Heading home tips following open heart surgery

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters     May 5, 2019

Open heart surgery.   Is there any medical procedure in history so surrounded by genuine awe and surreal mystique? Cracking open the sternum to reveal the beating heart beneath, and then somehow trusting a heart-lung machine to temporarily take over the jobs of both the human heart and lungs – now, that’s heroic! But when it comes to explaining just how that happens, few of us might guess that the most compelling and straightforward description comes not from the world of medicine, but from the venerable magazine, Popular Mechanics.
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A solution in search of a problem

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters      March 17, 2019

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”

“Refrain from operating a chainsaw after your cardiac procedure”

As I love to keep saying, my Heart Sisters blog readers are the smartest and the funniest and the most resilient women out there – and remember that most of them are living with various levels of heart disease symptoms all while busy being smart and funny and resilient.
 
One such reader named Jennifer, who also lives with a thyroid condition called Graves Disease, wrote the comment below in response to my blog post about women’s heart clinics. Her hospital experience with the cardiology gender gap is maddeningly common (and yet another powerful argument for opening a women’s heart clinic in every hospital).

Continue reading ““Refrain from operating a chainsaw after your cardiac procedure””

The hospital discharge race: is sooner always better?

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

wheelchairThey say that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there. I do remember this about 1966, however:  I spent my birthday that year in a hospital bed, where I’d been a patient for a full month recuperating from a ruptured appendix and a nasty case of peritonitis.  Back then during the dawn of civilization, it was common for patients to spend far longer in hospital than we ever would now. For example:
Continue reading “The hospital discharge race: is sooner always better?”

Convalescence: the forgotten phase of illness recovery

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

I love the work of U.K. philosopher Alain de Botton, an explorer of the  ‘philosophy of everyday life.’  He once wrote:

“People can accept you sick or well. What’s lacking is patience for the convalescent.”  

Convalescence. It’s the gradual return to health while you still need time to recover from illness or medical treatment, usually by resting. For patients, it’s that fuzzy grey area in between feeling acutely ill and feeling 100% healthy again. The term comes from the Latin convalescere: to grow fully strong.”

Most garden-variety convalescence is mercifully short. After spending a few days in bed with a flu bug, for example, you might feel a bit weak or shaky for a while. Not exactly sick anymore, but not yet 100%. Other forms of convalescence, however, may take weeks, months or even years of recuperation. And with some chronic and progressive disease diagnoses, everyday life can start feeling like one long endless period of convalescence – with good health merely a dim memory.  The difference: unlike the historical practice of viewing convalescence as a distinctly separate and important stage of illness recovery, today’s convalescents may simply feel like they’re being forced to very quickly adjust to the “new normal” of life. Continue reading “Convalescence: the forgotten phase of illness recovery”