Sunday, April 28, 2013

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy and Squid Pots

So I guess getting scared to death is an actual thing. There's a statistic for it, both global and nationwide but I didn't feel like looking it up as I am battling a cold, and usually statistics are some pretty cooked up bullshit anyway.

But it happens.

They call it Taktsubo Cardiomyopathy, or sometimes Transient Apical Ballooning Syndrome, on account of how the human heart takes on a pretty messed up deformation after the killer adrenaline dump. Here's a side by side of how your heart looks when it swells up to the point of bursting, as opposed to how a normal ticker is supposed to look:

Fear isn't the only emotion that can cause the human heart to get all swollen and bursty-like, sometimes TC can be caused by a sudden onslaught of depression and stress. There was a huge spike of TC-related deaths after 9/11, and cases of it are common in old married couples where one of them kicks the bucket all of a sudden and then the other one pops off a few months, or sometimes weeks later.

It's sometimes called "Broken Heart Syndrome", although having typed that I suddenly worry that I've now given some serious ammunition to any angry spurned lover who decides that not only is it okay to drunk dial their ex at 3 o'clock in the morning but it's absolutely imperative to do so because This is a life-threatening situation. That's not how it works, okay? (DO YOU HEAR ME SHEILA, GET OVER IT! THAT WAS SUMMER CAMP AND WE'RE BOTH ALMOST 40!)

Sorry, that was a sidebar for my next column, "Why I'm no longer on Facebook" followed by "Why Photoshop can be an absolute mothefucker sometimes".

Anyway, the term Takotsubo Syndrome actually comes from the ancient Japanese practice of trapping octopuses octopeese octopi squids in ceramic pots and then hauling them onshore. Here's a shot of the pots:

This actually spawned a semi-hilarious awareness campaign about TC and the whole stress-management-to-avoid-having-a-heart-attack thing called the "Keep Your Octopus in its Pot" campaign.

Of course this image - which was quite popular for a brief period in Asian Hospitals - of an angry cephalopod attacking vital internal organs led some folks to believe that there was some sort of horrendous octopus uprising, causing widespread panic and another temporary spike in the very disease that Doctors were trying to prevent.

The 2nd campaign poster was a little more vague, but (in my opinion) somewhat more menacing ...

I often wonder about the likelihood that a westerner will come across one of these pots washed onshore, maybe like somewhere in Hawaii or something. I picture an older guy, a tourist from the Midwest in his late 50's who has no idea what it could be. He wanders across the sand and spots it rolling up out of the surf.

"Ho! A souvenir," he thinks, and then hurries up to grab it before the waves snatch his newfound treasure away from him. As he grips the rim of the pot, an errant tentacle lashes him by the wrist and the next thing he knows he's wrestling with a half-mad octopus desparate to escape its imprisonment.


Naturally this sort of madness would cause his heart to explode in sheer terror, causing the first ever case of a Takotsubo actually causing a Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy.

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