Joanie Simpson's heart literally broke following the death of her beloved dog Meha

By Kelli Bender
October 24, 2017 02:10 PM

Losing your best friend hurts.

Joanie Simpson felt a pain so strong after losing her Yorkshire terrier Meha, that she went to the hospital, reports The Washington Post.

Her symptoms were an almost unbearable backache that woke her in the middle of the night and an equally agonizing sensation in her chest. Worried that Simpson was having a heart attack, her local hospital airlifted her to a hospital in Houston that was more equipped to deal with cardiac arrest.

Tests at Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-Texas Medical Center showed that the doctors’ predictions were wrong. Simpson wasn’t suffering a heart attack, she was diagnosed with takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a condition that has symptoms similar to a heart attack and one that is better know as “broken heart syndrome.”

The condition has this colloquial name because it often befalls those who have suffered through a devastating loss or equally emotional moment. Broken heart syndrome is believed to be caused by an increase in stress hormones which make an otherwise healthy heart start to spasm, sometimes fatally so.

For Simpson, that emotional moment was the death or her dog Meha.

Simpson’s 2016 diagnosis was recently featured in New England Journal of Medicine, as an example of what this condition looks like and that “broken heart syndrome” can have real and extremely harmful effects.

For animal lovers, Simpson’s suffering is an example of the grief many pet owners feel upon losing their best friend — a grief that, for many, is comparable to losing a human companion. Research reinforces these feelings, with one recent study from the Veterinary Record finding that it isn’t unusual for owners caring for severely ill pets to feel the stress and anxiety of “caregiver burden.”

Devoted to Meha like a mother to her child, Simpson was not surprised by her diagnosis. After watching her 9-year-old canine age and eventually fall ill, Simpson made the difficult decision to euthanize the dog she called her “little girl.” But when the day came to say goodbye to Meha, the Yorkie seemed healthy and alert, so Simpson decided to wait. Meha died the following day.

“It was such a horrendous thing to have to witness,” Simpson told the Post. “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.”

When the doctors asked what stressors in Simpson’s life might have caused the syndrome, she knew that while there were several, it was Meha’s death that broke her heart.

Now on her way to a full recovery, Simpson isn’t going to let the experience stop her from loving another animal. She plans to adopt a dog when she finds the right match, because while losing a furry friend may hurt, the love they give when they are alive is so worth it.