October 7, 2020
On September 2nd, 2020, I had a life-altering experience. I had a heart attack. As I continue to recover physically, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what just happened to me. I’m a 58 year old woman with no history of heart disease in my family. I do not have plaque-clogged arteries, no high blood pressure-nothing that would indicate that I was at risk for an MI. I just found out a couple days ago from the cardiologist that treated me, about something called “spontaneous coronary artery dissection”, and that this was the trigger for the event that now has me bewildered, uncertain and facing my own mortality in a very real “in your face” kind of way.
I believe the stressful, physical event that occurred seconds before the onset of the attack contributed to triggering it. Before I get further into describing the details of my SCAD experience, I feel it’s important to mention a little more about myself. I was just diagnosed this past Fall with a rare form of COPD.- Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.-a genetic disorder. I also deal with severe asthma. Not a stranger to rare and/or genetic disorders I also have a rare disorder called phenylketonuria-which I was diagnosed with (late) at 4 years old.
The only heart history I have is a diagnosis a few years ago with AVNRT (Atrialventricular Nodal Reentrant Tachyicardia) (skipped and irregular heartbeats) I also deal with PTSD and panic/anxiety disorder. That being said, my SCAD attack on Sept. 2nd immediately followed an incident with my dog. He is a 1 year old black lab, whom I am currently training. I think I need the training more than he does, to be honest. I took him out front on his leash for a potty break. All of a sudden he lunged at a woman walking by our house. He is an exceptionally strong “puppy”. I struggled with him to keep him from running to her. I have no doubts that he would not attack anyone, but THEY don’t know that. This incident may not seem like a very big deal to normal people, but to me it was very upsetting and intense. I no sooner got him back in the house than I doubled over in horrific stomach pain. I had a stomach ulcer when I was a kid. This felt like that-an intense burning pain in my stomach. When I felt it pain starting to radiate down my left arm and pain and pressure radiating up the front of my throat and into my jaw, I knew this was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. My mom called 911.
I remember telling my mom to tell them to hurry. I knew that if I needed CPR, there was no one in my home able to do it. My mom is 83 and would not be able to do it. This was running through my mind while waiting for medics. I am a former EMT, and I knew how important it was to stay as calm as possible. Easier said than done.
I was hospitalized for 4 days, after a stent was placed in an artery that was 90% blocked. I was told I had heart muscle damage from the attack, but forgot to ask how much. The right side of my heart is also now enlarged. I continue to research SCAD, but can’t seem to find enough information to help me understand it better.
I won’t lie. I’m scared. “When is it going to happen again?” “Will it kill me next time?” I continue to experience tachycardia, chest tightness and discomfort, some shortness of breath, and little twinges of pain from time to time. I monitor my vitals twice a day. At night, I’m afraid to go to sleep, afraid that I won’t wake up. Often, tachycardia and chest tightness wake me up when I do sleep.
In spite of all of this, I try to look at it as yet another adventure-a new challenge. I am basically a positive person, in spite of everything.