Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Postpartum SCAD at 39 years old

August 31, 2013

I am 39, married and the mother of three children, ages 7, 4 and 6 months. It was the morning of July 27, 2013, at around 8 am in the morning and I was having a disagreement (and getting extremely agitated) with my husband when it happened suddenly. I had felt fine before and all of a sudden, I couldn’t catch my breath. I had extreme pain in the center of my chest and then pain that ran down my left arm until it reached my fingertips and became numb. Then there was a dull ache in my shoulder blades. I asked my husband to get me an aspirin.

I took two 325 mg aspirin within minutes of the attack and then showered hoping it was not what I thought it was. I was thinking “I am too young for a heart attack,” but knew that the symptoms that I was having were classic heart attack symptoms. Still I was hopeful that it was stress or part of some ongoing pain I was getting in my chest as a result from nursing my baby. So I got out of the shower and laid down. My husband knew better and rounded up our three children and hurried us all into the car as I refused to call 911.

Within 20 minutes we were in the emergency room after dropping the older kids at our neighbor’s house. I was still experiencing mild discomfort in my chest but the aspirin must have helped. When I walked into the ER, I told them my symptoms through tears (I really didn’t believe that I belonged there and felt relatively OK). They instantly hooked me up to an EKG which was normal. Then they moved me to a bed and took my medical history which included the birth of my baby 6 months prior, Factor V Leiden and MTHFR (both clotting disorders) as well as high blood pressure over the last 7 years treated with medication. After that they took blood, gave me a chest x-ray and nitroglycerin. When the blood results came back there was a slightly higher than normal amount of troponin. They placed a nitroglycerin patch on me and I was admitted to the hospital to monitor my blood to see if the troponin levels would elevate or lower over a series of blood tests. My next blood test indicated a higher level of troponin so the Cardiologist decided to transfer me to a hospital with a Cath lab for an angioplasty.

The next day I had an angioplasty (entered though the right wrist) and I was given the diagnosis of SCAD. Due to the type of tear, I did not need a stent. They are treating me with medication only and my prognosis is good. An echocardiogram indicated that I have some heart damage but my heart is operating at a normal capacity. I have an experienced Cardiologist who has seen SCAD before and is comfortable with minimal meds so I can continue to nurse my baby (which is very important to me).

I go in for a follow-up echocardiogram tomorrow and am living each day normally. What else can I do? I worry when I think about the severity of SCAD but I refuse to wallow in worry or what ifs. All I can do is try to reduce stress and enjoy life, appreciate my children and family and be the best person I can. This was a wake-up call that I cannot stress over the little stuff (but I am still type-A). I am nervous at times but other than talking about it, I don’t know what else to do but live and enjoy life.