Losing a pet can be heartbreaking — literally.
A Texas woman suffered “broken heart syndrome” after the death of her dog, Meha.
According to the case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Joanie Simpson woke up experiencing chest and back pain she thought might be a heart attack. Doctors later realized that rather than a heart attack, Simpson was experiencing a literal broken heart, also called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy.
The condition mimics the symptoms of a heart attack: the chest and back pain Simpson experienced, shortness of breath, and an elevated cardiogram and cardiac enzymes. It doesn’t, however, include clogged arteries consistent with a heart attack.
Simpson, 62, told the Washington Post that Meha died of congestive heart failure not long before her hospital visit. Without her children in the house, she said, the dog had become like another daughter, and Meha’s death was not peaceful.
“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” Simpson said. This, combined with other family stressors pushed Simpson’s heart over the edge.
“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,” she said.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, the case study says, “typically occurs in postmenopausal women and may be preceded by a stressful or emotional event,” which is why it is called broken heart syndrome.
Harvard Heath Publishing says that more than 90% of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy is seen in women aged 58 to 75. Most people recover with no lasting heart damage.
After a year of medical treatment, Simpson’s physical pain has resolved. She even has a new pet, a cat named Buster, saying the emotional pain of losing Meha isn’t going to stop her from having more.
“They give so much love and companionship that I’ll do it again. I will continue to have pets.”