April 12, 2016
Chest pain slowly woke me up from my sleep at 5:45 AM the night after the Super Bowl (Go Broncos). I initially tried to ignore it thinking it would pass, trying different positions sleeping, taking Advil, then laying back down, and after about 20 minutes it started to slowly occur to me that something could be wrong. I made my way downstairs to talk to my husband who was on a conference call to consult with him and determine our approach to what was going on. In that time span, I noticed the pain had moved up through my neck, and my fingers were numb. Perplexed, my husband and I thought it couldn’t be a heart attack, i’m only 40 years old, with no trace of plaque or heart disease, and extremely fit (racing my whole life (running, cycling, snowboarding, etc.., registered for an IronMan race in July) but still we had the sense that something wasn’t feeling right, so we made the decision to drive to the to the emergency room.
Once at the ER, the doctors and nurses were very good, but were convinced it wasn’t a heart attack. They strongly believed I was suffering from pericarditis. I was lucky though…Even though they didn’t think it was a heart attack, the doctor still seemed a bit concerned. She said to me “I would be really surprised it it was a heart attack, but something about what your telling me concerns me, and I want to keep you overnight for observation”. I agreed to stay, and was transferred to a room, and settling in nicely when the next set of blood work came back, about 5 hours after I arrived at the ER. This is when the blood work reflected troponin in my blood indicating a heart attack. I was then swiftly rushed into the Cath Lab where it was confirmed that I had a Sudden Coronary Artery Dissection. At the time no stents were put in, the approach was to allow the blood work it’s way around the dissection. The next morning I woke up in the hospital with similar symptoms, they took and EKG and the technician sprinted out of the room and within 10 minutes I was on my way back to the Cath. Lab this time to put two stents in.
I am now 3 months out from the event, still suffering from some complications (Dressler’s Syndrome), and battling everyday to get my life back. I am slowly putting the pieces together, accepting the event, and most importantly staying positive and keeping the faith. Although I am based in Boulder Colorado with a great cardiologist I am also going through testing with the Mayo Clinic who is by my experience the best in the world especially for SCAD. I think a lot of good decisions went into saving my life that day, the decision my husband and I made to go to the ER, the ER doctor who decided to keep me for observation, and my cardiologist who knew that it was SCAD.
If I could offer some advice, I would say never underestimate symptoms, if you think something is wrong especially with classic heart attack symptoms then it probably is. Most importantly always be your own patient advocate, push to get answers, and ask questions.