Getting help during a heart attack: ‘delayers’ vs ‘survivors’

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

If you thought you were having a heart attack, would part of you worry about being embarrassed if it turned out your symptoms weren’t that serious after all? Would you dread the attention of an ambulance coming to your home?  If so, you might be considered a “delayer”.

On the other hand, would you likely call 911 immediately because you believe that embarrassment passes quickly and without long-term damage, while a heart attack does not? If so, you’d be considered a “survivor”.

Check this chart to see which category you belong in – and then take whatever steps are required to move yourself immediately from delaying to surviving.   Continue reading “Getting help during a heart attack: ‘delayers’ vs ‘survivors’”

Do you know what causes heart disease?

by Carolyn Thomas

When I gently scolded Kentucky cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola recently over his cheeky criticism of diet soda (he’s a bike racer, what can I say?), we began a subsequent exchange of emails that led me to his blog.  There I found the simplest, clearest explanation of heart disease that I have yet discovered – particularly on the role that inflammation plays in causing our cardiac events. With the permission of this cardiac electrophysiologist (thanks, Dr. John), I’m reprinting his essay here, including his Primary Prevention Strategies, or “what regular people call healthy living”:   Continue reading “Do you know what causes heart disease?”

Melissa Mia Hall, who couldn’t afford health insurance, dies of heart attack

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Melissa Mia Hall, 1954-2011

Melissa Mia Hall’s book-reviewing dog, Daisy

Texas author, artist and book industry journalist Melissa Mia Hall once wrote: “When I need help writing book reviews, my dog Daisy is always eager to lend a paw.” After trying to lift Daisy recently, Melissa felt an odd pain in her chest. She told her editor at Publishers Weekly that she had pulled a muscle. She later emailed a friend:

“Right now really hurting. Hurt my chest/back last night lifting Daisy wrong.  She’s too heavy and I pulled muscles, I guess. I thought at first I was having a heart attack it was so awful. Tonight I’m really hurting still. Ibuprofen’s not helping much. Using heating pad. It’s been a long painful day and hard to concentrate on much. Why now?  Sigh… xoxo” Continue reading “Melissa Mia Hall, who couldn’t afford health insurance, dies of heart attack”

When your artery tears – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters


Laura, a 40-year old American heart attack survivor, told me this story of her own cardiac event:

“I was asleep and my symptoms woke me up. I had several simultaneous symptoms, but the first one seemed to be chest pain in the centre-left, somewhat under my left breast area. I’d never felt anything like it, so sometimes it’s hard to describe – it wasn’t sharp or crushing or burning, more like a dull pressure. I also had pain down the inside of my left arm that radiated up into the left side of my jaw and my left ear.

“I was very overheated, and I felt like I was going to throw up. The nausea and overheating faded, but the pain – chest, arm, jaw – stayed. In hospital, I was diagnosed with a heart attack caused by SCAD – spontaneous coronary artery dissection, treated with six stents.”

It used to be, and sadly remains in almost 70% of cases, a deadly condition often only correctly identified post-mortem during autopsy.   Continue reading “When your artery tears – Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection”

“After The Diagnosis”: two books, same title, one hope

by Carolyn Thomas

A never-married Catholic priest offers marriage counselling to couples. A childless shrink spouts advice on how to raise toddlers. Oprah Winfrey talks about money problems. “You have no clue!” – I want to scream at them. As a heart attack survivor, I now tend to gravitate towards those who are able to practice what they preach based on actual personal experience – not what they have learned at arm’s length. Clinical psychologist Dr. Elvira Aletta, for example, has been diagnosed with not one but two chronic diseases. Dr. Stephen Parker is a cardiac psychologist who is also a heart attack survivor.

And recently, I’ve come across two authors of books on coping with chronic illness that, ironically, share the same main title, After The Diagnosis:

  • Kidney specialist and Harvard prof Dr. Julian Seifter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was a young medical intern.
  • Dr. JoAnn Le Maistre received her PhD in clinical psychology, delivered a baby daughter, and learned she had multiple sclerosis  – all within a few months.

What these authors have to share with heart attack survivors and others diagnosed with a chronic illness is quite profound. Here’s why: Continue reading ““After The Diagnosis”: two books, same title, one hope”