s Cross fire, and incredibly, the Underground staff never sprayed a single fire extinguisher or spilled a drop of water on the fire.

Dr. Leach, who teaches at Lancaster University, has a name for this phenomenon. It’s called the incredulity response. He explains that people simply don’t believe what they’re seeing. So they go about their business, engaging in what’s known as normalcy bias which is incredibly powerful and sometimes even hazardous. People can act as if everything is okay, and they underestimate the seriousness of danger. Some experts call this analysis paralysis.

What he’s describing is precisely how I felt while undergoing two weeks of increasingly debilitating cardiac symptoms before being finally hospitalized. Although all signs clearly pointed to a heart attack – crushing chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm – I seemed fatalistically determined to go about my life acting as if everything was fine, just fine until – when symptoms became truly unbearable – I finally returned to the Emergency Department that had sent me home two weeks earlier with an acid reflux misdiagnosis. Continue reading