The “new normal” – and why patients hate it

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

The “new normal”.  It’s what the freshly-diagnosed heart patient is supposed to get used to now. The implication seems clear:  Forget about your old life and the person you once were.”  Many of us fight that “new normal” label, but there might be another way to look at this.   . Continue reading “The “new normal” – and why patients hate it”

When a serious diagnosis makes you feel mad as hell

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Since returning from my 2008 WomenHeart Science & Leadership training at Mayo Clinic, I’ve spent a lot of time meeting, listening to, speaking with, writing for and hearing from countless other heart patients.  Once the dust settles immediately following a cardiac diagnosis – that time my heart sister Jodi Jackson engagingly calls post-heart attack stun – I’ve observed that a recurring theme among so many of the freshly-diagnosed is a sense of anger at what has just hit them.

Here’s a fairly typical example.

A woman I met recently had spent decades making good health an important priority in her life, and then – WHAM! – a heart attack, out of the blue.  Her subsequent anger is hardly surprising: “How could this have happened to ME, of all people? I’ve been doing everything right!  I never saw this coming!  And now you’re telling me that I’m stuck with this chronic and progressive medical condition for the rest of my life?!?”    Continue reading “When a serious diagnosis makes you feel mad as hell”

The day I made peace with an errant organ

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥  @HeartSisters

Here’s my theory: few health crises in life are as traumatic as surviving a cardiac event. I developed this theory while I was busy having my own heart attack in the spring of 2008.

For starters, cardiac symptoms often come out of the blue (in fact, almost two-thirds of women who die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.(1)  Having a heart attack can feel so unimaginably terrifying that almost all of us try desperately to dismiss or deny cardiac symptoms. And according to a report published in Global Heart, the journal of the World Heart Federation, women are twice as likely to die within one year even if they do survive a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(2)

So if – and each of these is still, sadly, a great big fat IF for too many women – we survive the actual cardiac event, and if we are near a hospital that’s able to provide an experienced team of cardiologists/cardiovascular surgeons/cardiac nurses, and if we are correctly diagnosed, and if we receive timely and appropriate treatment, and if the resulting damage to our oxygen-deprived heart muscle is not too severe, we get to finally go home, safe and sound.

And that’s where the real trauma starts.   Continue reading “The day I made peace with an errant organ”

The weirdness of Post-Heart Attack Stun

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Jodi JacksonI‘m laughing right out loud as I type this post, although I am the last person you’d think would ever laugh at another person’s heart attack story.  Usually. . .  But I love Jodi Jackson’s concept of “Post-Heart Attack Stun” – and I just had to laugh at her delicious examples of this concept at work, both during and after her heart attack at age 42.

Although I didn’t realize until I read about Jodi that there was even an official name for this cardiology concept, I sure knew what she was talking about.   

Post-Heart Attack Stun is what Jodi calls the period following a heart attack where everything seems so surreal that you really don’t absorb what has just happened.    Continue reading “The weirdness of Post-Heart Attack Stun”