Romance novels spew broken heart scenarios repeatedly; and our middle school literature lessons have time and again set scenes where people die from it. Think it’s all fiction? A woman from Texas begs to differ.
Joanie Simpson was going through a lot last year: her son was a candidate to undergo a possible surgery, her son- in-law recently lost his job, and she had property up for sale that was proving too stressful and complicated to manage.
So when her beloved pet Yorkshire terrier named Meha suddenly died from congestive heart failure, Simpson’s own heart nearly literally broke.
One morning, she woke up with her back and chest hurting, and then 20 minutes later was in the emergency room of Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Doctors already pegged her symptoms down as tell-tale signs of cardiac arrest, and upon inserting a catheter from Joanie’s groin to her heart, expected to see blocked arteries.
But they were astounded to find her blood vessels clear and healthy.
Doctors did more tests on her and after finding that blocked arteries were not her problem, they diagnosed her with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition that mimics all the symptoms of a heart attack.
The name takotsubo is Japanese for octopus trap, because of the way the left ventricle of the heart can balloon, similar to the shape of an octopus in a trap, according to a pioneer study published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal.
Simply speaking, takotsubo cardiomyopathy is the weakening of the heart’s main pumping chamber caused by factors other than an artery blockage, common of which are emotional stressors.
That is why the condition is also known as “broken-heart syndrome.”
Joanie has said that the diagnosis made “complete sense.”
“The kids were grown and out of the house, so she [Meha] was our little girl,” she told The Washington Post.
“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” she siad about her dog’s death.
“When you’re already kind of upset about other things, it’s like a brick on a scale. I mean, everything just weighs on you.”
Joanie’s experience is highlighted in The New England Journal of Medicine, and is considered a valuable addition to the growing research on the odd and intriguing condition.
Reports added that she now owns a cat named Buster, but she’s open to having another dog when she’s ready.
“It is heartbreaking. It is traumatic. It is all of the above,” she said. “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.”