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From the Heart
December 2017

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted

Author Affiliations
  • 1Peterborough, Ontario, K9H 1S8, Canada
JAMA Cardiol. 2017;2(12):1297. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2017.2270

Four years ago, I had open heart surgery to replace my prolapsed mitral valve with one donated by a generous pig. Everyone was kind and competent. Things went very well, and the surgery gave me a new lease on life. However, there was one important omission in my care: only 1 physician and 1 nurse asked me, “How do you feel?” All the other conversations were focused on my numbers—blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen uptake, potassium levels, iron levels, clotting time, weight, etc. When I was discharged, the advice they gave me was all in terms of numbers: the number of pills to take, how many times to exercise, and the number of walks and rests. This advice was laid out in a 45-page handbook in which there is one page entitled “How can I cope with changing emotions?” but no one drew my attention to it or said anything about the psychological side of recovery. I was too tired to read much of anything, but if I had, I’d have seen a mild warning about developing mood changes, anxiety, irritability, sleep disturbances, and depression—problems that apparently dissipate easily along with the pain.

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