Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Emotional stress

September 6, 2019

My SCAD, almost a year ago (in a few weeks) was preceded by an extreme emotional event. Hours later, I had a feeling of indigestion, so I took two Tums. That feeling of indigestion only got worse and shortly thereafter, within another 3-4 minutes, I felt a burning sensation in my throat (like acid reflux) and some nausea. Within a few more minutes, it felt like someone was gripping my throat – like the muscles in my throat, in front and on the sides, were tightening, causing me to have difficulty breathing. Then, just two minutes later came pain in the jaws – like I was clenching my teeth with all my might (but I wasn’t), and my jaws felt tight and painful. It was at this point I thought I might be having a heart attack and took an aspirin and called 911. I immediately said to the 911 operator, “I think I’m having a heart attack” (it’s important to be this direct). As I was calling, I also started to feel pain down the inside of my left arm and felt clammy, all around.

During the first 10 to 15 minutes, even though I was in pain, and I found it difficult to walk around, I was light-headed, but conscious, and I was able to buzz the first responders into the building, unlock my door, tell every one of the dozen or so firemen, police, and paramedics that came into my tiny studio apartment to please close the door so my cats wouldn’t get out. I grabbed my cell phone, charger, and wallet and spoke to the paramedics while they did an EKG. (Point being, just because you can do these kinds of things doesn’t mean you aren’t having a heart attack!). They then confirmed that yes, I was having a heart attack – and I was carried down on a stretcher, put into the ambulance, given many sprays of nitroglycerin under my tongue (which gave me wicked awful migraines, as it opened up all my arteries), and I was brought swiftly to the ER with sirens and all.

I was met by at least a dozen waiting doctors and nurses all running around me and doing a whirlwind of things to me, like I was going to die at any moment (that probably scared me more than anything, because I then realized just how serious it really was). They then brought me into some kind of operating room, sedated me, and ran a catheter from my wrist into my heart, where they then diagnosed what was causing the heart attack (and where they would’ve done surgery – had they determined it was needed). In my case they decided that it was better to try to allow the artery to heal on its own, rather than putting a stent in.