October 23, 2017
It was a normal Monday morning where I had just dropped off my 5-year-old at school and had y 3-year-old with me and my 7-year-old who was not feeling her best so I was keeping her home from school. I decided to make a quick trip to TJMAXX, because I was the PTA President at the time and needed to buy the Principal a gift. At the time I was a healthy 36-year-old stay at home mom of three who made sure we ate a heart healthy diet and exercised.
At 9:00 my kids and I were the only ones in the store and while they were looking at toys I was grabbing some gifts. After being there for about 10 minutes I started to feel dizzy, broke out in a cold dripping sweat just standing there leaning against a shelf, all of a sudden I got this crushing chest pain that felt like an elephant was stepping on my heart while putting a cigarette butt out (that is the only way I can explain it), and my arms started tingling. All of your classic heart attack symptoms, but why would a healthy 36-year-old be having a heart attack? An employee happened to walk by me and asked if I was ok. She said I looked very white. I walked over to my kids in the toy section just a couple feet away and I could not stand anymore and felt very nauseous. The employee thankfully was keeping an eye on me and helped me get to the bathroom, because I felt so sick. I could not get off the ground once I was in the bathroom so the employee got me a throw pillow.
The TJMAXX employee thought I was maybe having a panic attack. I had never had one of those before and having been in the heart world for the last 7 years (due to daughter being born w/half a heart -Tricuspid Atresia) I asked her to get me some aspirin just in case it was my heart. She ran to the pharmacy next door and bought some for me and asked if she should call 911. I said no, because my mom brain kicked in and I had no idea how the kids would be able to ride safely in the back of an ambulance with me and with our family only having one car at the time I did not know how would we pick it up? Not smart on my part. The employee called my husband who took an Uber from the University to pick us up and he drove us to the University of Michigan emergency room. I could hardly walk at this point or stand up straight my heart hurt so much.
Once in the ER my EKG was normal, my first troponin blood work was normal, nothing beyond PVCs were showing up on my monitor, and my chest pain was coming and going. After 8 hours they were going to discharge me saying I was “tired” being a mom of 3 and I just needed to reduce my stress. My husband & 2 kids left to go pick up our other child from school. Only a few minutes after they left while the doctor was going over my discharge paperwork tachycardia popped out of my monitor. The doctor laughed and thought I had touched the monitor to make it go off…I had not touched it. After reading the monitor he asked me if my heart still hurt and the answer was still yes! They never checked my 2nd blood draw which showed that my troponin levels were elevated and in fact I was having a heart attack. Then a flood of people entered the room, but I was not taken into the cath lab until 4:00 the next afternoon where once they were in saw that my LAD was 100% blocked by a spontaneous dissection also known as SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) and a stent was placed in my LAD to try and open it up again. Had I been discharged I would have died.
I was told I would probably not meet any other SCAD survivors, because it is so rare for people to survive. SCAD is the #1 cause of a heart attack in healthy women under age 50 as well as the #1 cause of a heart attack in women who are pregnant and new mothers. Although less common, SCAD can affect men too. SCAD survivors There was very little research I could find and the cardiologist who spoke to me said she could not believe I was alive. On my 37th birthday (Nov. 22) I was feeling lost and alone, so I started what is now the official Facebook SCAD Survivors of Michigan support group to see if there were any other “local” survivors out there. The support group now has over 100 survivors and we support each other virtually as well as get together in our local areas. In 2020 we organized the 1st annual 5K SCADdaddle where all funds raised will go to patient lead research being done by https://www.scadresearch.org/ and https://scadalliance.org/ specifically the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Our hope is to support SCAD survivors, spread awareness, and raise funds for research that will hopefully save lives.