If you were suddenly diagnosed with heart failure, you would first of all be utterly horrified by hearing those words “heart failure” – which brings me to the eternal question: when are cardiologists going to come up with a better name for this common condition in which a person’s heart has trouble pumping blood as well as it should? (See also: “When Doctors Use Words That Hurt“)
I hope that the second thing that happens after you hear those dreadful words is that somebody will immediately show you this beautiful photo (above) of twin sisters Shaun Rivers andKim Ketter, both nurses from Richmond, Virginia. They were each diagnosed with heart failure during the same week in 2009 when the twins were just 40 years of age.
I don’t remember much of what happened during that fateful visit to the Emergency Department. I remember the on-call cardiologist saying something to me about my “significant heart disease”. After hearing those words, I felt so stunned that – although I could see his lips moving and could hear sounds coming out of his mouth – he may as well have been speaking Swahili. (Doctors, please remember this in the future when delivering life-altering diagnoses to your patients!)
Consider hearing the scary diagnosis of “heart failure” tripping lightly from your doctor’s lips as if it were no big deal. Can there be anything more terrifying and demoralizing than hearing that your heart is “failing”? And the words don’t even accurately reflect this condition, which actually means that your heart is not pumping blood as well as it should.
So why did doctors come up with this heart failure name, and what on earth were they thinking when they decided it would be a good idea to actually say these words out loud to Real Live Patients? And is there a less hurtful term they could use instead? Continue reading “When doctors use words that hurt”→
I’ve written here previously about the difference between people who are health-seekers as opposed to those who tend to be disease-seekers. I would lump myself into the former category; what I’m looking for is quality medical care that’s appropriate and available when I need it. But as a heart attack survivor, I also want to avoid health care that is not 100% absolutely necessary, whether that’s a drug or a clinical procedure or a diagnostic test.
Drugs, procedures and tests that are not necessary make up what doctors call “avoidable care”. It’s a growing issue that the medical profession has been aware of for decades. But many physicians appear oddly unreceptive to hearing or talking about avoidable care, apparently even among their doctor buddies. Continue reading “Avoiding avoidable cardiac care”→