The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MYOCARDITIS, which means inflammation of the heart muscle. Here are my thoughts on the subject of heart health, though not specifically inflammation of same.
In August of 1929 my husband’s grandmother visited her doctor, possibly because of a stomach problem and the pain it was giving her. While she was in the office she had an attack of acute indigestion and passed away right there. Interestingly enough, her husband had also died of “acute indigestion” some years earlier.
Back in the late 1800s John Holdeman, one of the leaders in our church, died of “acute intestinal distress.” If you’d examine death certificates, you’d find that a lot of people prior to 1940 died of some variety of “indigestion” which caused increasingly sharp pains in the chest, followed by collapse and death. Today the diagnosis would be “heart attack,” or myocardial infarction.
Conversely, my long-lost great-great Aunt Henrietta died in 1907 at the age of 55, and her death was attributed to chronic heart disease.
Prior to 1800 doctors had only their ears to tell them what a patient’s heart was doing, or not doing. The first stethoscope, invented by Frenchman Rene Laennec in 1816, primitive though it was, amplified the heartbeat. Subsequent improvements, including the two ear-bud version developed in 1851 by Irish doctor Arthur Leared, have given doctors a much better idea of what’s going on inside us.
This device enabled Gr-gr-Aunt Henrietta’s doctors to tell that her heart beat was not as it should be. But only the last seventy years, give or take, have tests been developed to record the flow of blood through the arteries and reveal that some are blocked.
What we call a heart attack today is a circulation problem. When blood flow to the heart is blocked because of a buildup in the arteries carry blood through the heart, feelings of pressure and chest pains result. Today’s patient stands a good chance of surviving because of CPR and bypass surgeries.
Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is when the heart suddenly stops beating for some reason. Some signal prompting the heart’s rhythm doesn’t get through – or an air bubble in the blood stream hits the heart and stops it. Medics call this an electrical problem, and bring out the shock paddles. If someone is nearby to do CPR, the heart can be restarted. A pacemakers is installed to kick in if the body’s signal gets lost in transit, and the person may live many more years.
Perhaps this article is long enough, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health issues of various sorts, and about fatalistic ideas like “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Someone recently commented about the COVID threat, that, “If I get it, I do. When my time is up, it’s up.” I’m sure she’s taken every possible precaution, and once you have, you can rest in “What will be, will be.” I also hear people offer comfort when they hear of a death by saying, “It was his/her time to go.” I don’t disagree, but as a general rule we’ll do everything we can to extend our time on this earth.
Circa 1900 people probably had a more fatalistic approach to health. “We’ll live as long as God/ Allah/ the gods/ fate allows us to live.” But amazing medical advances have given a lot of us longer lives than we would have had if we’d just let nature take its course. These days, if you’d go to a doctor with severe chest pains, and he’d say, “You may live or you may die. Whatever will be, will be,” you’d soon be looking for another doctor. One who’d do bypass surgery so your time wouldn’t be up quite so soon.