Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Damn Chickens!

August 25, 2018

About 7 years ago I was in the woods splitting wood when all of a sudden I felt like i had just run 10 miles in the cold air. Suddenly my arms and chest began to ache and I could barely move my feet. I struggled out of the woods to my car, drove home and got in bed. After about an hour I felt fine… The next day I told an EMT friend what had happened. He snuck me onto the ambulance and put me on an EKG. All looked fine, but he told me if it happened again to call 911. Two days later I was reaching to pick up a box and suddenly I felt it again. The same ache and tiredness flowing over me. I was 34 years old. 34 year old healthy men don’t have heart problems – so i drove myself to the local emergency clinic down the street. I was immediately put on an EKG and then very quickly loaded into an ambulance and rushed to the local hospital with an irregular EKG output. By the time I got to the hospital my symptoms were completely gone. Once there, EKG readings were normal, heart Xray was normal. I don’t even know if they took and ran blood tests to be honest. The young ER doc came in and told me I had no heart damage and it was probably just heartburn. I couldn’t believe heartburn could do what I was experiencing, but hearing my heart was fine, I was discharged and went home without a care in the world.
Until last week.
I had been resting on the couch – a few oz of irish wisky in after a stressful, emotional week of life. I suddenly realized that I forgot to put the chickens in for the night. From my groggy state I walked a few hundred feet to discover they had no feed. I quickly went and hoisted a 50# bag of grain onto my shoulder like superman and dropped it into their grain bin. I tore it open and grabbed the scoop to feed them. After closing them in I walked back to the house. Just as I got to the door I got a feeling that I’d had only twice before in my life – and I knew something wasn’t right. I came in with my chest and arms aching, suddenly sweating for no apparent reason. I wasn’t sure what to do. Last time it was “just heartburn” but it just didn’t seem right. I had my son bring me to the ER. By the time I got there I felt mostly OK. They drew blood, took EKG, X-rays, etc. XRays were fine, EKG was fine. But the blood test came back showing that I had a troponin level of .2. They took more blood. Now the troponin level was rising. They informed me that i was having a heart attack.

I was sent to another hospital that had the necessary equipment and resources to perform a cath lab and sonograph. After being there for the entire weekend waiting for these tests with a constant heparin drip, i felt relatively fine. my blood was drawn many, many times. Finally on Tuesday morning, 3 and half days after the episode, it was determined that i had experienced a SCAD. I was in a way happy to know that I didn’t have clogged arteries, or was in any way “unhealthy,” but in a way I was very concerned knowing that this had happened to me now three times, and the first two times were not diagnosed as SCAD events.

Now, at age 41 I wonder what my life will be like. I’ve always been an active person not able to stand still or sit down for long. I’m healthy, energetic, alive. I play in a baseball league all summer for 9 innings exerting myself under the hot sun. I have children I coach in little league and soccer. I have a home that needs me to keep doing projects on it. And now I have no confidence that I can do any of these things without the risk of another SCAD event. I do have some reassurance that the three episodes I already experienced didn’t damage my heart in any way – but what about the next time? And what caused this to happen to me so long after the first two times? Was it something I did – was it the ‘perfect storm’ of life that caused it, or is it completely random and I have absolutely no control over it?

I am now ready to embark on cardiac rehab and hope that I find someone there that even understands this diagnosis – in the cardiac ward of a very highly recognized cardiac hospital 3 of the 4 nurses that cared for me didn’t even know, or had never heard of SCAD before that day.