Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

“Heart Attack” — No Way!

August 31, 2013

November 29, 2011, the day my life changed forever. I will never forget that day. I had not been feeling well all summer and into fall. I was having numerous health issues that required stays in the hospital. I had my gallbladder removed, then varicose veins removed, then pulmonary embolism, and a week before Thanksgiving, a Pacemaker implanted. Thanksgiving of 2011 was a very special day for me, I was surrounded by my wonderful loving family, which included my three nephews who are my heart and soul. I was so happy, but for some reason I also felt a real sense of doom, like something was going to happen, and I even thought that I might die. Little did I know that within a week I would suffer a Heart Attack caused by SCAD.

On that fateful day I woke up with terrible heartburn, or so I thought. I had suffered for years with it so I thought nothing of it and starting popping Tums, one after the other with no relief in sight. I called one of my friends and she came over, as soon as I opened the door, she looked at me and said I needed to go to the hospital right away that I looked like a ghost. I just shaked it off and said lets have a day of doing nothing but watching TV. But I could not get rid of the burning sensation in my chest and back, then I had pain in my jaw, both arms, shoulder, pale, sweating, clamey and I started to throw up. I started to think that maybe I was having a heart attack, so I decided to call my cardiologist and the after describing my symptoms to the nurse, her advice was for me to take my blood pressure and let her know what it was, well I do not remember the exact numbers, I know it was very high. The nurse told me to take another BP pill and just relax for the rest of the day. I said OK and we watched TV, by then I started to feel a little better. My friend left due to the fact that I was very tired and just wanted to go to bed. I went right to sleep and when I woke up the next morning, all I could hear was my lungs making a terrible wheezing sound and I was so out of breath. My friend came and got me and toke me to the ER. They rushed me into a room and started working on me, drawing blood and checking vitals. The cardiologist who was also a family friend came in and ordered an ECHO STAT. The echo showed a grey area and when the blood tests for my cardiac enzymes were very high he was then able to tell me that I had a heart attack.

I was scheduled for a cath the following morning but due to my high INR I had to wait until the next morning. I had gone into congestive heart failure due to the fact that I did not come into the hospital when I was having the heart attack. I had the cath and it was confirmed that I did have a SCAD episode. The protocol for treatment was no stent and to use heparin treatment for 7 days. My cardiologist told me that if I had waited any longer to come to the ER I would have died and I also sustained some minor heart damage which of course is permanent. The congestive heart failure was cured but I am still left with a feeling of guilt. I keep asking myself why did I not go to the ER when I was having the symptoms, they were “textbook” heart attack symptoms. I guess I thought that the nurse knew best and I had already been to the ER two times before for chest pains and they told me it was impossible for me to have a heart attack, I was too young and I was a woman. I should have listened to my inner voice but blaming myself or the doctors was not going to make things better. I now try to advocate the importance of listening to your body and not to dismiss symptoms that could cost you our life, especially women.