Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

My 20 Year Old Daughter Had a SCAD!

March 31, 2015

After two boys, we were pleasantly surprised when the doctor told us we were going to have a girl. She arrives quite early while my husband was out of the country. Despite being a preemie she was doing well.

Fast forward to college…we try to take a family vacation every year, which isn’t always easy with five schedules to coordinate. This year we decided to go skiing in Beaver Creek, CO.

My sons and I are together catching up while my husband and daughter are off to beginner snowboarding. We have no cell phone reception. I pass the front desk and they ask my name. They tell me that they have called for transport to the hospital. I can’t catch my breath! I get a hold of my husband; they are taking our daughter for a CAT scan. This is bad.

We run from car to the hospital entrance, my face must show my fear as the hospital staff brings us back to the trauma center. My husband walks to me crying, I have only seen him cry twice before. I start yelling “what?!?, what happened!!” Our son are holding me up, I have no legs.

They want me to go to my daughter’s bed, they warn me that she is and they gave her something so she can’t move. I cannot breath; I don’t want her to see my face, my fear. No one has told me what has happened to her. The doctors are in the hall with my husband telling him “this is a very sick little girl.”

I don’t have the courage to look at her face and see her fear, or have her see mine. I touch her toes, ask her to stay strong and fight, I peek up, her eyes are moving they find mine, I am lost. I squeeze her foot and stare at her eyes, so big, always so very big in that small face.

The winds have picked up, a transport comes for me and the boys, my husband is staying with our daughter, an ambulance to lower ground and then a helicopter, time is an issue. An hour later we stop at a football field where the helicopter can land and the ambulance can transfer her. My husband cannot go along there is a weight limit. We all drive silently, introspectively, wishing the car would go faster. They have called ahead; they are expecting her and us. My husband says in the ambulance she started to move her fingers and toes, this is good, encouraging, I guess. What takes the helicopter 12 minutes took us an hour plus. We are taken immediately through to a waiting room where they explain that she is in a cath lab. There is a blockage affecting her heart. I finally get it, she had a heart attack, at 20 years old, Oh My G-d!.

A nurse comes to us. She brings us to the cath lab; a team of three has been working with and on her. They are calming her. She is still intubated. She seems lucid and wants the tubing out but the color is back in her face and her eyes are expressive again, scared but searching us each out. The nurses are amazing; the whole staff is great.

The cardiologist comes to talk to us the next morning, he is sympathetic. I must look like a deer in headlights because he starts talking slower to me. They call what she had SCAD, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, they say it is the unicorn of heart events. I google it, bad idea. No rhyme or reason for it, I am scared shitless that it will reoccur. We watch her monitors like hawks, not leaving her room sleeping in chairs, on the floors wherever – waiting for the 24 – 48 hour danger period to pass.

A year and a week have passed, she is doing great, her doctor in Illinois is a G-d; he answers all our questions. He says that if not for the Beaver Creek ski patrol and the AED unit that shocked her three times we would have lost her.

We are all forever changed, none of us handling what happened the same, each processing differently. The ghosts my husband sees are different than mine; he is paralyzed by his feelings. Me, I equate myself to a functioning alcoholic, I keep moving through each day with the same niggling in the back of my brain that keeps me fearful. She wants to forget it happened and move on. The boys remember but don’t dwell, they are like Teflon. I am grateful to each deity I prayed to in the Aurora Hospital Chapel. She had an angel that day; I have proof, and truly believe.