This Texas woman’s heart literally broke when her dog died, doctors say

Soon after 62-year-old Joanie Simpson lost her beloved Yorkshire terrier Meha last year, she woke up with symptoms related to a heart attack.

» RELATED: Can you really die of a broken heart?

According to the Washington Post, doctors eventually diagnosed her with something else: takotsubo cardiomyopathy — or broken heart syndrome.

Simpson’s case is highlighted in a recent report published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to one of Simpson’s doctors, Abhishek Maiti, researchers considered her case not because of Meha’s role, but to show how “concise” and “elegant” of a snapshot it was of broken heart syndrome.

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Broken heart syndrome, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a temporary heart condition often caused by stress, such as loss of a loved one or serious physical injury. Symptoms often mimic a heart attack.

» RELATED: Stress can lead to ‘broken heart syndrome’

Unlike broken heart syndrome, a heart attack is typically caused by a blocked heart artery, whereas those with broken heart syndrome will experience some damaged vessels around the heart.

The condition is rarely fatal.

Simpson was discharged from Houston’s Memorial Hermann Heart and Vascular Institute after two days.

» RELATED: Five healthy ways to overcome loss and grief

Previous research has shown that pet owners really can show as much grief for their animals as they do for humans.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal “Veterinary Record” found the burden of caregivers affects people with sick pets, as many pet owners consider their pets to be family members.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

The dog was like a daughter to Simpson, whose kids were “grown and out of the house,” she said.

Around the time of Meha’s congestive heart failure last year, Simpson was also dealing with a range of stressors weighing on her, including her son’s back surgery and a complicated property sale, the Post reported.

Simpson told the Post she’s not ruling out adopting a new companion in the future.


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