Matters of The Heart

It has been a couple of months since my last post. During this time, there have been a few prominent people to pass away which triggered my thoughts about a death that I experienced; my mother. My post is not about the grieving process, bereavement issues, making the adjustment, or how my life has changed because of it. It is about bringing awareness to the issues of THE HEART-the organ that circulates the blood, the vital center of one’s being, emotions, and sensibilities.  Well, what happens to that vital organ when it fails to pump effectively? It is called heart failure.
In September of 2007, my mother experienced three heart attacks in a week. Prior to her illness, she was vivacious, energetic, and extremely independent. Her symptoms were: high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, weakness, and sleep disturbances. Unfortunately, men do not  have the same symptoms when they experience a heart attack. It was reported by the cardiologist that my mother had severe blockage to the point where she was not a candidate for bypass surgery.  The cardiologist stated that, my mother could receive a heart transplant or a defibrillator along with medication therapy. It was decided that the defibrillator was strongly recommended for her. According to the Canadian Broadcasting Communications (CBC) News Health, The defibrillators are implanted in people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death because of heart rhythm disorders. The actual function of the defibrillator is to apply an electric shock to the heart muscle. This is performed with the intent of reestablishing a normal heart rhythm.”
Basically, my mother had her own “crash cart” with this implanted device. In November 2007, my mother had surgery to have the defibrillator implanted. It was an outpatient procedure. The doctor had a mechanism in his office that monitored the signals from the defibrillator. On December 1, 2007, there was an episode with the device, meaning my mother’s’ heart stopped. Nevertheless, the defibrillator provided the shocked needed to stimulate the rhythm of the heart and my mother survived again. On the other hand, for the next 18 months my mother was in and out of the hospital because the defibrillator was “firing off” inadvertently, and it had to be recalibrated repeatedly. Because of this, my mother was no longer able to drive which curtailed her independence. Needless to say, this was devastating to her! Moreover, I wish that our family had the information in the  article below to help us make a more informed decision about the defibrillator. We might have had a different outcome. Please click the link below and read the shocking news:

     According to Natural News, men are better candidates for the defibrillator rather than women. My mother survived 18 months after having the defibrillator implanted. Please read the following article from a Canadian study:

Women who have defibrillators implanted for heart problems are more likely to develop complications than men, a Canadian study suggests. Men and women were equally likely to have cardioverter-defibrillators or ICDs implanted. But women were nearly twice as likely to have major complications within a year of getting the devices, according to the study in Monday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Defibrillators were not designed with body size in mind. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

The defibrillators are implanted in people who are at risk of sudden cardiac death because of heart rhythm disorders. The devices work by recognizing serious heart rhythm problems and treating them automatically such as by giving an electrical shock. Women were a third less likely to receive an appropriate shock than men, the researchers found.

"We had thought complication rates were fairly low," said Dr. Douglas Lee, a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto and a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. "In fact, it was a lot higher than anticipated." The findings suggest women should be aware of the potential risk of early complications after the surgery and see their doctor if these occur. Such symptoms may include:

  • Swelling or tenderness at the surgical site.
  • Difficulty breathing.
Other complications can only be detected during regular checks of the defibrillator at a clinic, which is why regular follow-up is so important, the authors said.

 Women-only trials needed

In the study, a major complication was lead dislodgement. When a lead or wire connecting the heart to the defibrillator is dislodged then the device can't sense any abnormal electrical activity or deliver shocks. The patient has to go back into the operating room to have the lead repositioned or replaced, Lee said. To obtain the data, researchers analyzed Ontario's ICD database, focusing on 6,021 patients including 1,288 women from February 2007 to July 2010. The researchers did not find any differences in mortality rates between men and women who received the defibrillators. But discovering the differences in complication rates adds to what is known about sex differences in heart patients.

The devices were not designed with body size in mind, which may be part of the reason for the lead-related problems in women, Lee speculated."The results reported by the investigators emphasize the ongoing need for inclusion of large numbers of women in randomized prospective clinical trials," said Dr. Stephanie Brister, a cardiac surgeon at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. "Indeed these results suggest that in certain circumstances 'women only' clinical trials may be required," she added in a release. The researchers noted there were drawbacks to the study, such as not following up on all potential ICD candidates. They also did not look into potential reasons for the differences between men and women. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

     Another major issue with the defibrillator is, most of the time (70-80%) the devices are USED. Our family was shocked when we heard this information! The County Health Department and the funeral home director confirmed this information. The day my mother died, the defibrillator did NOT emit an electric shock. The cardiologist confirmed this information on his monitoring device; therefore he was quick to remove the defibrillator from my mother’s body while she was in the funeral home. Unfortunately, there was no recourse for these actions, due to time constraints and other severe health challenges that had impacted the family at the time. I hope that the information in this post will help you or a family member if you are ever confronted with this issue. In May of this year, will be three years since my mother’s passing. She lived to be 74 years old. My mother had a very giving heart; until one day her heart gave out on her. More importantly, she loved God with all of her heart. I believe the following scripture depicts my mother’s life: “My flesh and my heart faileth:  but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 (King James Version)

What are your thoughts on the "Matters of the Heart" post?



D.M. said…
Extraordianary "heart" felt message Dr. D!

Awareness will always afford our better choice of options. However, in your Mom's case, time was of the essence. So the family did not have much time to do the difibulater reseach for fear of another possible MI episode without warning. With that said, none should feel regretful for the choice made at that time to utilize the difibulater.

Of course being rid of this burden is easier said than done, especially for me since I was more or less at the helm for steering the medical dicisions for our family at that time.
Nevertheless, I would encourage all of us to go back to the cross where we first saw the light, and the burdens of our heart rolled away.

Lesson learned for all... take "heart" in how we live our lives, consume our foods, and love each other. Many are not as fortuate to have a mother depart but yet leave her heart in the lives of so many.

Keep feeding us the knowlege Dr. D!
We need you!!

DrDSpeaks said…
Thank you DM
No blame in the matter at all to anyone! Just wanted to share. This has been helpful to me in dealing with the loss.
I will do my best in researching information that is near and dear to my heart.
shudnall03 said…
Thanks be to GOD for your words of wisdom and sincere devotion to others especially your students. I am so blessed to have met you Dr. D,may GOD richly continue to bless you in at you do according to his will...
Anonymous said…
Such a strong blog. I love it.
DrDSpeaks said…
Thank you for your comments.
curlygirlie1 said…
I read your blog and I can see how this situation must have been shocking to you and your family. Here you put your trust in the doctors, hospital, surgeons and specialists to take care of your mother to give her the best possible outcome. It turns out that perhaps medicine is a business not of only healing and keeping patients healthy, but also of reusing previously used medical equipment that is not effective. Research is a key component to informed decisions, the message here is to do your own research because even the specialists don't always make the right choice. I hope that knowing the your mother is in a better place and with God gives you and your family some comfort.
DrDSpeaks said…

You are absolutely correct. My mom is in a better place. I appreciate your comments.
Anonymous said…
Thank you Dr. D for this information. It is very helpful for me and should be for everyone else as well. I like the fact that your are strong and want to help others like you mother did. This article and the comments have helped me see that its always good to do research on whatever the case may be. But more than anything we have to make sure that our health doctors know what the're talking about, therefore we must triple check their suggestions by going deeper into the medicine or diagnosis.

Signed R.B
Anonymous said…
I feel this is a sad touching feeling when comes to other loves ones in a family and what i learn from this story is that a defibrillator is a lil machine that trigger the heart to pump more faster. But im soo sorry that this happens to anyone mother and love one but you have stuck in strong todo what best for yourself and your Mother as well keep the faith and that whatever the doctor told as far giving her medicine then thank God you was doing your job...
Anonymous said…
After reading this blog it sparked a feeling within me, having a mother with cancer and watching her go through the pain knowing that I have not always been a supportive son,and the choices I made.Well I beleive we make the best choices we can with the information we have and we can not second guess ourselves so long as the heart is pure. the problem comes for me when I repeat the same mistake knowing the outcome thinking I will beat the odds, and then I see the pain I cause my mother, yes the blog was about the heart but for me I thought about choices we make I may be off base but thats where I am today Sign G.roberts
Anonymous said…
Having a person that talks about hard times they gone by, makes me fill graceful for what i have and to see that stressing over little things does not compare with what others are going through. I am glad we have people that are strong enough to talk about momments that they have because it just makes them stronger.
this post was an amazing post, just like all the other ones you have written. However, this one hit home for me, specially with my father just passing. although, his passing was a total different issue in it's entirety, i still felt connected with your writing in this blog. i specially liked how you connected your mother's life to the scripture. I also applaud how you handle the situation.
Anonymous said…
First off, I would like to give my most sincere apology, losing a loved one is probably the most devastating thing that could happen to someone. And something almost anyone can relate to.
My brother has a heart condition (I can't recall the name) although it hasn't given him problems since he was a child it is still there. Thank you for this post Dr. D. I now know what to say to him when I tell him to take better care of himself. Thank you again! - Daniel Gonzalez
Anonymous said…
Adam M,
I think this article is an eye opener for those like the authors mother. I have a family history of high cholestoral, high blood pressure and other heart disorders. I unfortunatley went through a few months where i had an irregular heart beat, not so severe as what happened to this persons mom of course, yet having an irregular heart beat isn't any fun. I could not sleep at night because i felt that i could not catch my breathe. After a few weeks of this i went to the doctor and i had an EKG test done which and wore a sensor for a full day that monitored my heart. In the end i was told that i did have an irregular heart beat and to curb this i should try to reduce my stress and exercise regularly. Having any kind of heart trouble is no joke, so people definatley need to be aware of non normal signs the body gives us and check with a doctor as soon as possible
ckthompson said…
I am not surprised to hear the news in your blog. My mother died of heart failure in 1989, at the age of 37 I was just 18. Since then I have been very careful to eat heart smart. I don't eat a lot of fried or fatty foods I oven broil meats to keep flavor and decrease fat content. So about 8 years ago I passed out after my chest started to feel like it was being squeezed in a vice. i went to the Emergency room. they ran an ekg. it showed nothing wrong and they were all set to release me but I wasn't having it I knew something was wrong.So as I was arguing not yelling but very strongly with the discharge nurse I doctor happened to walk buy and actually heard and listened to what i was saying to the discharge nurse. what I said was "I am not leaving until we know whats wrong you don't understand I know its something wrong with my heart My Mom died at age 37 from a heart attack and I don't care if people my age usually don't have heart problems ( I was 34 at the time)also my chest still hurts so im not leaving and i am not signing that form. The doctor came over at that point and the discharge nurse said we did an ekg and it was normal we need to send her home there is nothing we can do for her. the doctor said did you listen to what the patient just told you the discharge nurse nodded and the doctor then said well here is what you do order some blood work to check her tiponin levels (high tripoin levels indicate that the heart isnt getting enough oxygen)and put a nitro paste on her if its her heart we will know in less then five minutes cause the pain will let up. sure enough the nitro paste helped. and when the blood work came back my triponin levels were very very high. I was admitted to the hospital that night and had a cardio cath done (this is a procedure in which a camera is taken up into the heart to see whats going on). What this test reveled was that my heart was exceptionally clear of the plaque and fatty tissues and blockages they would normally see even in an average person my age without heart problems, What they did find that was very trouble some was that my main ventricular artery liked to collapse or spasm cutting off blood and oxygen flow to the heart. This condition is called vasospasm, variant angina and prinzmetal angina, because mine can come on at rest and doesnt always clear up upon rest i was diagnosed with both variant and prinzemetal angina with the over ridding diagnosis being prinzmetal angina. I had to make a lot of life style changes I cant even complete a cardiac stress test not nuclear or traditional. the condition is very rare only one in every 100 heart patients might have it. It effects women more than men and particularly younger women late 20's to mid 30's is typical onset. with this condition they know what occurs but they cant really say why it occurs. we definitely need more awareness especially with regards to women's health and the heart. women and men are both human beings but our physical bodies are very different even though they work much the same way. to everyone who has had a loved one or themselves experienced a heart problem hang in there and listen to your doctors but more importantly listen to your body and make the doctors listen too or find new doctors and always always ask questions and be as informed about your condition as possible.
Anonymous said…
Lucely P.

Its a very strong blog full a information. This information is very helpful my uncle had a heart attack last year. So this is helpful. I cant even imagine the feeling you must of gone through Dr. D! I cant even imagine how you felt after finding this information once your mom had gone through that. Your a very strong women. Inspirational how you were able to overcome that and many other things and maintain as strong as your are now.
Anonymous said…
I believe research and awareness is key. This is shocking information to me! I have a family member who has had 3 heart surgeries and recently had a defibrillator placed and yes she is female. A couple months ago she was home reading and she could hear a beep but wasn't sure what it was, so she called her son thank God he was home. They both figured out that it was her defibrillator. It was a vary scary moment for her and all of us. God is good and she is OK. Thank you for this amazing article!!!
Anonymous said…
Almost all of us know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America. Even the CDC reports it, one of the most credible websites for health information. When it comes to health, I feel that we should start to focus more on preventative care instead of treatment care. First of all, it's much cheaper! Second, treatment does not work for everyone, so I'm not surprised these defibrillators have not always been successful. I think that this post is more of a learning experience for everyone. I'm not saying to completely disregard treatment care, but I feel that there are actions to take to decrease our chances of dealing with problems with technological advancements, such as exercise and a healthy diet, which almost everyone knows but doesn't do :(

C. Tolentino
Angela Dugger said…
It is great that all of this advancement in medicine has happened however they are not able to perfect and save everyone. People are able to live longer now with the help of medicine that is able to prevent certain things from happening. I hope they figure out a way to have the defibrillators work as effectively on men as on women.

A. Dugger
SHD1986 said…
From this article, people die with the heart attack due to illness caused by heart diseases.
Due to the medical technologies and medical surgery, people live longer than they expected and it helps to prevent things from happening. The heart is the organ that circulates the blood, emotion and sensibilities. It is the essential part of the healthy lifestyle and well-being.
Anonymous said…
Ms. Wooten

This article was very informing but I also felt as if the writer was talking in a way where you could really understand and feel what at the time they were feeling. This article was very informative when it comes to heart dieses and living a healthy life in order to prevent these things from happening. this article has helped me to see how much medical equipment has evinced for the best.
D.V. said…
I believe that when it comes to issues concerning our health one has to be properly informed by the doctor, and if not by the doctor we should look into it ourselves. It is vital to inform ourselves as much as we can so that we can make the best decision. This information will be very helpful to people who do not know this, so this experience will help many people who are in the same position you were.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the information that you provide me it's very helpful . My father has heart problems and it is cause by high blood pressure. Once I tell my family about the information I learn they will be surprise.
Marcos Robles said…
Color Eating as described in the article "DrD Speaks" is a new trend that if done properly it should lead you to a healthier lifestyle. The most color you add on your meals the better off you are of getting the right nutrients. For example, cereal for breakfast with some granola, banana, and strawberries will make the perfect combination, and will combine the perfect colors in your morning to have plenty of fiber throughout the day.
Marcos Robles said…
Second Response to Drd Speaks:

For my second response, i would like to talk about the short topic entitled "Dogs generate social interaction with others" in the "Drd Speaks" article. Having a pet, specially a dog, is very important if you lack self intuition to meet new people. A dog serves as a companion and will help you feel less anxious about having to expose your shy side. Many people will not only want to meet you but will like to meet your dog as well. The more interaction you have with people the better off you will be at having more people at your surroundings for support in a case of feeling depressed or sad.
Anonymous said…
Dr. D, This blog is VERY informative. Thank you for sharing your story. This is a perfect example of how we must do our research before moving forward with a medical procedure. However, sometimes we just want to be better and once I doctor presents a possible solution, then we jump on it (especially if it's life or death). Heart transplants can often take sometime to receive a compatible heart, and the defibrillator seemed like the way to go. After reading this, I will certainly be mindful of my body/heart and ensure I do my research if anything should ever happen to me(God forbid). Thank you again... I am so sorry for your loss. Your strength is incredible. AS
Anonymous said…
Great blog! I wasn't even aware of this little machine or something out there for this purpose. It is sad that it is not very affective.

[Pace: C.A.]
Anonymous said…
I have worked in the medical field for 10 years. I would sometimes float to cardiology and work with the doctors and patients. I never knew anything about the defibrillator. I just assumed it was a good and helpful mechanism to help people with bad hearts. I learned a lot of information from this blog. It made me rethink the situations that people have to deal with with an unhealthy heart. I figured that the defibrillator would be the answer and quick solution. Now I would consider all options and think if I want a machine to keep my heart pumping or have it stop naturally. Thank you for this helpful blog. ET
Anonymous said…
Wow, I have found this blog very informative, due to the fact that I had never even heard of this Defibrillator. I find it as an advance in our medical field. That can help lots of people with heart problems. The only drawback is that people with this device in their bodies still seem to be dying. I believe that before even trying the Defibrillator, they should have some more advanced tests and experiments on them. This way we wont have people still dying of heart attacks even though having this device in there body. L Palafox
Anonymous said…
Again this blog is very informative. This blog have made me think about many problems I have never cared.
Thanks so much! A helpful blog.

Dat D.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this blog. It is useful to help people with heart problems, especially my family. I feel sad after reading your blog, because my dad had gone through by heart attack. I learned a lot of information from this blog.
Anonymous said…
Dear Dr.D,

Thank you for sharing this very informative topic regarding heart defibrillators. I too lost my mom in 2006 and learned much about her condition and how her death could have been prevented if we were better informed. The shocking part of what you stated was the fact that 70-80% are used and I cannot help but wonder if that adds to the complications with the defibrillator.

Anonymous said…
Cardiovascular disease (all the conditions related to heart and blood vessels) is the number one killer worldwide. Twenty first century made a huge impact on the lifestyle choices we choose. Obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure are the major diseases that can be modified with a healthy life style routine. Heart and brain are the major targets of the metabolic derangement created by these disease conditions. Heart attack (myocardial infarction) and brain attack (stroke/cerebrovascular accident) originate form a diminished blood supply or lack of blood supply to these vital organs (which take care of the whole body). A balanced diet rich in lean meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts (walnuts act like natural aspirin); good sleep hygiene, and exercise (aerobic exercise of at least 30 minutes/day for at least 3 days in a week) are the proven factors not only to prevent cardiovascular disease, but also improve the impact of treatment protocol and drugs used in the management after the diagnosis is made. While heart failure can result from a number of causes, hypertension (high blood pressure, myocardial infarction (either from high cholesterol or diabetes mellitus) can lead to rhythm disorders and subsequent heart failure.

Dr. D, the experience you had with your mother is devastating and I strongly advocate for clinical research that needs to be done exclusively in women only in certain conditions. It's an unfortunate situation that even in fields like medicine and science, there is a strong gender bias in the way research is being done and how the sample is chosen. Even with a very tiny percentage of women in the study sample, the results are highly generalized to the whole study and the results are applied to both men and women, while in reality men may the most appropriate candidates for the new procedure/device/drug that is being studied.

While evaluating the study results, it is very important to note the gender bias in the study sample and physicians themselves (male physicians to be specific) seem to be biased in the interpretation and application of these results.

I was moved while reading your article and thank you for sharing your experience and bringing issue into light.

God bless!

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