A Texas woman mourning the death of her dog was diagnosed with so-called broken heart syndrome, doctors have revealed.
Devastated mother Joanie Simpson suffered severe chest pains and was airlifted to hospital shortly after her beloved Yorkshire terrier died as a result of congestive heart failure.
The 62-year-old’s doctors initially believed she had suffered a heart attack, but more tests revealed a condition known as takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome.
She “presented to the emergency department with acute onset of severe chest pain,” doctors said. “She reported multiple recent stressors, including the death of her dog.”
The case study on the condition, which typically occurs in postmenopausal women and may be preceded by a stressful or emotional event, has just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“I was close to inconsolable,” Ms Simpson recalled in an interview with The Washington Post. “I took it really, really hard.
“The kids were grown and out of the house, so she was our little girl.”
She said her dog’s death was a “horrendous” thing to witness, explaining: “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.”
Ms Simpson admits she takes “things to heart more than a lot of people” and the diagnosis “made complete sense”.
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“It is heartbreaking. It is traumatic. It is all of the above,” she added. “But you know what? They give me so much love and companionship that I’ll do it again. I will continue to have pets. That’s not going to stop me.”
The NHS says “people who sustain significant emotional or physical stress” can temporarily suffer from broken heart syndrome.
They add: “The heart muscle becomes suddenly weakened or 'stunned', causing the left ventricle to change shape. It may be caused by a surge of hormones, particularly adrenaline, during this period of stress.”
Ms Simpson showed no symptoms of the condition after returning to the hospital for a check-up 12 months later.