In 2016, Joanie Simpson rushed to the emergency room for severe pain in her back and chest.
Doctors were prepared to treat the 62-year-old woman for a possible heart attack, but instead discovered the true source of her pain wasn’t blocked arteries.
As Fox News reports, Simpson was awakened by pain in her back that traveled to her chest. The Texas woman was airlifted from a Houston emergency room to Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute at the Texas Medical Center, also in Houston, where doctors dismissed the symptoms as a heart attack because Simpson’s arteries weren’t blocked.Screenshot/New England Journal of Medicine
Simpson was diagnosed with Takotsubo cardiomyopathy which is also known as “broken-heart syndrome.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, broken-heart syndrome is a temporary heart condition brought on by severe stress. The condition causes the heart to experience a temporary disruption of the normal pumping function and symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, such as chest pains and shortness of breath. Stressors causing the condition include the death of a loved one, physical illness, and surgery.
Other symptoms include an elevated cardiogram and cardiac enzymes, yet the condition is set apart from a heart attack due to the absence of clogged arteries, reports the New York Daily News.
Following her diagnosis, Simpson reportedly was not shocked to learn what had been responsible for her pain. Simpson told doctors about numerous stressors she had recently been experiencing, including the death of her beloved dog.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Simpson reportedly explained the death of her Yorkshire terrier, Meha, happened just days before she was admitted to the hospital.
“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness. When you’re already kind of upset about other things, it’s like a brick on a scale. I mean everything just weighs on you.”
Simpson was also suffering undue stress from her son’s upcoming back surgery, her son-in-law’s unemployment, and a property sale underway when her dog died. Meha had been diagnosed with congenital heart failure and died one day after Simpson postponed the decision to put her down.
Simpson reportedly compared her dog to having another child, revealing the extent of her grief to the Post:
“The kids were grown and out of the house, so she was our little girl.”
After two days in the hospital, Simpson was released. One year following her diagnosis, Simpson, who reportedly had hypertension and hyperthyroidism when she was admitted to the hospital, has not shown any symptoms of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. Fox News reports Simpson is required to take heart medication twice daily.
Simpson’s case was recently published by the The New England Journal of Medicine. Harvard Medical School reported that more than 90 percent of reported cases of “broken-heart syndrome” occur in women ages 58-75.