Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection

The day my life changed

October 15, 2015

It was a cool Sunday morning in September last year. My husband, 11 year old daughter and I went cycling with friends on a remote property outside Johannesburg. We were about 3 kms into our ride when I complained that my ears were sore. I thought it was from the cold wind, but after cresting the next hill, I got a pain down my left arm, in my jaw and in my chest, which actually felt more like it was under my left arm at the side of my chest. I thought I may have pulled my shoulder, so we stopped for a while, but the pain got worse and I started feeling sweaty and nauseous.

My husband pushed me back on my bike all the way to the parking area and as I was still feeling awful, we decided to rush to the hospital. That drive felt like an eternity! It was so scary and I wondered if I was going to make it. Luckily my cardiologist was on call and took me straight to have an ECG. He said it was abnormal and did an angiogram right away. Initially he could not see anything, but after I reminded him that I had FMD, he had another look and could make out a long dissection in the circumflex coronary artery. My hs -troponin T was 29 on arrival and rose to 351 over the next 150 minutes, indicating that I had had a MI. I was treated conservatively and spent 3 days in the hospital with no stenting, just medication – effient, aspirin, beta blockers and statins.

6 months prior to this, I had chest pains one evening which passed after about an hour. This was when I first consulted my cardiologist. The stress ECG and ultrasound appeared normal at this examination and I was given a clean bill of health. Two weeks before my episode, I awoke during the night with severe chest pains, which I put down to indigestion. I wonder if this was the start of the dissection?

I still have chest pains on and off, but nothing like I experienced that day! I hope that it will not happen again and although I still try to keep relatively active, I do not do any strenuous cycling or exercise. It is always in the back of my mind. A life changing experience!