Pets are such a huge part of our lives that it could be a heartbreaking experience if they die. That was what a Texas woman went through when the death of her pet dog resulted in a case of “broken heart syndrome,” a condition more formally known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
As explained in a case study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Camp Woods, Texas resident Joanie Simpson, 62, was dealing with the recent death of her dog, Meha, when she woke up one morning suffering from chest and back pain. At first, Simpson thought that she was having a heart attack, but doctors ultimately determined that she was literally a “heartbroken” — she was suffering from Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or broken heart syndrome.
According to the New York Daily News, the condition has some of the same symptoms as a heart attack. Patients may experience shortness of breath, or the same chest and back pain Simpson did, and tests may also reveal an elevated cardiogram and cardiac enzymes. But unlike heart attack sufferers, people who get Takotsubo cardiomyopathy don’t have clogged arteries, and can suffer from the condition even if they are in good health. Furthermore, the American Heart Association also notes that women are more likely than men to get clinical “broken hearts,” which result from a surge in stress hormones.
While the condition is merely similar, but not identical to a heart attack, broken heart syndrome can potentially be fatal. In June, the Inquisitr had reported on the results of a British study that revealed it is possible for sufferers to make a full recovery without the need of any medical intervention. But it was also noted that three to 17 percent of sufferers die within five years of diagnosis, and that it might take up to four months for certain aspects of heart function to return to normal, hinting at a “form of scarring” after such health events take place.
In most cases, it is possible to determine an event that could trigger a person’s case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. For Simpson, it was her Yorkshire terrier Meha’s death of congestive heart failure, which happened shortly before she was hospitalized for broken heart syndrome. As Simpson’s adult children had since moved out of her house, it was just like Meha had become like another daughter. Further complicating things was the fact that the dog didn’t die a peaceful death, the Washington Post wrote.
“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” Simpson told the Washington Post.
“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.”
After doctors explained the factors that may have caused her to fall ill, Simpson understood her situation, and was sent home two days after checking into the hospital.
Aside from the failing health of her dog, Joanie Simpson was also dealing with a number of other challenges before she had her bout with broken heart syndrome. One son had lost his job, while another was preparing to undergo back surgery. Additionally, she was having difficulty closing what had turned out to be a “complicated and lengthy” property sale.
Fortunately for Simpson, she has survived her Takotsubo cardiomyopathy episode, and after going through a regimen of medications, including two that she still takes as of this writing, she is now “doing fine,” and taking care of a cat named Buster. While she has yet to find another dog to make the “right connection with,” she told the Washington Post that she will gladly continue having pets, despite the literal heartbreak she experienced after losing one.
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