Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

My SCAD Story – Written by Julie

January 6, 2021

My SCAD Story

Event Date 11/14/2020
Written 1/5/2021

You never really know how much time you have until its gone. Since the time of my Dad’s sudden death over 20 years ago, I have tried to live each day as if it were my last. But sitting in my hospital bed after being moved from ICU, looking across the room at my 80’s gig outfit in a bag from my band’s previous performance, made me question, was I really living my most authentic life?! Singing in a cover band put me in an environment with people that I wouldn’t ordinarily have an opportunity to reach. I knew nobody, including me, was perfect, but I always tried my best to live by principle. Maybe this was another opportunity through the 80’s facade for my authentic voice to be heard.

For the past 6 months, the pandemic caused over 80% of my singing gigs to cancel. I had been following CDC recommendations, wearing masks, socially distancing and limiting my exposure to others in order to protect myself and family from this terrible virus. I was disgusted knowing there was a movement that didn’t recommend wearing masks to fight off the pandemic, and I made a point to steer clear of these nut jobs as much as possible. I had just found out the night before, one of my friends was in the hospital for COVID 19. I was not having anything to do with any non-believers of this deadly virus, if I could at all help it.

I was, however, looking forward to singing at the higher end upcoming party with the band as it was much better pay and more fun than my day job. I was pleased when we arrived. It was a big nice venue with enough room for the band to socially distance and wear masks. The caterers all wore masks and soundcheck went as normal. It was a big boomy room with high ceilings, and with my in-ear monitors, it was super loud. The theme of the event was cool. It was a birthday party for a 50 year old, and I just turned 50, so I was feeling the love.

For the past several years prior to my SCAD event, I was pretty healthy. I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia several years before and had some normal aging and troublesome back issues. I went to doctors often to make sure nothing else was wrong. I had been low on energy and had brain fog but this was my new normal that I was learning to accept. I was a big fan natural healing, and recently became a certified yoga instructor and practiced yoga daily. The doctors said my cardio health and overall overall was good.

Looking back, for years, I felt light headed many times while performing, but I had never passed out, until New Year’s Eve 2019. I was hosting karaoke in the lounge of one of the city’s biggest parties. I had been obsessed the past few days with perfecting this sad love song that I had been learning. I did a sound test upon arriving at gig and sang the song again. It sounded good, but I wanted to get more power behind my voice at the crescendo of song. About an hour into the show, the boss entered the room, and the room was full. It was time to perform my song. I got to that point of the song, took a deep breath, and thought to myself, oh God, I think I’m going to pass out, and I did. I passed out and into this odd dream state. I lost consciousness and had seizure activity for a few minutes but I did not lose my pulse. I woke up to this very handsome man, asking if I ever had seizures. It took a few moments until I realized where I was. I grabbed microphone, stood up, went to DJ booth, and played some fill music so the onsite EMT could check me out. They said it looked like I was dehydrated. I got something to eat and drink, DJed and sang the rest of the night. I later followed up with my PCP who acknowledged that the episode could have been from dehydration, incorrect breathing or knees locking during the song. There were no other issues identified until November 14, MY SECOND BIRTHDAY!

I had an excellent performance a couple weeks before at an outdoor venue and I was ready to rock and roll. It was time to put my 80’s character costume on. People still loved 80’s music and I was grateful. There was a time I wanted to do more originals and put the 80’s to rest, but I had the act down. It was fun and easy money. The band went into the green room to dress. I noticed when I entered, my band was not socially distanced and not wearing their masks. I went straight to the front door, opened it, and said “We need to let some air in here, because of COVID-19”. I was definitely hyper vigilant and aware of the threat of COVID-19. We were on a strict time schedule, and next thing I knew, it was time to head over to the event space.

We walked in, got our plates of food and started eating before the guests did. I noticed that many of the guests were not wearing masks.

The band started playing. I was quite distraught that hardly anyone except for the staff and band were wearing masks. After the third song, I decided to act. I put my mask on, walked through the crowd, grabbed a bottle of water, opened the doors to let fresh air in, and made my way back to the stage. I hoped that people understood my message loud and clear that wearing masks and practicing recommended COVID protocol was the cool thing to do.

Our band started on our 4th song, Wild Wild West. Towards the end of the song, I remember hearing and feeling the loud drums in my chest, and feeling a little light headed. The next thing I remember was hearing the bass player ask if there there was a doctor or medical professional in the building. I understand that I sat down, laid back and lost all expression on my face. I only remember a few things from that point until a few days later.

I lost my pulse. Luckily for me, there were 3 nurses and a doctor at the event. The nurses immediately started CPR on me. They took turns performing CPR for 20 minutes until an ambulance arrived. The ambulance used the AED on me, and after the third shock, I regained a heart beat. I flashed a peace sign to my band members as the EMTs rolled me out to the ambulance. I was combative due to the trauma my body endured from the CPR, and was soon given Versed.

The ambulance took me to the nearest hospital’s emergency room, where I stayed for a while until I was transported to one of the best cardiac hospitals in the midwest. I kept asking for my son and was so relieved when he arrived at the emergency room with me and at the new hospital too. When I arrived to the new hospital, I was in ICU for 2 days or so. Evidently, I was asking the same questions over and over for a few days. The ICU nurse, had hand written what happened to me. When was moved to a regular room, my first memories post ICU, were in my hospital bed, reading these notes aloud to my son and doctors.

I spent the next few days, talking with family and loved ones, and getting a lot of testing done. The CPR caused a hematoma on my liver. They did confirm per CT scan of my head, that my seizure activity when I lost my pulse was a convulsive syncope, and not a seizure. Based on the testing, the doctors determined I had a diagnosis of SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection). They also implanted an ICD, a defibrillator device, into my heart, so if I had another similar cardiac episode, the defibrillator would shock my heart into regular rhythm again. I was grateful to be alive!

While I was in the hospital for a whole week, my fears of the virus were realized when my friend died of COVID 19 complications. It’s been almost 2 months since my SCAD heart event now. I feel pretty much back to normal, and now am doing most of my pre-event activites including yoga! I picked up a shift as a pharmacy tech last week and am also searching for a work from home job or transportation assistance since I am not allowed to drive for 6 months because of the ICD placement.

I am singing again, and learning to play the ukulele. I am writing songs, and looking forward to performing live again, after the COVID threat diminishes. I’m still not sure if I want to sing any more 80’s tunes for a while. However, I am passionate about helping others. That is why I’m writing my story.

I never heard of SCAD before this event. I read it wasn’t recognized until 2010. From my research, SCAD occurs mostly in young healthy women and symptoms aren’t typical for heart events.

Here are some questions that I have:
– I read that emotional, physical and job stress can trigger a SCAD attack. I clearly had all of the above. Could this stress have caused my SCAD attack?
– I read that loud noises can trigger a SCAD attack. Both times on NYE and on November 14, I experienced loud noises, during these performances. Could these loud noise have caused my SCAD attack?
– Was my health event on NYE related to SCAD too?
– I read that hormone treatment can trigger a SCAD attack. I had been estrogen and progesterone birth control pills for years on the recommendation of my hormone doctor who advised I take them til I was 51. My recent October visit with my new OBGYN advised me to discontinue the birth control pills and said he would have never had me on that prescription. Could my birth control pills have triggered a SCAD attack?
– Could these symptoms that I have had- migraines, dizziness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and fatigue, be related to my SCAD attack?
– My cardiologist has ordered genetic testing to determine if LONG QT SYNDROME was also a factor in this event. Results are pending.

My cardiologist said that the likeliness of me having another SCAD attack is low. I am grateful. I am grateful to be given another chance at life. I’m grateful for my two birthdays. I’m grateful for the nurses that worked tirelessly giving me CPR and the medical staff that helped support me until I was ready to come home. I am grateful to my family, friends and neighbors who have helped me in my times of need. I am grateful for research and information about SCAD. I am grateful that I didn’t have any brain damage from being without a pulse for so long. I am grateful for being able to write this now. I am grateful to God that I am here. May God be with us all during our times of challenges.

I hope that these questions lead to more answers and understanding of SCAD more completely and it brings more awareness to the public about the potential of having a SCAD attack.

I have recently become CPR certified. I recommend everyone to do it. If I had not been around these medical professionals at the time of my cardiac arrest, I may not be here now to talk about it.

Please learn CPR so you can save a life too.