Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds: Broken Heart Syndrome

Allie Utley, Staff Writer

It’s been nearly two weeks since the sudden passing of movie actress Carrie Fisher. Fisher, remembered for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy, was on her way back to the United States from London after promoting her new book, “The Princess Diarist,” when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Filmmaker and Youtuber Anna Akana was reportedly sitting near Fisher on the flight.

“I don’t know how else to process this, but Carrie Fisher stopped breathing on the flight home. Hope she’s gonna be OK. So many thanks to the United flight crew who jumped into action, and the awesome doctor and nurse passengers who helped,” Akana tweeted. Fisher was then taken to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Finally, after five days of intensive medical care, she passed away on December 27, 2016.

Fisher’s mother, movie star Debbie Reynolds, tweeted hours later, “Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love, Carrie’s mother.”

Wikimedia Commons: Riccardo Ghilardi
Carrie Fisher
Allan Warren
Debbie Reynolds

Only one day after the death of her daughter, Reynolds was at her son’s home in Beverly Hills, California, to plan Fisher’s funeral. Suddenly, the 84 year old actress suffered from an intense stroke, and was rushed to the Cedars-Sinia Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she was pronounced dead. Todd Fisher, son of Debbie and brother of Carrie, released a statement saying that Reynolds told him she wanted “to be with Carrie.” Within fifteen minutes of telling him how she wanted to be with his sister, his mother had “faded out” and she how was “technically gone” within thirty minutes, only one day after her beloved daughter.

Now people are speculating just what could’ve caused such an extreme stroke, and speculating on the coincidence of dying only twenty-four hours after her daughter. Many believe Reynolds suffered from a severe case of broken heart-syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. This condition is when there is a temporary disruption of the heart’s normal pumping function. Broken heart syndrome is usually triggered in a stressful situation, such as a death of a family member or any other kind of physical separation. However, it can be brought on by other effects such as overwhelming shock, such as winning the lottery. Both men and women experience sudden and intense chest pains, somewhat like a heart attack.

“In broken heart syndrome, a part of your heart temporarily enlarges and doesn’t pump well, while the rest of your heart functions normally or with even more forceful contractions. Researchers are just starting to learn the causes, and how to diagnose and treat it,” The American Heart Association says. “Broken heart syndrome is usually treatable. Most people who experience it make a full recovery within weeks, and they’re at low risk for it happening again, although in rare cases in can be fatal.”

“We don’t necessarily understand why an emotional connection exists, but we know that the brain and the heart are closely connected. You can die of heartbreak, but exactly how that happens and exactly why, we don’t know,” cardiologist Harmony Reynolds of NYU Langone Medical Center told CBS this morning in an interview.

“Receiving all of your prayers and kind words over the past week has given me strength during a time I thought strength could not exist. There are no words to express how much I will miss my Abadaba and my one and only Momby (nicknames given to Lourd’s mother and grandmother). Your love and support means the world to me,” Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd posted on Instagram.