Heart 2 ♥

Yesterday I happened to pick up the Australian Magazine from the Weeken Australian, something I only really do when I am visiting Mum and Dad, simply because I personally do not buy the paper. I was flicking through it when I discovered an article entitled “Switching: Can you really die of a broken heart?” The topic intrigued me, so I read it.

I guess it interested me because of my previous blog on euthanasia, and I have always held a belief that it is possible to die of a broken heart, because I have heard of it happening. But, I have also seen palliative patients hold off death, until that final moment when they have been able to say good-bye to family and friends. But is this to do with the mind or with the heart, or is it both?

What role does the heart play? We all know the biological function of the heart, it is basically a lump of muscle that pumps that red stuff round our bodies too keep us alive. A simplified definition I know, but there it is. That is all it is, a lump of muscle, or is it?

The Ancient Egyptians believed that it was more than that. They believed that the heart was the source of wisdom, emotion, memory and personality. They even held the belief that final judgment involved the heart. They believed that the heart was weighed against a symbol of universal truth, harmony and balance, the feather of Ma’at.

The Judge was Anubis and in order to pass into the underworld, the heart had to equal the weight of this feather. Should the heart be heavier, it would be fed to Ammit, and the soul would be destroyed.

In 1535 Andreas Laguna identified the heart as the seat of all emotions, and Aristotle in the 14th Century believed it to be the body’s primary organ, believing it to control emotion, motion and sensation, and that it was the centre of vitality.

Most scientists today would scoff at this, but I am not 100% convinced myself that this is not part true. The article I mentioned earlier discussed the idea of death as a result of heartbreak. The author, Jane Wheatley, discusses examples of people who having been through periods of great distress, and as a result having similar symptoms to that of a heart attack. She mentions research done in Japan in the 90’s of a syndrome known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, which reported cases of patients with heart failure, all of whom had no history of risk factors, recovered independently in days with no interventions. All of these patients had recently been through an emotional crisis.

The evidence seems to support the link between the heart and emotion. Further to this, I have heard report of patients post heart transplant taking on characteristics of the heart donor. These stories were part of a documentary I saw a few years ago, and the idea came about that the heart may have memory cells. A logical next step I suppose, and not an idea I am willing to dismiss.

It is hard to deny the idea that the heart is more than a ‘lump of muscle.’ History and lexicography both seem to deny this idea. As far back as we can go, there has been the idea that the heart is more than just a pump. If it is why do we feel an ache in the heart with loss or sadness, why does it hurt so much? If it is why does poetry link the heart and soul. Why is the heart even now seen as the centre of our beings?

Some of you may see this as ‘hippy nonsense,’ but even religion says other wise. Genesis 6 : 5 puts the thoughts of evil men in their hearts, and in Exodus 5 through 12 there is the quote:

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his Officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them.”

It seems that time again, both literature, and science prove to us that the heart is much more than it appears. I am certainly willing to believe it, are you?

Doctor, Doctor…..

U-M Emergency Department

Image by UMHealthSystem via Flickr

This post is prompted by a conversation myself and a friend were having today about Emergency Departments. We were talking about the triaging system that is in place in every emergency department in the world, and I was explaining that this is possibly the only thing  that keeps some semblance of sanity in a normally chaotic environment.

ED is a place overflowing with emotions at the height of every extreme. People are scared, angry, in pain, distraught, and sick. Not one person in this room (and I am quite sure this includes the staff, who are pulling their hair out trying to deal with it), are thinking of others. But, then you get that one person, who thinks themselves smarter and more important than anyone else. That person who unlike anyone else in that room, decides that they should not have to wait the crazy amount of time usually allocated to their simple cough or cold, that they decided was beyond the ability of their local GP. These people, in their selfish wisdom, walk up to the triage desk, and claim chest pain, because they know that they will get seen quicker than anyone else. Have they not been told the story of the boy who cried wolf?

These people are surprisingly common! My pet hate as a nurse are these people. It does not matter to them that that one person who really does have chest pain, now gets neglected because of their selfish act. I have heard stories of people ringing an ambulance claiming chest pain, and on arrival of the ambulance have been leaning up against a wall, smoking a cigarette, and all they really wanted was a blanket!

I guess what I am saying, is think about why your are attending the already over flowing emergency departments, try and think about the other patients who are there – there is usually a pretty damn good reason that we are required to wait six hours, and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE acknowledge that the staff working there are usually harrassed enough dealing with heightened emotions, with out us complaining about the time it takes to wait. Something hospital staff have very little control over. We can not flick a switch that means people stop getting hurt or sick.

Have a little humanity and compassion.

Quitting is not for losers!

Smoke 1

Image by jasonbolonski via Flickr

Ok so this blog is a bit of a shameless plug, but I figure if you can not help a mate out every once in a while and show your faith in them and what they do, then you might as well not be mates.

 Quit Now 4 Life.

Ever wished you could have a second chance at life? Ever thought ‘If only I had done things differently?’ We all have, some more than others. But imagine this; you are sitting slumped over in a chair, fighting for breath having climbed a flight of stairs,. your hair is thinning, grey and brittle. Your skin is greasy, leathery and pock-marked from the acne of a teen, except you are not a teen.

Evey time you look in the mirror you wonder who that 70 yr old is looking back at you, except you are not 70, you are much younger. Your smile that was once winning is now yellowed, and people step back when you talk to them?

Do you smoke? If you do does some or all of this sound familiar? It does not have to be like this. By quitting smoking you can get up to 14 years back. You can have faith that you will live to see your children grow up and have children of their own. Too hard?

Always feeling the need? that craving? you don’t need to. Believe it or not you can quit smoking and get your life back in 60 minutes.

Shereen Alwin is an NLP practitioner with a degree in psychology and a hypnotherapist who can give you 60 minutes of her time. With a 95.6% success rate, this process is the most effective way to quit. Give up now and give your family a well-earned holiday with the money you save. Think about it for your and your family’s health and happiness.


A Weighty issue.

Weightloss pyramid.

Image via Wikipedia

I was reading the paper yesterday afternoon, and noted a story about a woman who wanted to reach 600kg in weight. She is thirty two and is already something like 325kg. When asked why, she stated that she wanted to see if it was possible to get that heavy and stay healthy, further stating that the bigger she got the sexier and more confident she felt.

My question is, does she not realise that at the weight she currently is, there is no way she is ‘healthy’?! Her body is a ticking time bomb! She has two kids, and it is highly unlikely that she is able to do anything for herself, so my question is, who does all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and other tasks that is the job of a parent? What kind of example is she setting for her kids? Does she not realise that unless hse changes her habits she will leave her kids motherless?

I am not anti fat people, but I am anti people who do not take responsability for themselves and their famillies. This woman has an entirely selfish goal. Where does this sort of ideology come from? What makes someone develop this kind of goal?

From Small Things Big Things Grow.

This is a transaxial slice of the brain of a 5...

Image via Wikipedia

It is the little things that count. From brushing someone’s hair to sitting someone out of bed. This is what I love about nursing. It is not about the big things, saving someone’s life with CPR nor about performing miracles. It is little things that make big things happen.

Have you ever heard of the ripple effect? It is a bit like that. An example of that is one of my patients today. For the past week he has been resting in bed, fed through a tube, and non communicative; but today I thought “let’s see if he can sit out of bed.” So we went through the process, ensuring that he was capable of the smaller steps like sitting up before we actually got him out of bed. Then as he sat out of bed, it was like a switch had been flicked. Suddenly he was awake, and trying to communicate, and within half an hour he was talking in full sentences that we could understand.

Every day I do my job I see little wonders of the human body. The ability to repair its self so quickly. But it is not just the human body, it is the mind as well. I am a true believer in the strength of the mind and the power that belief has; and time an again I am proven right.

I remember being told a story at university by one of my tutors about a young boy who was recurrently having seizures, something like every 30 – 60 seconds. As a consequence one side of his brain was damaged beyond repair. The doctors decided that the best treatment was to detach one side of the brain from the other, there by making the healthy side of his brain responsible. The amazing thing about this story is that by all accounts this young boy made a full recovery, and the healthy side of his brain effectively took on the role of both sides of the brain. This to me is one of the many miracles of human nature! Something, even as a trained health professional I find difficult to comprehend.

I love working in General Medical Wards, this is where we see amazing things. I agree that in ED, and ICU we get to see amazing traumas and the ‘good’ stuff. But I see people come in who are very sick, who are bed bound and non-communicative when admitted, literally walk out on the day of their discharge. Sometimes it happens quickly, and sometimes it is baby steps. But it is truly an amazing feeling when it does happen. This is what makes my job worth doing.

For all those who ask us why we are nurses, 90% of the time, this is why. With all the abuse, and truly horrible things we do have to deal with on a daily basis, the amazing ability of the human body the rebound and repair is why we do it.