Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

SCAD and SCA at 49

July 3, 2021

The week of June 5th, 2021 was a stressful week. At the end of the week I took my teenage son shopping to buy his first suit. I’d like to say this was for prom or a happy occasion but it was for the unexpected funeral of a very close friend. That evening as I was cleaning the kitchen I felt a tightness in my chest. Then a tingling in my right arm. I’m a healthy woman with no underlying conditions or risk factors for heart issues so when the word heart attack appeared in my google search I dismissed it and focused on other results- anxiety and indigestion. No way could it be heart related! I am active, fit and eat healthy. Anxiety made complete sense but damn my chest hurt. It felt like pressure and a vice.

As I was debating what to do I reached out to a family member who also thought it was very unlikely a heart attack but recommended going to the hospital. I decided to take some TUMS and try some deep breathing. My son came over to me and said, “the car is turned around, I’ve taken the dogs out. You’re either getting in the car or I’m calling 911. I have a 9 and 1 already dialed”. I agreed to go, then promptly threw up.

I still believed this was anxiety so I went to the small hospital instead of the trauma one hospital. Fortunately for me, the small hospital realized this was not anxiety but a heart attack. They also put a name to it – likely SCAD. I was transferred to the other hospital for a CATH. The hospital was going to push off the CATH because I was currently stable-until I had a second heart attack. Then the CATH was ordered and SCAD was confirmed. Heart attack number three was the killer -literally. I went into sudden cardiac arrest. My poor husband watched a team of nurses and doctors perform CPR and defibrillation.

This might sound odd but I believe I am so incredibly lucky. I had a son push me to get the hospital; a small hospital did not dismiss this as anxiety; and I was in a level one trauma center when I coded. Because the response was so quick, I was having normal conversations within an hour of my death. Had I remained at home, my outcome would have been very different.

I left the hospital a week later, equipped with a defibrillator (aka my jumper cables). Getting an implant was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but it boils down to this – per my doctor, SCAD reoccurrences, although uncommon, are often of similar intensity of the original episode.
I will be starting cardiac rehab in a few weeks and I’ll be tested for FMD. In the meantime, I am trying to appreciate the little things and adjust to a more Zen lifestyle.