Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

SCAD, mother, 41, in Germany

December 15, 2022

After I survived a sinus vein thrombosis (a blood clot in the sinus vein of the brain) when I was 25 without any after effects, I thought nothing quite so serious could ever happen to me again. But it did on 6 Dec 2022, when I had a heart attack because of SCAD.
— Sorry, I realize that this is long and quite detailed, but I wanted to explain how it developed gradually and show that your body may give you numerous warnings that you should listen to! —

It started on 3 Dec, I was in the supermarket and felt a strange and severe pressure or tightness in my chest. It was not painful, only quite uncomfortable. I had no idea what it could mean and did not have time for it anyway, with my husband and 5-year old son waiting for me at home. I still felt it when I came home, but it went away when I was unpacking the groceries. I felt it again the next day during lunch, very briefly and not quite as strong. It didn’t make sense to me, I couldn’t explain it, so I ignored it.

On 5 Dec, late afternoon, I went to pick up my car from the workshop. It is a short walk, maybe 25 minutes, down the road over to the next village. I started walking, but suddenly the pressure came back – quite strong this time and now it was hard to breathe too. I slowed down, took a few deep breaths, it got better, I started walking again, it got worse – I continued on this way for the next 15-20 minutes. I had almost reached the next village when suddenly the pressure became so strong and it was so hard to breathe, that I finally realized that maybe I should stop. I was in the middle of nowhere between our house and the next village and I could not take another step. I called my husband and told him that he had to come pick me up immediately with his car. He picked me up and insisted that we go see the family doctor right away. The doctor did EKG and examined me and didn’t find anything. He asked if I had chest pain, but I didn’t, it was not painful, just this very strong pressure and shortness of breath. So he sent me home.

The next day, 6 Dec, I called a cardiologist’s office, told them what happened and asked whether maybe a cardiologist should see me? They gave me an appointment for 8 Feb 2023. This gave me the impression that it couldn’t be anything serious and that there was nothing to worry about. In the afternoon I picked up my son from kindergarden, on our drive home the pressure started again – while I was driving the car. We were almost home, I drove very slowly since I could hardly concentrate on the road. I didn’t know what to do, I knew that something wasn’t right, but I wasn’t sure I should call 911 – our paramedics, hospitals, doctors, everyone in the health care system has been under enormous pressure for years, not only due do COVID which of course made it worse, but horrendous working conditions and low pay made many people quit and so you really, REALLY only call 911 when you are absolutely sure it is necessary. So the family doctor wasn’t worried, the cardiologist’s office I called wasn’t worried, why would I call 911?

I went into the house and started cleaning the kitchen, and then suddenly the pressure came back, this time it was so strong it felt like a muscle cramp in my chest, and again it was so hard to breathe. This I could not ignore; I realized that I really needed help right now. I dragged myself to the living room and asked my 5-year old son to get his Dad (he was in a Teams Call in the basement) to call 911. The symptoms didn’t stop, it just went on and on. The paramedics first thought that I was hyperventilating or having a panic attack, but the EKG they made actually showed that something wasn’t right, although they were not sure what it was. They took me to the hospital, which lucky for me has a certified Chest Pain Unit and everyone working there is an expert. They made another EKG, called for the chief of cardiology, and took me to the Cath lab immediately. 20 minutes later I had a stent and the chief of cardiology explained to me that I had a heart attack because of SCAD.

It took me a few days to understand what that meant, what had happened, and how lucky I was. I will start rehabilitation in January, and hopefully will live a normal life again afterwards. And I will spread the word about SCAD everywhere and any way I can, because people here are just not aware of SCAD and, like me, might hesitate to call for help.