I recently had the honour of being invited to speak to a university class of young students learning about chronic illness. (The word “young”, of course, is relative, since almost everybody on earth is now so much younger than I am). These students were absolutely terrific – enthusiastic, smart, full of questions and ideas about healthcare. But about halfway through our 3-hour class together, I began to observe a pattern in the way some of them approached their small group exercise assignment. Continue reading “A solution in search of a problem”
In classic scientific understatement, U.K. researchers Drs. Michael Kelly and Mary Barker observed that “most efforts to change health behaviours have had limited success.”(1)
No kidding. Right now, even as you read this, academic researchers all over the globe are applying for (and getting) grant funding to embark on yet another new study examining smokers who don’t quit, couch potatoes who don’t get off the couch, or overweight people who don’t lose weight. I can’t be 100% certain, of course, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that these studies will no doubt conclude that, yes indeed, those people do need to change their behaviour, and “further study is required”. Continue reading “Six ways NOT to motivate patients to change”
When California sociologist Dr. Kathy Charmaz studied the subject of suffering among those living with chronic illness, she identified an element of suffering that is often overlooked by health care providers.(1) As she explained her findings:
“A fundamental form of that suffering is the loss of self in chronically ill persons who observe their former self-images crumbling away without the simultaneous development of equally valued new ones.
“The experiences and meanings upon which these ill persons had built former positive self-images are no longer available to them.”
Dr. Charmaz also found that this profound sense of having lost the “self” you used to be before being diagnosed is generally the result of both external and internal influences on how we view ourselves. Continue reading “Two big factors that can impact a patient’s loss of ‘self’”
Cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes, founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, has this important advice for all heart patients:
“If your doctor recommends cardiac rehabilitation, go.
“If you’re not referred, ask.
“And if you ask, and are told ‘You don’t need it’ – find a new cardiologist!”
Based on what we already know about the shockingly low rates of physician referral to this life-saving treatment (as low as 20% of all eligible heart patients) we might expect a flurry of doctor dumping if heart patients follow Dr. Sharonne’s advice to seek out physicians who are more appropriately informed. Continue reading “The surprising reasons heart patients don’t go to cardiac rehab”
I was asked last year by a large U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a woman who had recently become a heart patient. I enjoyed reading the first chapter or two until I came to the New York author’s dramatic story of the actual cardiac event itself. The part that left me gobsmacked was not the event, but her abject shock and disbelief that she (of all people!) could be experiencing a heart attack at all. The pervasive “Why me? Why me?” focus in this chapter clearly ignored a reality that the author had somehow chosen to gloss over: she’d been a heavy smoker for several decades.
Don’t get me wrong. Any cardiac event is indeed a traumatic occurrence no matter who and when it strikes. Sometimes, we truly have no hint about the cause of said event. And my immediate gut reaction was not meant to mock this author, or minimize her experience (which was awful).
But I felt honestly surprised that she was surprised. Continue reading “Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?”
Once discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked by how physically frail I felt. Simply taking a shower meant a 20-minute lie down to recover. Just walking to the corner with my son, Ben, required me to clutch his arm for support. But it wasn’t only this new weakness that alarmed me. As a former distance runner, I felt suddenly afraid of any exertion that might bring on the horrific heart attack symptoms I’d so recently endured. That’s where cardiac rehabilitation (a 2-4 month supervised exercise and education program for heart patients) literally saved me. Continue reading “Do we need to change the name of cardiac rehab?”