Is SCAD rare? Or just rarely diagnosed correctly?

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters    February 10, 2019

I was happy to see Katherine Leon featured in The New York Times recently. Katherine, like me, is a graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic. She told the Times of undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 38, several days after her severe cardiac symptoms had been dismissed by doctors who told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” She isn’t alone. Many, many studies have shown that female heart patients are significantly more likely to be under-diagnosed – and worse, often under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to our male counterparts. This is especially true for women with her condition (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD) that was once considered to be a rare disease. Dr. Sharonne Hayes is also featured in the NYT piece; she’s a respected Mayo Clinic cardiologist, longtime SCAD researcher and founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic. (You can read their story here).

But almost as soon as the Times piece was published online, I was gobsmacked to see some of the reader comments coming in – especially comments from people like these:   Continue reading “Is SCAD rare? Or just rarely diagnosed correctly?”

My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

As a person who lives with and writes about coronary microvascular disease (MVD), I feel lucky that my family doctor, my cardiologist and my pain specialist are all believers. It’s like the trifecta of diagnostic wins for a heart patient! I say that because one of my blog readers, after asking her physician if her puzzling cardiac symptoms might be due to MVD, was told:

“I don’t believe in coronary microvascular disease.”

I guess it’s time to remind such physicians that we’re not talking about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy here. Continue reading “My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you”

Guess which woman in this photo is having a heart attack

This week: a terrific guest post by Linda Johns, librarian at Seattle Public Library by day and writer of children’s books (including the Hannah West mystery series) before and after work. Originally published on June 4, 2016 on Linda’s self-titled blog.

I am having a heart attack in this photo. But look at who I'm surrounded by -- friends and writers. Love these women! Kirsten Kittscher, Kiry Larson, Suzanne Selfors, Sara Nickerson, Jennifer Longo.

Can you tell which author in this group photo* taken at a Seattle book event was experiencing heart attack symptoms while this photo was being taken? Me neither. Read on to solve the mystery as told by Linda Johns – which reminds us that heart disease can strike any of us at any time, an equal-opportunity medical crisis. 

  ♥  ♥  ♥ Continue reading “Guess which woman in this photo is having a heart attack”

Be your own hero during a heart attack

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.47.35 PM.png

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Today, I’m happy to share with you the story of an unusual milestone in life that you may not be familiar with unless you, too, are a heart patient: it’s the Heart-iversary celebration that marks another year since the day you survived a cardiac event. 

My own Heart-iversary is coming up on May 6th, but just recently Laura Haywood-Cory wrote about celebrating the seven year milestone since she survived a heart attack caused by a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).  With Laura’s permission, I’m running her reflections here on this celebration: Continue reading “Be your own hero during a heart attack”

When you know more than your doctors about your diagnosis

by Carolyn Thomas   @HeartSisters

One of my blog readers needlessly suffered debilitating cardiac symptoms for a number of years before she was finally correctly diagnosed (thanks to a second opinion) with coronary microvascular disease (MVD). During those years, she’d read everything she could get her hands on in a desperate effort to solve this mystery. But when she asked her own physician if MVD might be the culprit, he dismissed this diagnostic possibility, adding that he “didn’t believe” in coronary microvascular disease.

Didn’t believe in it?!

Please note, darling readers, that we’re not talking about the Tooth Fairy here.

We’re talking about a woman living with a cardiac condition that’s been well-studied (as in, peer-reviewed studies done by respected heart researchers and published in actual real-life medical journals).

Continue reading “When you know more than your doctors about your diagnosis”

Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

woman screaming-5 I was asked last year by a large U.S. publisher to review a new book written by a woman who had recently become a heart patient. I enjoyed reading the first chapter or two until I came to the New York author’s dramatic story of the actual cardiac event itself. The part that left me gobsmacked was not the event, but her abject shock and disbelief that she (of all people!) could be experiencing a heart attack at all.  The pervasive “Why me? Why me?” focus in this chapter clearly ignored a reality that the author had somehow chosen to gloss over: she’d been a heavy smoker for several decades.

Don’t get me wrong. Any cardiac event is indeed a traumatic occurrence no matter who and when it strikes. Sometimes, we truly have no hint about the cause of said event. And my immediate gut reaction was not meant to mock this author, or minimize her experience (which was awful). 

But I felt honestly surprised that she was surprised. Continue reading “Are you a heart attack waiting to happen?”