Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Happy to be alive!

September 15, 2016

I was 47 years old on Nov. 14, 2015, a married mom of 2 teenage boys, and never had any health issues of any kind. I don’t remember anything that happened for that entire day leading up to the event, but here’s what my husband tells me. It was a normal Saturday of household chores and errands, and the kids were off doing things with their friends that evening, so my husband and I went to dinner. I went to bed around 10pm and my husband left for a brief time to pick up our younger son.

Shortly after he got home, I apparently woke up feeling very sick and with chest pain. I vomited and complained of severe chest pain. My husband wanted to call 911 but I told him not to because I was sure I’d be ok. But he insisted on taking me to the ER. He called our older son to come home right away, and left me resting upstairs while he readied some items to take with us to the ER. A few minutes later when our older son got home, he sent both the boys upstairs to get me so he could take me to the ER. The boys found me unconscious on the floor, apparently making strange gasping noises and twitching as if I were having a seizure (which was not the case).

At that point my husband called 911 and was instructed to begin CPR immediately. He performed CPR on me until the paramedics arrived, and then they took over. When they hooked me up to their monitor, I was flat-lined. They pushed various meds into my veins, and defibrillated me 3 times before they got my heart going again. They intubated me, and took me to the hospital. Thankfully, our local hospital had a new cath lab, so I only had to be transported about 10 minutes from our home. They determined that I had SCAD of the lower anterior descending artery (aka the “widow maker”). Survival rates for this type of heart attack outside the hospital are very low.

I was put into a medically induced coma for a couple days and they brought my body temperature down to reduce brain function and allow the healing to begin (therapeutic hypothermia treatment). No one knew whether or not I would have brain damage when I woke up. Amazingly, other than being a bit more forgetful than before the event, I woke up basically the same as I was before the heart attack. I never had any surgery or stints – my artery healed on its own! A cat scan a couple months later showed that everything looks completely normal. I have no physical restrictions at all. I do take Metroprolol, Clopidogrel, Pravastatin, Magnesium, and Aspirin every day, at least for the first year.

I still don’t remember the day I had my heart attack, and things are pretty fuzzy after I woke up in the hospital. But other than that, my memory has improved and is about 90-95% of what it was before the heart attack. And physically, I’m 100%. I work full time as the VP & Controller of a water utility, and I am able to handle the job with no issues. I’m grateful to my husband for staying calm and being able to perform CPR on me, even though his last training for CPR was years before. I’m very lucky to be here!