Joanie Simpson, a 62-year-old woman from Texas, nearly died of a mysterious condition triggered by the death of her beloved dog. In the medical literature, the condition that mimics the classic signs of a heart attack is known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or the broken-heart syndrome.
The woman recalled that one day she woke up with chest pains and a backache. Her family rushed her to a local emergency room where doctors quickly transferred her to a hospital in Houston.
Houston medics were expecting a patient with a heart attack, but they were in for a big surprise. Multiple tests showed that the woman hadn’t had a heart attack but her heart was literally heartbroken after the loss of her cherished pet.
The woman acknowledged that after a stressful year, the death of her Yorkshire terrier, Meha, was the last straw.
I was close to inconsolable. I really took it really, really hard,
Simpson said about Meha’s death.
Grief For Pets Can Be as Devastating as the One for Humans
Doctors published a report about the Texas woman’s experience in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Study authors said that the paper was not spurred by the cause of the condition – the death of a pet – but for being a very “elegant case” which demonstrates that the broken-heart syndrome is real and can sometimes be deadly. The condition is triggered by the loss of a loved one, be it spouse, child, or pet.
The latest case of broken-case syndrome can only prove that the grief experienced by pet owners can be as devastating as the grief for humans. Past studies have confirmed the hypothesis as pet owners with sick animals tend to experience the so-called “caregiver burden” more often than owners of healthy pets.
The Texas woman said she was not surprised with her diagnosis especially after a year in which her son faced a complicated surgery, her daughter’s family lost the primary source of income, and she was engaged in a complex real estate sale.
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