Would you drive your car if its brakes were “failing”?

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Imagine your mechanic telling you that your brakes are failing. Would you voluntarily get behind the wheel of that car – and then happily drive it home? Of course you wouldn’t.  Yet right now, as you are reading these words, doctors around the world in a medical office or hospital clinic somewhere out there are casually saying out loud the words “HEART FAILURE” to diagnose people who will leave that place feeling scared to death.   .   Continue reading “Would you drive your car if its brakes were “failing”?”

Denial? Or doctorly deference?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters  ♥   June 2, 2019

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?”

Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

As part of my Dear Carolyn series of posts featuring my readers’ unique stories on what it’s like to become a heart patient, this one involves a woman with not one but several medical diagnoses. When distressing symptoms were initially diagnosed by her oncologist as lymphoedema (a condition sometimes associated with cancer treatments), her first response was: My future looks positively bleak.” But when she finally heard the corrected diagnosis of heart failure from an internal medicine specialist one year following her chemo treatments and radiation, her surprising reaction was this:

“I just about hugged the internist when he told me it wasn’t lymphoedema after all – it was just my heart!  I thought he’d given me my life back again. And he had! Like receiving my own Magna Carta. And in a single week, with the help of my new cardiac medications, off came the 30 extra pounds of fluid I’d been hauling around.”

That was certainly a first for me (somebody thrilled by a heart failure diagnosis!?) Today’s Dear Carolyn letter focuses on a favourite subject of mine: resilience in the face of a medical crisis, and it starts with a woman known to us simply as Honey BeeContinue reading “Dear Carolyn: “I’m having the time of my life!””

A beating heart frozen in time

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 “A beating heart frozen in time”

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

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