Debbie Reynolds, 84, died just one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher. Reynolds and Fisher had a close relationship in recent years. This devastating news is a reminder of what pain and grief can do to the body.
Reynolds was reported to have suffered from a number of health problems in the past. Though the official cause of her death has not yet been confirmed, doctors consider that these factors may have contributed to her death.
According to many, the Oscar-nominated performer died of a broken heart. "She wanted to be with Carrie," said Todd Fisher, her son.
"Broken heart syndrome," or stress-induced cardiomyopathy is a well-documented medical condition. Reported cases are caused by a difficult emotional episode such as public speaking, birthday party surprise, or death of a loved one. More common documented cases involve one spouse immediately dying after the other.
Dr. Ilan Wittstein, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine explains that in a "broken heart syndrome", a portion of the muscle of the heart suddenly weakens. The heart ceases pumping, hence becoming inefficient. Dr. Wittstein confirms that the condition is usually treatable and not fatal.
"Grief is so complicated because there's physiology, there's self-care and then there are a lot of unknowns," said Dr. Sharonne Hayes, professor of medicine and cardiovascular diseases at the Mayo Clinic. "Medicine doesn't entirely understand how grief and hope affect people's life," she added.
In previous interviews, Carrie Fisher talked about her mother's medical conditions, "It's a lot of times terrifying, but watching my mother, who's incredibly resilient, coping with certain health issues that she's had."
Fisher further talked about her mother's "spinal issue" and how she "recovered amazingly."
Fisher, 60, died due to a heart attack on her way to Los Angeles from London. The following day, Reynolds was hospitalized.