Tag Archives: heart failure

A beating heart frozen in time

3 Jul

by Carolyn Thomas       @HeartSisters

This amazing image is this year’s winner of the British Heart Foundation’s “Reflections of Research” medical image competition, an annual celebration of the U.K. charity’s groundbreaking research into cardiovascular diseases. This is not a painting – it’s a real image of the blood flowing within an adult heart, frozen in time.  Continue reading

Two ways to portray heart failure. One of them works.

13 Mar
Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 4.25.29 PM
  EXAMPLE #1: Sisters and heart failure patients Shaun Rivers (left) and Kimberly Ketter

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

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 and Kim 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.  

Now compare the twins’ photo (and its accompanying text from the American Heart Association) with something that I hope you will never, ever see upon hearing that frightening diagnosis:
Continue reading

Two years spent connected to her “heart lifeline”

4 Jun

.

Monica McFarlan was a runner, a mother of two young boys, and a very healthy 37-year-old woman when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, associated with viral cardiomyopathy in January 2011.

For the next 3½ months, Monica was in and out of the hospital 11 times for over 45 days. By April, she and her family were told that she needed a heart transplant, and she was put on the transplant waiting list. But because her antibodies were elevated, she had to be taken off the transplant list because of the high risk that her body would reject any donor heart that was given to her. Continue reading

When doctors use words that hurt

21 Apr

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

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 better piece of medical jargon they could use instead?   Continue reading

Empathy 101: how to sound like you give a damn

24 Feb

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

During the first follow-up appointment with my (now former) family doctor a few weeks after surviving a heart attack, I noticed something unsettling right away. First, she seemed utterly preoccupied with her own possible part in missing some magical sign that I’d been at risk for this surprising cardiac event. She reviewed lab test after lab test while I sat there watching her claw through a thick file (no electronic charts there!) of my lipid and blood pressure results going back years. It struck me that this follow-up visit was somehow all about her – not about ME at all!

Hey! Remember me? The one who actually had the frickety-frackin’ heart attack?   Continue reading

When are cardiologists going to start talking about depression?

3 Jan

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

I can vividly remember those early days and weeks at home after surviving a heart attack, especially that cold creeping anxiety around how I “should” be feeling. I had just survived what many do not: what doctors still call the “widow maker” heart attack. (By the way, note the gender semantics there, please: doctors are not calling this the widower maker”).

I was now resting comfortably, both of my darling kidlets had flown back home to be with their Mum, our home was filled with flowers, get-well cards and casseroles delivered by the daily line-up of concerned friends, family, neighbours and co-workers.

So why was I feeling so bleak inside, and even worse, now feeling guilty for all that bleakness?  Continue reading