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Heart on a Canvas: Patient Gifts Artwork to Cardiologists

Following a Years-Long Journey to Identify Her Symptoms, Grateful Patient Jane Ziebart Donated Her Paintings to Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center Physicians Who Gave Her a Diagnosis

Jane Ziebart tears up as she describes her health journey.

For years, she experienced chest pain so intense, she thought she’d pass out. Yet every physician she went to failed to diagnose her symptoms, with some even suggesting that the acute angina she was experiencing was all in her head.

“When you’re treated poorly for a long time and then suddenly someone says, ‘No, it's not in your head, you actually have a heart condition,’ it changes your life,” Ziebart said.  

Those life-changing voices belonged to Cedars-Sinai’s C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute, and Janet Wei, MD, associate medical director of Cedars-Sinai’s Biomedical Imaging Research Institute—both experts in women’s heart disease.

Bairey Merz and Wei identified Ziebart’s condition as coronary microvascular dysfunction. Defined as dysfunction of blood vessels so microscopic that they are invisible to the naked eye, coronary microvascular dysfunction can decrease blood supply to the heart, which can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.Jane Ziebart (right) with her physician Janet Wei, MD. Photo courtesy of Jane Ziebart.

“In the past, when women, in particular, complained of chest pain but had angiograms showing no blockages in the large arteries, their symptoms would be dismissed,” Wei said. “The reality is, women are more likely than men to have heart disease due to coronary microvascular dysfunction.”

Equipped with an accurate diagnosis, Ziebart started on her road to recovery—and found a unique way to express her gratitude.

Formerly a professional photographer, Ziebart has always had a knack for the creative. She’s dabbled in painting as a hobby over the years and, this time, decided to express her gratitude on canvas. What she calls “intuitive” brush strokes morphed into images that resemble the human heart.

Ziebart decided to give the artwork to the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.

“Jane’s gift is special because of the creativity expressed in her art, in gratitude to the women’s heart center for the care she has received,” said Bairey Merz, the Irwin and Sheila Allen Chair in Women’s Heart Research.

Wei agreed. “Everyone experiences chest discomfort in a different way,” Wei said. “Through these beautiful paintings, I could almost visualize what Jane was experiencing during an angina episode—in the artwork, the little vessels in her heart look as though they’re spreading across the canvas.”

Earlier this year, Ziebart moved back to her native Minnesota. Though she is happy to start a new direction in her life’s journey, she still looks back gratefully on her time under the care of Bairey Merz and Wei. She says she still feels the impact of their dedication, even as she continues treatment in Minnesota, because her new cardiologist came recommended by Bairey Merz.  

“I want to thank Dr. Wei and Dr. Bairey Merz from the bottom of my heart,” Ziebart said. “For the longest time, I was floating around in an ocean without a diagnosis, and it felt like they didn't simply throw me a lifeline. They pulled me onto a lifeboat and for that, I’m forever grateful.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom: What is MINOCA? A Type of Heart Attack Mostly Affecting Women