Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Active 47 survived SCAD

October 15, 2015

It was a normal Monday night as I picked up my daughter at the train station which is 8 blocks away from home, about a 5-7 minute drive. As I drove there, by the third block, I felt a tickle in my throat, like I had to cough up a hair or phlegm ball, but I wasn’t sick. By the fourth block my breathing got abnormal, and I was experiencing shortness of breath and pressure in my chest. I immediately thought to myself, “What’s happening to me, should I drive to the ER?”, but quickly talked myself out of it. By the time, I reached the station, I had to pull over because it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, my arms were numb, and I couldn’t move. Thank God, I have Bluetooth, so I dialed 911 and talked to my car. The ambulance arrived immediately and they gave me oxygen and did an EKG on me. The EMTs said I was NOT having a heart attack, and that it could have been food poisoning, or heart burn, or indigestion. I did eat a taco with a ton of jalapeños, so that might be true, but I’ve had heart burn before and it didn’t feel like that! So when the driver asked me if I still wanted to go to the hospital to get checked, I said yes.

Arrived to the ER and they ran tests on me. By this time, I felt fine and back to normal. But, my blood work was abnormal, showing signs of Troponin. Apparently, this is not good and they wanted to admit me, but they had no beds, so I spent the night in ER. The next morning, Tuesday, the Cardiologist ordered me an angiogram due to my family history, and I was transferred to another facility to get the test. By midafternoon, I had a perfect angiogram, no blockages and no signs of abnormalities, “People would kill to have my arteries!” Great, so I asked what happened to me then? They thought that I might have “Broken Heart Syndrome” since I was going through a divorce, but I can return to my normal activities. Never heard of it, but I did read about it later, and all I heard was “go back to normal activities.”

So I forgot to mention, I was fairly active before this incident. With the exception of my weight, I had no high blood, and high cholesterol. I taught dance class twice a week for over a decade, did Yoga, Zumba, Cycle, U-jam, Turbo-kick, and Power pump classes regularly because I have a history of Diabetes and Stroke in my family. If I didn’t stay active, I’ve always been big boned and thick and I know I would just blow up. So that Saturday morning, I went to dance class.
I danced about an hour to two hours of dancing and then started to feel weird. I couldn’t catch my breath. I though it was from the heat since we were practicing outside in a park under the sun. I drank water, but I still felt winded. No one knew what happened to me on Monday, so when my girlfriend offered to watch my grandson so I can get checked, I said yes. Thank God! She followed me to the ER. Upon arrival I was rushed to the nearest CATH lab and they worked on me immediately as I was having a severe heart attack.

During my first procedure, I felt, heard and saw everything consciously for at least two hours of the time they worked on me. I didn’t get much numbing medicine as they needed to work quickly. I heard the doctor’s frustration as my artery kept dissecting as he worked on me and inflated the balloons. The room slowly got chaotic, and when I returned that team was able to stabilize me enough to get me transferred to another facility that handle only heart patients. God gave me a second chance and I owe my life to this team. At this point, I had two stents in me and a balloon pump keeping me alive.

The next facility decided I had enough trauma for the day and decided to go back in the next day. I appreciated the Cardiologist transparency with me after the ordeal. He was very up front and admitted he didn’t know what to do that night. My case was very rare, so much that they used my case at their convention which I was told on my follow up appt. He is an interventionist, a “plumber” they call, and even though he does over a 1000 of these procedures a year, I will probably be the only case he will ever see in his career. During my procedure, he Skyped with his constituents because it was Sunday and he was the only one in. I was thinking, OMG, couldn’t you have just knocked me out…so I don’t have to hear everything. Open heart was not an option, but they came to an agreement that he fix me now as the tear was up to my left main and it was flapping. So they put a third stent in, which was a full titanium tube.

Today, I’m 6 months into recovery, and I thank God, I’m still here to do his plan. I can’t do high impact exercise anymore, at least for the first year, but I do get my 10K steps in daily. I take my meds as preventative, and eat better. I even invested in cleaner cookware for my family and truly try to live life. Now, I do feel slight chest pain when I exercise initially, but as I continue to exercise, it subsides. I carry nitros with me at all times. I am so thankful for this website to see that I am not alone and there are others like me.