A Texas woman has suffered clinically diagnosed heartbreak while grieving the loss of her beloved dog.
An inconsolable Joanie Simpson has been mourning the loss of her precious pet, a Yorkshire terrier named Meha.
Shortly after losing Meha, Simpson awoke one morning with a major backache. When she turned over, she had a sudden pain in her chest.
She immediately went to the local emergency room. But her condition was assessed as so severe that she was promptly airlifted to a hospital in nearby Houston, where doctors were preparing to receive a patient undergoing a heart attack.
Simpson underwent cardiac testing at Texas Medical Center’s Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, and the results were quite unexpected.
The woman wasn’t having a heart attack; she was diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which has symptoms very similar to a heart attack but is altogether different.
This heart condition usually follows an emotionally traumatic event, such as the loss of a child or spouse. Because of this link, the condition has been given the nickname “broken-heart syndrome.”
Simpson’s case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy was such a good textbook example that it wound up being featured in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.
According to one of Simpson’s doctors, Abhishek Maiti, this condition is a fascinating which has been proven to not only be real, but to be sometimes fatal.
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This is actually not the first documented case of broken-heart syndrome being directly tied to the death of the patient’s pet. It should serve as evidence of what all of us animal lovers already know: losing a pet can be as severe as losing our human companions.
Taking a Closer Look
A recent increase in related research has started to show support of this notion. A study was recently conducted which found that pet owners who have chronically ill animals suffer from higher levels of “caregiver burden.”
Caregiver burden is the stress that comes with taking care of a loved one in need; it is linked to anxiety, depression, and a poor quality of life.
As has been discussed in many other articles on Top Dog Tips, dogs actually make your life better. But the downside of the whole thing is the stress we incur when they become ill, and the immense sadness we feel when they pass away.
Like many pet owners, 62-year old Simpson was not entirely shocked at her diagnosis. The death of her dog was not the only hard thing she had been faced with at the time. Her son was also undergoing back surgery, her son-in-law had just lost his job, the sale of a property was not going well for Simpson, and on top of all of it, her 9-year old dog Meha had congestive heart failure.
With her other children being grown and out of the house, Meha was like a human child to Simpson. Meha was adored by her parents, and even given her own hamburger at family cookouts every Friday night.
Toward the end, Meha started to have many hard days. She became so ill that Simpson scheduled an appointment for euthanasia. But on the day of that appointment, Meha seemed in good spirits. So Simpson canceled.
Meha passed away the next day. Unfortunately, it was not a peaceful passing.
Simpson was traumatized by the experience, and guilt weighed heavy on her. All at once, she was saddled with sudden loss, grief, and sadness. She was inconsolable.
What Happened Next
When Simpson’s helicopter landed at Memorial Hermann, she was then rushed to the cardiac catheterisation lab, where her tor put a thin tube into a blood vessel in Simpson’s groin. This tube was routed from there up to her heart.
The doctors expected Simpsons’s x-rays to display blocked arteries. But to their total shock, her arteries were crystal clear.
Now, they needed to conduct more tests. Further examination and testing revealed that this was indeed Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. This condition is most common in postmenopausal women.
In 2005, the New England Journal of Medicine featured information which pointed to a flood of stress hormones as the thing which “stuns” the heart. When the heart is stunned by this rush of stress hormones, it seems to be a heart attack based on its symptoms.
This condition is not specific to those with preexisting heart issues; it can afflict even otherwise healthy individuals.
When her doctors talked to Simpson about what was happening in her life, they then informed her all about what broken-heart syndrome is and how she got it.
To Simpson, it all made total sense.
She was sent home two days later, and currently takes 2 heart medications. She reports that she is now doing just fine.
These days, Simpson just has a cat named Buster. While she isn’t opposed to having another dog, she reports that she just hasn’t made the right connection with one yet. She’s sure it will happen again someday.
Simpson admits that she tends to “take things more to heart” than most other people. She assumes that this may make her prone to broken-heart syndrome again in the future.
But, she says it will be worth it.
She says, “It is heartbreaking. It is traumatic. It is all of the above. But you know what? They give so much love and companionship that I’ll do it again. I will continue to have pets. That’s not going to stop me.”