Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

“The Bleeding Heart Event”

June 15, 2017

Every time I look back on the timeline of my own life story, I see God’s grace, His redemptive power and His protection in my life. I want to honor Jesus because I am still alive and I am well able to witness about Him and His love. I hope that my story will only want to encourage you to remember the moments where God has exhibited His faithfulness to you in your life and be willing to witness to others about Him. You see we all have a purpose here on earth and it’s up to us to discover that purpose. My journey with God has been a tremendous one. It has been about a year and half since my SCAD incident, I’ve been meaning to share my story.

It was Saturday November 21, 2015, in the early hours of that morning I was getting sick, and thinking it was just the flu, I would just let it run its course. But I had chest pain that just would not subside and thinking it was just sore muscles from all the heaving I had done that morning, I didn’t think anything of it. Because I hadn’t had much sleep that night before, overall, I think I was just mainly irritated of that pain and tried to sleep it off. It felt like what I like to describe it as that I had a very bad bra on with a sharp shooting pain thru the left middle side of my chest to the back! So by 830/9 that morning, I had my daughter call the prayer chain for prayers. Meanwhile, I did what I thought could do to help relieve that pain: I took Tylenol, had a shower and at one point had got my daughter to rub A535 all over my back, but to my dismay, it just made it all worse. My daughter told me to which I do not remember but I had googled my symptoms and told her that they were comparable to that of a heart attack.

By 11:30am, we woke my husband up who had just gotten to bed not too many hours before from his night shift to tend to the kids. But before we could go to the hospital, he also had a few things to do outside before he settled inside. So it was about 2:30 in the afternoon, when we finally walked thru the hospital doors, and only then the nurses were only in emerge that time of day. The attending nurse was calling the doctor for counsel on what she could be doing to figure out what was happening to me as I was begging her every 5 mins or so, if she could be giving me something for the pain, but she could not. But since we were not suspecting anything seriously was wrong or to treat me with urgency, they had me ingest this pink lady solution, a drink meant for angina or heartburn/indigestion; which initially wasn’t what the issue was because I was still in much obvious pain after it. I kept walking around holding my chest in pain.

After having been in agony for a while, I was moved to the observation room across from the main nursing station within that hour, I was put on the ECG machine (a test that checks for problems associated with the electrical activity of your heart) and complete lab tests were done on me. To our dismay, they all came back negative; showing nothing… no trauma, no infection and even the ECG was not showing anything. Frustrated, thinking once the doctor would be in that I’d be sent home.

But once the doctor came in, he sent for another set of blood tests trying to determine at that time if it was gall stones and when those tests came back negative, he then decided to send me to Grande Prairie for CT scan on my lungs by ambulance. By that time, I had sent for my husband to accompany me; meanwhile I had been given some morphine but by the time we got to Grande Prairie hospital in an hour, it had worn off. So in agony I waited for the CT results along with my husband and the paramedics, and again nothing showed up and so we decided to travel back to Valleyview. I am so very glad at this point in time that along with the frustration of nothing showing up in the tests, that the doctor along with his team of nurses didn’t give up on finding out but made them more determined to find out what was going on.

So by the time we got back to the Valleyview around 930 that evening, I was to be kept on observation, I was on the ECG machine all that time and another set of blood work was done. My husband then headed home, waiting to see if anything else came up. By about 10:30, the blood work had come back and this time showing that an “event” had happened. I had a swarm of nurses with needles all around me and the defibrillator brought in the room and an upgraded version of the ECG had been swung in determining better results from my heart. The blood tests had shown a rise in troponin, a detecting protein, which is an indicator of a heart attack [myocardial infarction], along with that this time my blood pressure and pulse were also very low. So with doctor standing there and who initially had rushed back from home, watched the inverted graphics of the ECG, and then proceeds to tell me, “well, it looks like you are having a heart attack.”

I truly did not know what to think, but I was very glad I didn’t stay home and downplayed the pain because I would’ve been dead. So at this time, they gave me shots to the belly, and a wonderful dose of morphine. I proceeded to text my husband to let him know to come back we had finally figured out what was wrong, I was having a heart attack and that I was being shipped to Edmonton. At this time of night, I also phoned my pastor for prayers, whom had been waiting to hear from me again to find out what was going on.

If a heart attack wasn’t arduous enough that night, but the STARS ambulance could not land because it was a stormy night out, so then they were having to ship me by airplane to Edmonton. During our flight from Valleyview to Edmonton, I had about 4 paramedics to myself on the plane, but the attending paramedic would ask if I was in any pain of some sort and would then proceed to spray some nitroglycerin under the tongue every time pain tried to return.

Once landed in Edmonton, it was another 45 mins before I was in the Royal Alex Hospital ICU. There the attending nurses replaced the IV’s and did more blood work, and by 430am they were done with me. They woke me up at 620 in the morning, to prep me for the angioplasty, I awoke to the surgery in progress with the surgeon and the assistant talking, and the surgeon with intensity says, “No, not there!” and he quickly grabbed the instrument away from the assistant’s hands and re-directed the instrument at hand. Hmm yah I was a little scared and worried when I heard that… but all went well.

After the angioplasty, they discovered that there had been a dissection in my left anterior descending artery that created a flap which initially closed in, a 100% blockage which also meant no blood flow and no oxygen into the lower apex of my heart thus causing a heart attack. Thus my lower left apex of my heart is clinically dead. It is a cause & effect from what they think is a hormonal imbalance within one’s body called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. In my case they assumed it was my postnatal hormones having just had a baby just six months earlier that linked to this episode. They tried to place a stent where the tear had been, a stent is a mesh tube inserted thru that would open up what they thought at that time was just a narrowed artery but mine was a flap which had completely healed shut into the opposite arterial wall of the artery, so the stent was pointless.

This type of heart attack is not about lifestyle or cholesterol levels, for none of it contributes to it, so consequently my angiogram report stated that I had no sign of any cardiovascular disease, or no “plaque” buildup what so ever within my arteries. The difference with this type of heart attack is that not many cardiologists have heard of it and that many people only get diagnosed sadly after death with a post mortem report. So many have said, “I am so incredibly lucky!” But it’s not about luck or anything of it, because in my opinion and belief that it is because of God only and His amazing GRACE that saves us all!

I have now joined the SCAD study within the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Medical field, it is said that “SCAD is not rare but finding a SCAD survivor is.” Since it is such an unfamiliar and unstudied clinical phenomenon, we are told that there is no known cause or prevention so we do not know if it will or won’t happen again.

I have surprised the overseeing cardiologist and other rehab specialists as to how fast my recovery has been. I joined the cardiac rehab program provided by Alberta Health because you see when you have gone through such a traumatic event such as this, you almost have to start over again and retrain your body with your endurance level. I mean I needed to nap during the day and walking a distance, or showering was a challenge for a few days. I am thankful I had my mother in law come all the way from Arizona to help maintain the house, plus, my husband and my daughter, Mickayla pitching in with the children. My baby was just 6 months old when this happened, and I couldn’t carry him for over a month.

I have received nothing but good progress reports from the medical field specialists and I have worked hard and now have my own “at home work out” program that I’ve tweaked harder and harder. I have lost 5” around the waist and educated myself much more about better food choices, overall, self-care habits. After about a year, I have been taken off at least 2 different types of medication and lowered dosages of a couple other medication. Amazing grace!

Altogether it’s been quite the journey. So very thankful for the grace of God and for His divine intervention in my life, for life is not something we should all be taking for granted. We are all accountable of our own personal journeys beyond this life.