“The doctors want my symptoms but not my stories”

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Marilyn Gardner, in her 2014 book called “Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging“) wrote about a compelling conversation she once had:

Yet our physicians aren’t trained to embrace our stories, but instead to ask right away, “What brings you here today?” to kick-start a brief Q&A that can most efficiently solve the diagnostic mystery sitting across from them.      .     .    Continue reading ““The doctors want my symptoms but not my stories””

Four ways we use online info to make healthcare decisions

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters 

Remember that unfortunate Don’t Google It! campaign a few years back in which the Belgian government sought to warn patients against seeking health info online? Three of the (many) assumptions in that offensive campaign included:

  • patients are stupid
  • patients are not already online seeking input on all kinds of daily questions, big and small
  • all patients behave the same way (e.g. like hysterical hypochondriacs)

Too bad the creators of this campaign weren’t familiar with the results of an interesting study that challenged those assumptions.      .  Continue reading “Four ways we use online info to make healthcare decisions”

Denial? Or doctorly deference?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters  

Last week, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) ran a compelling opinion piece from Boston physician Dr. Abraar Karan on why some patients just don’t seem to understand what their doctors are telling them.  Here’s how he opens his essay:

Why am I here?’  Mrs. S looked up at me for the first time since I had entered the room and begun speaking to her. I had spent the past five minutes talking about the need for her to start new medications for her heart failure. She had nodded along for most of the conversation, but I wondered if she had heard, or more importantly understood, anything I had been saying. She had had three admissions for worsening heart failure in the past few months. And yet she looked at me and said, ‘Do I have heart problems? No one ever told me!'”   . Continue reading “Denial? Or doctorly deference?”

The medical apology: have you ever received one?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 26, 2018

I’ve been invited to participate in an academic study on an interesting concept: the medical apology. My first reaction was to decline the invitation, explaining that never once have I had a healthcare professional apologize to me when something went wrong. And I’ve had a few things go very, very wrong.

I could have used an apology at age 16, for example, when the infirmary nurse at my convent boarding school repeatedly refused my pleas to call the local doctor for my severe appendicitis symptoms, instead blaming them first on the flu, the next day on my period, and the third day on exam anxiety. I was finally hospitalized with a ruptured appendix and near-fatal peritonitis that required a month-long hospital stay. A little “I’m sorry” would have been nice. . .

But I’m thinking that some of you might have some interesting personal experiences about receiving a medical apology to share on this subject. If you’d like to get involved, here’s how to contact the researchers: Continue reading “The medical apology: have you ever received one?”

Dear Carolyn: “Breaking up is hard to do”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     August 3, 2018

Breaking up is hard to do. That’s how my blog reader Tommie O’Sullivan described to me the sad news that she lost first one, and then a second trusted cardiologist. It’s nothing personal. Important family reasons. Retirement. She understands these things. But still. . .

As part of my occasional and ongoing “Dear Carolyn” series of guest posts written by women who have learned firsthand what becoming a heart patient is all about, I’m happy to share this, with her permission. Tommie’s words reminded me that, so far, I’ve been lucky in never experiencing the loss of a favourite physician. I suspect that – in this age of increasingly empowered patients, critical doctor reviews online, and second opinions from Dr. Google – her sentiments are what every physician longs to hear one day from their patients: “I will really miss you!”  Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Breaking up is hard to do””