Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

SCAD, Heart Attack and Fibromuscular Dysplasia

July 8, 2018

I am an otherwise healthy woman of 59. All was well until I awoke on June 26, 2018 with sudden chest pain, that quickly radiated to my left shoulder, down my arm, to my fingertips. Initially, I felt it was just a passing oddity, but moments later, I felt an overwhelming sense of doom, followed closely by intensifying pain, terrible gasping for breath, sweating all over, and nausea. I was clearly having the classic signs of a heart attack, even though I questioned whether or not my son should call 911, or wait a bit whilst I monitored the situation. Everything escalated very quickly, with vomiting and dizziness coming on quickly.

The volunteer fire department arrived, administered oxygen and checked my blood pressure. Come about 15 minutes later, the nearest ambulance arrived. They could only offer me aspirin, nitroglycerin, and support. I was transported to the hospital some 18 highway minutes away, and was clearly in big trouble.

Immediately, the doctor and several nurses were all over me, inserting an intravenous line, doing an ECG, giving me injections and the like. Until one nurse stated, “You talk an unusual amount for someone having a heart attack”, I wasn’t convinced what was wrong with me.

Soon after, I was given a clot buster and transferred 2 hours away for care. In the ambulance, my heart rhythm became erratic and while I do not remember, had my heart defibrillated. Upon arrival, I had an angiogram, which showed lots of clots, and a blockage, which was cleared using Balloon Angioplasty. I was taken off of HRT, given blood thinners and such for several days, had medications added and adjusted, as I already had hypertension. The first cardiologist that cared for me, told me, “Had you hesitated any longer, it would have been very bad.”

The next week, I had a second Angiogram, which revealed I indeed had SCAD and Fibromuscular Dysplasia…in my Renal and Iliac Arteries, and Right Coronary Artery. I am still in the hospital, experiencing various challenges due to the heart attack, recovery, unanswered questions, and deep worry concerning the unknown future of another dissection.

I had a bad heart attack. I did not smoke cigarettes, only had the odd social drink, had been quite physically active in the months prior, had my blood pressure under control, had good cholesterol levels, and no history of heart disease in my family.

According to two cardiologists, Hormone Replacement Therapy put me at risk. I must add, that for months, I had unexplained/or believed periods of time, whereby my heart would beat out of my chest, my legs and feet swelled, and I experienced rather vague, but strong chest pains that were dismissed as heart burn, indigestion, even anxiety.

This situation has turned my life upside down. I wanted to tell my story, in the event it would help others know they are not alone, and perhaps some of my situation mirrors that of others. The symptoms of FMD may be hidden, SCAD strikes out of the blue, and signs of heart troubles may initially be brushed off by medical professionals. If you feel concerned in the least about your heart health, do not hesitate to seek help.