Broken-heart Syndrome

broken_heart_-_Google_SearchCan a person die of a broken heart? Will the unexpected loss of a close relative or loved-one create such emotional stress that it jeopardizes the person’s well-being? Don’t people in grief recover sufficiently so that their physical health suffers no lasting effects?

The Mayo Clinic, in a note posted on their website defines Broken-heart syndrome as “a temporary heart condition that’s often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. The condition can also be triggered by a serious physical illness or surgery. People with broken heart syndrome may have sudden chest pain or think they’re having a heart attack. In broken heart syndrome, there’s a temporary disruption of your heart’s normal pumping function in one area of the heart. The remainder of the heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Broken heart syndrome may be caused by the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones. The condition may also be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, apical ballooning syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy by doctors. The symptoms of broken heart syndrome are treatable, and the condition usually reverses itself in days or weeks.” (Emphasis added)

New Information

In this paragraph, we feel reassured that the condition is only “temporary,” that it is “treatable,” and that it “reverses itself” within a short time. New research from the University of Aberdeen, however, sheds light on these questions. Called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (“broken-heart syndrome”), this newly identified disease affects some 3,000 people in the UK. Bereavement can trigger the illness. During the stress of bereavement, the heart muscle can weaken to create an inability of the heart to maintain its pumping function. Long-term damage to the heart muscle results.

“Takotsubo is a devastating disease that can suddenly strike down otherwise healthy people,” says Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at British Heart Foundation. “We once thought the effects of this life-threatening disease were temporary, but now we can see they can continue to affect people for the rest of their lives.”

We would hope that doctors can provide us effective medical treatments for Takotsubo, but so far, according to the newest research, none exist.

Understanding Job’s Anguish

Perhaps we can better understand Job’s anguish ion Chapter 3. After the sudden death of his businesses, employees, health and wealth, his heart is broken beyond repair. In Chapter 3, Job seeks the peace of death to life bereft of all meaning. We can understand Job’s sentiments. Well, almost all meaning. Although each of them problematic for Job, still remaining with him through his anguish until the end: his friends, his wife, and God.

When have you lost someone close? Was it recent? Have you had your doctor examine your heart as a result of your bereavement? With your loss, what or who do you have left to be with you to the end?

[Sources: Image: pixaby.com; http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/broken-heart-attack-damage-long-lasting-injury-cardiac-arrest-aberdeen-a8057961.html https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/broken-heart-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20354617]

Posted in Death and Dying, The Sufferer | Leave a comment

What Words Do You Say To A Grieving Friend?

Southern_Baptists_to_pay_for_Texas_shooting_victim_funerals___AL_comOn this past Sunday, November 5, 2017, Patrick Devin Kelley walked into Sutherland Springs Baptist Church (TX) during worship, and, and with an AR-15 rifle, killed 26. A neighbor, hearing gunfire, returned with a rifle, wounded Kelly twice, and forced him to flee. Ten minutes later, Kelley took his own life. This event holds the dubious distinction of having been our worst church shooting in American history.

Warnings and Failures

There had been numerous warning signs of violence: the Air Force court-marshalled Kelley for beating his ex-wife and stepson. He also faced charges of cruelty to animals, was institutionalized for mental illness, and threatened members of his family. He recently collided with a car driven by a 91-year old women who pulled out in front of his motorcycle. That left him with intense headaches.

There were also numerous failures. Five years ago, Kelley escaped from a mental health facility. When El Paso, TX, officers interviewed him afterward, their information included that he was  a danger to himself and others, and that he was facing military criminal charges. Not only had he been court-marshalled for domestic abuse that same year, and given a dishonorable discharge, but the Air Force acknowledged that it did not tell federal authorities about the conviction for domestic violence.  That should have prevented his access to buying weapons. They also did not reveal  Kelley’s stay in a mental health facility and his having threatened his superiors.

What Do You Say?

We’ve seen enough detail to learn the enormity of the tragedy which has befallen our country, the families involved, including Kelley’s, but also the body of Christ. Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri, who were traveling elsewhere at the time,  lost not only 26 parishioners, but their 14-year old daughter Annabelle. “What do you tell the other grieving families?” a reporter asked him. “I’m still working on that,” pastor Pomeroy gently responded, then added, “but thank you.” Unwilling to focus only on their personal loss, the Pomeroy’s instead focused on the loss to their church family, to the body of Christ. “We lost more than Belle yesterday,” said Sherri, “And one thing that gives me a sliver of encouragement is the fact that Belle was surrounded yesterday by her church family that she loved fiercely and vice versa.”

When Job’s friends learned of the enormity of his losses, they met visited, and for a week remained silent (Job 2:11-13). Anyone who attempts to offer consolation to someone in tragedy waits until they know how best to respond. That’s why Pastor Pomeroy responded as he did. Consolation consists in more than what we say. On behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, The North American Mission Board, for example, offered to pay the funeral expenses of those who died.

How have comforters responded to you in your grief? If you were to offer comforters a piece of advice as to what helps, what would you tell them? As to what doesn’t?

[Sources: Eli Rosenberg, Mark Berman, and Wesley LoweryTexas church gunman escaped mental health facility in 2012 after threatening military superiors,” Washington Post, November 7, 2017. Susan Hogan, “Sutherland Springs pastor: ‘I don’t understand, but I know my God does’,” The Washington Post, November 2, 2017. Leada Gore (lgore@al.com), “Southern Baptists to Pay for Texas shooting victim funerals,” AL.com November 7, 2017. Also picture.]

 

 

 

Posted in Death and Dying, The Counselor, The Sufferer | Leave a comment

On Vacation. Watch for Gordon’s new blog next week

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

Morbidity Rate of Depression

depression_pictures_-_Google_SearchIf you feel depressed, your life may shorten. According to results of a study released recently which followed the lives of 3400 Canadian adults from 1952 to 1992, people with depression experienced a shorter life span than those without it. A depressed man, age 25, for example, could expect to live another 39 years; but without depression he could live 51 years.

Perhaps surprisingly, suicides did not account for this. Few of the subjects committed suicide. Depressed people died in the same way others did–heart disease and cancer, for example.  One of the doctors in the research team pointed out that people receiving treatment for depression and received treatment for diabetes and heart disease.

Is Depression “Weakness”?

Depressed people tend to think of themselves as “weak”, but in reality, depression is a disease like any other, with effective treatments available, such as medications and talking.

Women, in particular, may feel a “sense of shame” over mental health symptoms, according to John Hamilton, Mountainside Treatment Center in Canaan, Conn.  They may feel they need to be the rock of the family. “They might even have people around them saying, ‘Snap out of it, you have kids,'” said Hamilton. “But depression is no different from any other chronic disease,” he said. “We need to have a compassionate, nonjudgmental approach to it.”

Job’s Healing

We see in Job the effectiveness of talking. For a week, he couldn’t, but after his three wisdom colleagues rallied to his side, patiently sat with him, and themselves mourned his sad state, Job marshaled the courage to put his depressed feelings into words (Chapter 3). He first curses his life of suffering, preferring instead the peace of the grave. then he launches into five “Why?” questions. Job’s behavior reflects a healthy response to unusually devastating losses. The rest of the book allows him more opportunity to unload on his friends, and on God, preparing him to receive an appropriate response from the Almighty (Chapters 38-41). In spite of the depth of his original despair, he rallies to confront God. Through his belief in a personal God who he could address, and his colleagues support, Job avoided suicide.

If you experience depression, how well do you care for your physical health? Do you have other serious illnesses? What are you doing to manage your complex life?

[Sources: Picture: www.soothingminds.com.au                                                                    Article: https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/depression-news-176/more-evidence-that-depression-shortens-lives-727736.html Stephen Gilman, Sc.D., acting chief, health behavior branch, U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Md.; Aaron Pinkhasov, M.D., chairman, behavioral health, NYU Winthrop Hospital, Mineola, N.Y., and associate professor, clinical psychiatry, Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Stony Brook, N.Y.; John Hamilton, L.M.F.T., L.A.D.C., chief clinical outreach officer, Mountainside Treatment Center, Canaan, Conn.; Oct. 23, 2017, CMAJ, online]

 

Posted in Death and Dying, Friend of Job, The Sufferer | Leave a comment

Death by Avalanche, Suicide: Hayden Kennedy

Renowned_Climber_Hayden_Kennedy_Commits_Suicide_After_Girlfriend__Fellow_Pro_Inge_Perkins__Dies_In_Avalanche_pdfAlthough suicide is twice a common as homicide, the unusual suicide of world-class rock climber Hayden Kennedy caught my eye.  On Saturday October 7, 2017, Kennedy, 27, and girlfriend Inge Perkins, 23, skied together on Imp Peak in the southern Madison Range in Montana. In a steep, confined indentation, 10,000 feet above sea level, they unknowingly set off an avalanche 150 feet wide.

Prior to his accident, Kennedy wrote an essay in which he commented on the deaths of two mountain climbing partners and friends, Kyle Dempster, who died climbing in Pakistan in 2016, and Justin Griffin, who died climbing in Nepal in 2015.

Reflections on Death

“I think about Kyle and Justin all the time,” Kennedy wrote. “Their absence from this world is felt by so many who are left in a wake of confusion, anger, and frustration. In many ways, I am still processing what has happened to my dear friends. Waves of sadness overwhelm me at times, making it hard to stand up or focus. At other times, I am able to think only of the enchanting adventures, contemplative conversations, and the simple yet enriching moments we shared as friends.”

Although their deaths weighed heavily on him, the death of Inge weighed more. She died as a result of being buried in that avalanche; he escaped death by having been buried only partially. The next day, however, Hayden Kennedy, having lost the love of his life, took his own life. As his essay makes clear, climbers live with the vivid awareness of the reality of death. Kennedy’s struggle, however, took on weightier thoughts: his loss of Inge led to feeling his life had lost all meaning.

Job and Death

Job’s reflections in Chapter 3 also focus on death. To say he wants to die would be  a gross understatement. He also has lost all, or most, of the things and people that make life meaningful: businesses, employees, and children–all of them, all at once. But Job had a small social group (his three wisdom colleagues) with whom he could share his desperation. They debated Job over his complaints against God, but they stayed, listened, and, for the most part, heard him out. It seems Hayden never shared his anguish. Inge’s love had become more precious than life itself.

Job also firmly believed in God. God had unjustly destroyed his life and purpose, but
God was someone against whom Job could battle. If a person lives only for sport and love, he or she may not find that adequate for life, when those are withdrawn. I don’t know about Hayden’s faith, so I dare not hazard a guess. When all of life fails us, at times, it is only God who can make the difference between life and death.

For what do you live? For whom? What and who gives your life meaning, purpose and direction? Is what you focus your life on strong enough to hold you if you were to lose everything else? Where is your social support? Who is your God?

[Sources: Photo: Instagram. Chris Weidner: When darkness overcomes — the devastating loss of Hayden Kennedy, a climbing luminary  http://daily.camera/machform/view.php?id=23 10/17/17  www.eveningsends.com  Patrick Redford, Renowned Climber Hayden Kennedy Commits Suicide After Girlfriend, Fellow Pro Inge Perkins, Dies In Avalanche www.deadspin.com 10/12/17]

 

 

Posted in Death and Dying | Leave a comment

Watch for Gordon’s new blog next Friday

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

Aging Process: A Shot Across My Bow

growing_older_-_Google_SearchAlthough I’m in good health and active with physical and mental exercise, the past year has brought me a new awareness of slowing. For the past year, I, with my doctors, have struggled to understand certain “spells” I experienced. Standing in front of my Sunday school class in July 2016, ready to begin teaching, I felt like passing out. The sensation lasted only a few seconds. Then, in November, I sat at my computer, switching from email to Facebook and back, to wish Friends a Happy Birthday. Three times in a row, however, I blacked out, unable to remember where I was in the process. My wife drove me to the ER where the staff checked me out for signs of big problems: heart attack, brain, lungs, etc. Nothing, so they kept me overnight for observation. Again, nothing showed up, so they discharged me. But for the next month I wore a heart monitor.

Mystery

It showed nothing, either. So my primary care physician referred me for a series of medical tests: echocardiogram, MRI, MRA (arteries), sonogram of my carotid arteries, and an EEG with a neurologist to rule out a seizure disorder. I had a new overnight sleep study, which indicated I needed a new, stronger C-Pap machine.  Although any one of those tests could have shown an abnormality, to account for my spells, except for the sleep test, all results showed normal. Yet, because of these continuing spells (one morning I had 11, including one in my doctor’s office!), I couldn’t drive. My wife willingly drove me to my responsibilities, especially weekly counseling others at Good Samaritan Ministries in Beaverton, OR, along with keeping up her duties. She needed to keep me (and others) safe.

Answer, Finally

On June 1, 2017, I met with a cardiologist. The cardiologist diagnosed my spells as “pre-syncope.” Because of the danger of driving with my condition, I resigned myself to never driving again. The doctor had other patients who had to give up driving. He asked if I would wear a heart monitor again. Although a minor inconvenience, I agreed. Finally, to my relief, I had some of my “spells,” feeling I would faint, pass out. A few days later, he called. “Your heart is stopping up to five seconds,” he said.  “I’m scheduling you for a pacemaker next week.” So, finally, after multiple medical tests, we found the answer.

On June 28, I had an amazing device installed under the skin of the front of my left shoulder. Two separate leads go from there into the right atrium and the right ventricle. The system is monitored by “Merlin” which sits by my bedside, enabling my cardiologist  to download data on my heart function at any time, so I need see him only once a year for a check-up.

“How Do You Feel?”

“How do you feel?” people ask me. “No different,” I say. The pacemaker, as you may know, functions only when the heart stops, then, when the heart is going smoothly, it stops. That saves battery life. An average battery lasts 5-6 years, although the St. Jude Medical technician (maker of the device) told me the next morning after my post-op overnight hospital stay that, with my heart function that night, the battery could last 12 years. The cardiologist has also diagnosed me with atrial fibirullation (a-fib), where the heart chamber flutters rather than pumps. That means danger of a clot, which can lead to stroke.

I’m driving again, writing, speaking, and preaching. A happy ending?

The Opening Shot

“In your 70’s,” my 80+ year-old cousin wisely told me, “little things go wrong. In your 80’s, big things do.”  He knew. A lot of “little things” were ruled out, yet what I call ‘the opening shot of old age’ just fired across my bow. I’m back to functioning normally, teaching, preaching, and giving workshops on recovery from tragedy, sharing my book Tragedy Transformed: How Job’s Recovery Can Provide Hope For Yours. I hope to continue at least several more years sharing what God has given me. But I’m wiser to the ways of nature now, having just received a shot across my bow.

What stage of the life-cycle are you in? How have you experienced signs of old age? What will you do with the knowledge that your life is declining?

[Source: Picture: SpiritualCleansing.org]

Posted in Death and Dying | Leave a comment

Watch for Gordon’s new post next Friday

Posted in Holidays | Leave a comment

What Opioid Crisis? III Kids & Teens

Teens_Mix_Prescription_Opioids_with_Other_Substances___FlickrAccording to a recent study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, the yearly rate of poisoning due to opioid overdoses among teens and children from 1997 to 2012  increased 165%. The opioid epidemic has stirred the concern of Washington politicians, including presidential candidate Trump campaigning in New Hampshire. But before leaving office, however, President Barack Obama, also stated, “When you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, costs to communities, but most importantly, cost to families from this epidemic of opioids abuse, it has to be something that is right up there at the top of our radar screen.” Obama spoke to the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, GA in March 2016. “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem,” he said.

Statistics: Hospital Poisonings of Teens and Children

Children 1-4 years increased 205%.                                                                                           Teens 15-19 years increased   176%                                                                                                         Teens 15-19 years heroin poisonings increased 161%                                                             Teens 15-19 years methadone poisoning increased 950%

The problem is big enough for adults, but for teens and children? Accidental overdoses of painkillers accounted for most poisonings among children younger than 10, according to Julie Gaither, the study’s lead researcher, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. She warned of young children “eating them like candy.” Although accidental overdoses accounted for most poisonings, teens also used these drugs to attempt suicide. In the habit of using other types of drugs to get high, teens use opioids in the same way (see graphic above). “This is largely seen as an adolescent problem or an adult problem,” said Sharon Levy of Boston Children’s Hospital. “But this paper really highlights that this really knows no age boundaries.”

Solutions: Prevention, Early Intervention, Medications, Complimentary Strategies

In my reading, here are important solutions experts have offered as a way of dealing with the opioid crisis: comprehensive strategies to target opioid storage, packaging, and misuse.  Target groups at risk for substance abuse and focus on improving family bonds and peer-resistance skills. Physician education on appropriate opioid prescribing, prescription monitoring programs, and campaigns to advise parents of teens to lock up prescription opioid medications and to dispose of old pills. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has endorsed numerous evidence-based programs shown to delay teen substance use and to protect youth into adulthood. The Strengthening Families Program, a skills training intervention for teens and parents, is one such program. This step will require states to invest money to begin.

Boston pediatricians Hagland and Bailey recommend intervention when teens first show indications of addiction. This could help avoid a lifetime of harm. Only one in 12 youth who need treatment for addiction, however, receive it. The reasons: treatment facilities are limited, few pediatricians are trained to treat addiction, and coverage by insurance carriers is also limited. As a nation, the docs say we should expand access and reduce barriers to addiction care for teens. Even when teens find treatment, however, many programs treat them as part of adult programs. Providers, however, should consider the unique developmental needs of youth. Traditional, sometimes punitive, rules of many treatment programs can drive young people away. As a result, youth are only one-third as likely as older persons to remain in treatment.

The doctors also state that effective treatment for teens should incorporate evidence based medications:  buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that they be offered to youth, only 2 percent of teens in treatment receive one, compared to 26 percent of adults. As federal and state agencies work to expand access to addiction treatment, they should dedicate funding to programs to train providers on best practices to care for addicted teens. Finally, many young people’s caregivers are excluded from the recovery process. But enlisting family support offers a unique opportunity for treatment programs to foster long-term recovery. The Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and other similar agencies have  invested in family-centered treatment programs. Other services should follow their lead.

What information in this blog surprised you? How have you been affected by opiate addiction in your family, in your life? What steps have you taken to get help for others, for yourself? How have the spiritual needs of the addicted person been met?

[Sources: Graphic: Flikr.com  Gaither, et. al., National Trends in Hospitalizations for Opioid Poisonings Among Children And Adolescents, 1997 to 2017, Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, 2016, 170 (12), 1195-1201. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-pressonce/2016/03/29/fact-sheet-obama-administrationannounces-additional-actions-address http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-opioidoverdoses-rising-among-kids-health-1109-20161031-story.html  http://www.npr.org/sections/healthshots2016/10/31/500091889/more-children-are-beingpoisoned-by-prescription-opoioids  Hung En-Sun, et. al., Nonmedical use of prescription opioids among teenagers in the United States: Trends and correlates, Journal of Adolescent Health, 37 (2005), 44-52. Hagland, Scott, and Sarah Bailey, The Opioid Epidemic Needs a Strategy For Teens, Common Health, WBUR, August 29, 2017.]

Posted in Recovery | Leave a comment

What Opioid Crisis? II: Fentanyl

fentanyl_overdose_-_Google_SearchAfter posting my last blog (What Opioid Crisis? 9/1/17) about the skyrocketing deaths from overdoses of heroin, I came across new information, this time on the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Although heroin overdoses continue to present a serious health problem, annually killing an estimated 15,400 Americans, overdoses from all drugs now rank #1 as the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The Centers for Disease Control in a preliminary calculation reported  that deaths by drug overdoses increased over 22 percent in 2016. They killed over 64,000 of our citizens. The Drug Enforcement Agency issued new guidance to police departments across the country in June on how to handle heroin.

Unintended Consequences

When the government cracked down on doctors overprescribing pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percoset, the number of deaths by drug overdoses leveled off.  Some people, however, already addicted, sought more potent drugs, such as heroin. That process has now accelerated again so that overdoses by fentanyl, more powerful even than heroin, increased. Fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, represents a class of synthetic drugs helping to balloon our American drug epidemic. In 2016, it overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its analogs, claimed roughly 20,100 lives in 2016, up from 9,945 in 2015.  Fentanyl is also fueling increased cocaine deaths as dealers, to make more money and provide a better high, cut the fatal painkiller into their cocaine supplies. Now, addicts have begun using opioids like the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil that are even stronger than fentanyl.

Trend

The numbers, unfortunately, trend upward. Driven primarily by fentanyl, deaths from overdoses rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016. The STAT Analysis Corporation (STAT), a full-service environmental and industrial hygiene laboratory in Chicago, Il, predicts the annual death toll from opioids will rise roughly by another 35 percent  between 2015 and 2027. Their research predicts that up to 500,000 people could die from opioids over the next decade.

The ease with which a person can become addicted and the difficulty of treatment, including cost, makes this a problem almost impossible to solve. As a nation, we’re out of control. Using illegal drugs to control physical or emotional pain, to escape from reality, or to keep up with the overbearing pressures of work, as do countless employees in Wall Street firms and in the West Coast tech industry, continues to create addicts faster than we can rehab them. If, that is, anyone wants rehab. The costs of obtaining such drugs, not only financial, but the secrecy, shame, and fear of discovery, add to the weakening of our ethical, moral, and spiritual fiber. Profits accrue to murderous drug cartels.

How do you see this problem? How have drugs affected you or your family? What suggestions would you make to address the issue?

[Sources: Picture: en.wickipedia.org Content: http://dailycaller.com/author/stevebirr-2/ https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/02/upshot/fentanyl-drug-overdosedeaths.html                                                             http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/06/deputy-ag-horrifying-surge-in-drug-deathscrippling-law enforcement/                     https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/7/27/16049840/fentanyl-opioid-epidemic-worse                                                               http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/27/study-predicts-painkillers-will-kill-half-amillion-americans-over-the-nextdecade/  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/health_policy/monthly-drug-overdose-deathestimates.pdf  ]

 

 

Posted in Death and Dying | Leave a comment