Most of us have had or will have a “broken heart.” It’s the way we describe intense emotional pain or suffering.

But, is it possible that sort of pain can really break your heart?

It turns out that it can. It's called broken heart syndrome. It can be triggered by any stress, but it's often caused by heartbreaking news.

Pam Kirkpatrick’s life was filled with the joy of having her grandson, Aiden, with her.       

“We were like parents, yet we still had that grandparent role,” recalls Pam.

“We were really, really close.”

For three and a half years, Aiden and his mom lived with his grandparents as his mom went to school. His dad moved away, and his parents later divorced.

A custody battle between the parents ensued. One day, Pam got a text message from her daughter that cut straight to her heart. 

“It said I know you all will hate me, but I can't do this anymore.  I'm letting Aiden go.  And I just was ‘what?’ And just devastated.  I was devastated.”

Soon, Pam was struggling to breathe.

“It felt like weights or somebody was sitting on my chest and that i had a pain in my back.”
Symptoms of a heart attack, yet at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, an angiogram showed it wasn't a heart attack.  There was no blockage in a heart artery.

Doctors then ordered an echocardiogram which revealed something else.   

“This whole part of the heart just balloons back out instead of contracting,” says Dr. Jeff Bissing. 

“And everything should contract like this.”

Dr. Bissing saw Pam’s heart was only half functioning. The lower part was barely squeezing.  

Dr. Bissing told Pam she had broken heart syndrome. 

“I'd never heard of it and thought you're kidding -- and he looked at me and said no,” says Pam, “and he said if somebody ever tells you that you can't die from a broken heart, they are mistaken.”