Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

Thankful to be alive, but still confused . . .

May 30, 2013

I am a 35-year old woman, married, with 2 beautiful children (5 yrs. old and 4 yrs. old). I work full-time as a lawyer at a large firm. Until 2 weeks ago, I was perfectly healthy, worked out frequently, and had no family history of heart disease. On April 24, 2013, while on a conference call at work (nothing stressful), I began experiencing extreme chest pain unlike anything I had ever felt. I also felt numbness in my hands and I began sweating. My assistant convinced me to call the paramedics and, although I felt much better within 10 minutes, I reluctantly agreed to be transported to the hospital — a decision that, in hindsight, likely saved my life.

At the hospital, I was initially told that I had probably suffered a panic attack (which sounded odd, given that I had no history of panic attacks, anxiety, or any other psychological issues). But, after 2 abnormal EKGs, and blood work that revealed an elevated enzyme associated with heart issues, I was told that I needed to have an angiogram to confirm that my arteries were functioning properly. Within a few hours, the angiogram was complete, and I learned that I had suffered a SCAD involving the LAD. I was shocked and confused, and the doctors were unable to offer any meaningful answers.

The following morning, I underwent a double bypass surgery. The surgeon used a mammary artery, along with a vein from my right leg. The surgery was a success (at least it appears to be so far), and I was discharged from the hospital 6 days later. I have been recovering at home for the past week, and I am feeling surprisingly good. In fact, the hardest part of this recovery is sitting still — I keep thinking of the beds that need to be made, the dishes that need to be cleaned, and the toys that need to be put away!

I am still entirely confused about the cause of my SCAD. I was not pregnant (and have not been pregnant for years). I use an IUD for birth control, so am not at all convinced that this played any role in my condition. During the 3 weeks before my heart attack, my husband and I were doing an intense work-out program, and I wonder whether I was pushing myself too hard. I had a full physical 2 months ago, including an EKG and tons of blood work. At the time, I was told that I was the picture of perfect health . . . obviously not the case.

My biggest concern is that this is going to happen again, and I have no clue what I can do to prevent it. My cardiologist told me that my vein graft is likely to last only 10 years, and the mammary graft may only last 25 – 30 years. Then what? Another angiogram and possibly a stent? Another open heart surgery? I am so young, and the thought of having to go through these procedures every 10 – 15 years is daunting.

Another concern — my doctor prescribed a statin, but I am not certain that I should be taking this drug. My cholesterol levels are low, and clearly did not cause my SCAD. My doctor explained the importance of maintaining low cholesterol, i.e., so that plaques do not build up, break apart, and become lodged in the areas of my grafts. But, the side effects are severe, and I could potentially be on this drug for the rest of my life! Lots of unanswered questions.

Of course, I am thankful to be alive. So grateful to hug my children, kiss my husband, and tell my entire family how much I love them. I am trying to enjoy this forced time off work — a “luxury” I have never had — and focus on the simple and most important things in life. This website has so much useful information, and I plan to pour through it over the coming weeks. Thank you for allowing me to share my story!