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Octopus Pots and Your Heart

The Annals of Cardiology No.32 | Octopus Pots and Your Heart

You can read the introduction below or read the full version here.

Is it possible to care too much? Can it harm your health? These are questions I’ve been thinking about this week as I listen to patients stressing over one thing or another, usually a relationship with a family member. Some days everyone seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and I find myself wondering who will be the next case of octopus pot heart. Yes, you heard right …

Some years ago, shortly after I returned to Bermuda, a patient of mine had a cardiac arrest and died. She had already had three heart attacks and, when hospitalized with a fourth, she didn’t make it. Her grown-up daughter, an exercise fanatic, was in the gym when I called with the news. We met at the hospital, the two of us standing at her mother’s bedside. As long as I’d known them, mother and daughter were at odds.

Although the daughter reliably brought her to appointments, the office visits consisted of glares, contradictory reports, and subtle accusations (Mother to me: No, I’m not smoking. Daughter to me: I found a cigarette in her purse).

Sometimes they just didn’t speak to each other. So when we were standing there in the hospital, and the daughter suddenly clutches her chest, gasps, and collapses to the floor, my initial reaction was “Really?” When I saw her frothing at the mouth, I changed my tune, went into resuscitation mode, and got her to the ICU where she spent the next 24 hours on a ventilator with drugs to keep her heart going. When we scanned her heart, it had ballooned into a bizarre shape:

Continued in the full newsletter…

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