A Texas woman was diagnosed with “broken heart syndrome” after her beloved dog passed away, suffering the same sorts of symptoms that one experiences during a heart attack. Turns out the old saying has more than a little bit of truth to it, after all.
Joanie Simpson was in mourning for her dog, Meha, when she woke up to immense chest and back pain that immediately led her to believe she was having a heart attack, the New England Journal of Medicine noted in a case study. As it turned out, Simpson had actually suffered a literal broken heart, or Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
In addition to the chest and back pain, Simpson experienced shortness of breath, an elevated cardiogram (an indicator of a heart that is not working properly), and elevated cardiac enzymes (a measure doctors use to diagnose heart attacks). Unlike a heart attack, though, Simpson’s arteries were not clogged.
According to the case study, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy “typically occurs in postmenopausal women and may be preceded by a stressful or emotional event,” hence the “broken heart” nickname. The condition typically does not result in any lasting heart damage if treated properly.
Simpson, who is 62, recalled losing her best friend to the Washington Post, noting that Meha was her way of coping with empty nest syndrome.
“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” she said, adding that she was already struggling with other stressors. “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 has since gotten a new pet cat named Buster and does not plan to let losing Meha – or her brush with broken heart syndrome – stop her from loving animals.