Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

I felt like the headliner in a freakshow while in the hospital.

March 30, 2016

My name is Helen. I am now 52 years old. There was 2 times that I did not think I would make it this far.
In September of 2006 I got up to get ready for work like any other day. I was meeting a friend for brunch before heading to work.( I work in a pharmacy)
I made my coffee and had a couple donut holes to hold me over. I started having what I though was some heartburn/acid reflux. So I took some tums and a zanax. I headed out to meet friend. The medicine was not working. A week previously while at a friends wedding reception I had the same problem. I thought it was the meatballs. ( have you ever experienced a very painful burning in your upper esophagus when you take a big drink of a cola?)

When I met my friend it was getting very uncomfortable. I chewed a few more tums. He headed to his job. I would use the restroom and ended up vomiting profusely for about 10 minutes. I thought maybe that would fix the problem. I’m headed to my job.. the pain was getting very sharp and it was a burning tearing sensation. I was sitting on the floor and my pharmacist said maybe I should call my doctor . I called my doctor’s office and they told me to come in. By the time I drove myself to my doctor’s office 15-20 minutes away I was crawling on my hands and knees into the office. I felt like I was giving birth to alien like in the movie.

And applied to EKG next thing I know the PA is telling me “honey you’re having a heart attack”. I just stared at him like he was crazy. Next thing I know I’m in the hospital emergency room staff at poking and poking and prodding at me. Take me down to the cath lab. At this point out. They had contacted my mother she was down there then she started saying things that upset me so they sent her away and had to give me Ativan to calm me down because I was freaking out about them putting the heart cath in my thigh and of course they don’t want me freaking out because then the blood pressure goes up and heart rate goes up.

So they knocked me out and I wake up to a doctor telling me that they were sending me to the Heart Center in Grand Rapids because they didn’t know what to do with me. I was very confused. Then he showed me the image and told me what was happening. So we go on another ambulance ride and all the chaos starts again at the BIG hospital. And down to the cath lab I go again. They told me I was extremely lucky if it would have been 15 to 30 minutes later I would be dead. The interior layer of the artery had torn, the middle was twisting and about to tear. If it would have torn it would have blown out the exterior I would of dropped dead.

I spent 7 days in the ICU unit at the Heart Center. All day long doctors, specialists, residents, students would parade in and out reading my charts and asking me a million questions. Apparently no one from West Michigan Heart had ever dealt with anybody who survived SCAD. ….(headliner in a circus freakshow)…On day 6 they took me back down to the cath lab and we’re going to decide whether to put a stent in. I woke up from my little nap and they told me THE DISECTION HAD HEALED ITSELF!!! Now they were really baffled.
Spend one more day in the hospital they sent me home with a ton of blood pressure meds and cholesterol meds even though I had no problems with that.I had quit smoking cold turkey while in the hospital so that was a good thing. I changed a lot of things is my life I lost about 60 pounds. And just continued on with my life.

Then in 2009 I met my second husband. And in December of 2010 he was diagnosed with stage 4 small cell lung cancer. I cut my hours back at work I took care of him took him to all his chemo and doctors appointments. I cleaned him up when he had bowel accidents and waited on him hand and foot. June of 2011 he passed away in my arms. Two weeks after he passed away I woke up one morning really bad pain in my chest again. And dummy me got up took a shower packed a little bag drove myself to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance. Walked into the ER said I’m having chest pain and of course they went crazy again. This is the same hospital that my husband had passed away in. The first EKG showed nothing but my blood work came back high so they took me down to their cath lab and sure enough right in the same exact spot my right coronary artery was tearing again. Three days in their Hospital and they sent me home with the same results.

After couple different specialists and a long personal history they determined my incidents we’re caused by years and years of pent-up Stress and Anxiety. My first marriage of 20 years was very bad and I spent most of it with my head stuck in the sand letting my ex emotionally abused me.

I’ve always been the type of person that always tries to take care of everything myself and never lets anybody help me. And never want to be a burden to anybody. So I keep everything to myself. They say stress can kill well it has tried to kill me two times.

About a year ago I had a really bad panic/anxiety attack at work. Ended up in the hospital where they did a bunch of tests it took more image pictures of the dissection site. There is scar tissue at the dissection sit.. I see a specialist about every 6 months do they take a look at it. I have tried to let people help me with things more but I’m still not very good with that. My current specialist wants me to see a shrink to deal with stress and anger management. I have infrequent pains in my chest. But if I ran to the hospital every time I felt a twinge I would have medical bills through the roof.
I know it will happen again. So I just keep plugging along.
( please excuse any mistakes I did this with voice text on my cell phone)