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Surviving a SCAD Heart Attack: Know the Warning Signs- YES This Could Happen to You!

Updated: Jul 13, 2023


Floral Heart Bouquet
Floral Heart Bouquet

Hello Dear Reader,

Today marks the 6th Anniversary of my SCAD heart attack. SCAD is a type of heart attack I had never heard of until it happened to me. I am sharing this story with you to build awareness and share resources to gain an understanding of the signs and symptoms as this could happen to you or someone you know.


It all started with these mysterious chest pains that plagued me for several years. I went to countless doctors, desperately seeking answers, but none could provide a diagnosis. It was frustrating, to say the least.

One day, on my way to a cardiologist appointment, something scary happened. As I parked my car at the hospital and started walking towards the building, I suddenly had to stop. I couldn't breathe, and the pain in my chest was unbearable. I doubted making it even into the building—should I head to the emergency room instead? But I managed to gather myself and made it inside.

When I described what had happened to the doctor, he thought it might be Pericarditis; (swelling and irritation of the thin, saclike tissue surrounding the heart (pericardium). Pericarditis often causes sharp chest pain. Chest pain occurs when the irritated layers of the pericardium rub against each other. Pericarditis is usually mild and goes away without treatment.—a condition involving inflammation around the heart.) Wikipedia


But the truth is, he didn't know for sure. He suggested I take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and said I should feel better within a few weeks. Little did I know that those weeks would turn into three long years of endless pain and frustration. No one seemed to take me seriously due to my general good health.



I went through numerous medical tests in search of answers. I did sleep studies, wore a heart monitor for 30 days, and even got an Oximeter to measure my heart rate and oxygen levels. Yet, all the results came back inconclusive. The pain persisted, taking a toll on me physically and emotionally.


There were days when the pain was so intense that I couldn't even drive. I'd be on my way to work, and suddenly, I'd feel this crushing pressure in my chest, forcing me to pull over, wondering if I should call 911, or continue driving to work. Walking any distance became a challenge, leaving me breathless and exhausted. Even during bedtime, as I lay down, it often felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, making sleep elusive.


Living with this constant pain caused great anxiety and affected my daily life. I struggled to focus in meetings, and simple tasks became overwhelming. The fatigue and low energy levels made it difficult to get through workdays. It felt like my body was betraying me, and I couldn't find relief.


It wasn't until later that I learned about a condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). SCAD is a rare and potentially life-threatening condition where a tear forms in one or more coronary arteries, disrupting blood flow to the heart. It can present itself in various ways and is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.


The Hidden Heart Attack: What is SCAD



One day while I was working, feeling relatively normal when suddenly, I felt an excruciating pain in my neck that went up to my jaw. It was familiar, but this time, it was much more intense. I started sweating, and the pain became unbearable. I took some baby aspirin, hoping it would provide relief, but the pain persisted and decided to call 911. The fire department arrived first and quickly gave me an EKG, and realized the severity of the situation. The results surprised them, and they rushed me to the hospital.


Everything after that became a blur. I found myself being rushed into the operating room. It was a flurry of activity. The surgeon explained they would perform an endoscopy to explore the issue and possibly put a stent in my heart. Only afterward did I realize I had suffered a heart attack—a shocking revelation that left me in tears.

For more SCAD Information, visit https://www.scadresearch.org


The road to recovery hasn't been easy. I faced more pain, battled side effects from medication, and underwent months of cardio rehab. Even simple tasks like walking were still a challenge. Fatigue persisted, and it felt like an uphill battle to regain my strength. The Facebook group I now belonged to, kept encouraging me, saying this was my "new normal" and eventually I would learn to live with it and things would get better. I am fortunate that I was able to be seen at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and the leading SCAD research group. Dr. Sharonne Hayes is leading the way in SCAD research, which I am now a patient and included in their on going studies,


Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Lead Researcher at Mayo Clinic
Dr. Sharonne Hayes, Lead Researcher at Mayo Clinic

Dr. Sharonne Hayes is the lead SCAD researcher at Mayo Clinic- to learn more about her research and latest findings, visit: https://www.scadresearch.org



Today, as I reflect on my journey I know I have come a long way. I feel better than I have in a long time. The chest pain and pressure still linger, very often being heartburn due to past medication side effects. But I've learned to listen to my body, recognize warning signs, and seek help when in doubt. I believe I have been back to the emergency room about 8 times since my heart attack- the Drs continually tell me it's better to be safe and get checked when symptoms arise- than to be sorry. I found a Facebook group of SCAD survivors, which became my support group- I am grateful for the women I connected with there as one of the best ways to get through life's challenges is to find a supportive community that understands what you are going through.


I was fortunate to be referred to Mayo Clinic and Dr. Sharonne Hayes and the SCAD Survivor Facebook Group. Each year they host a series of SCADADDLES, an annual 5K, and talks featuring the latest research & findings.



Read Donna's story and how she launched her business to support SCAD research: SCAD: How One Survivor is Healing Through a Love of Jewelry Design


I want to encourage everyone, especially women, to trust their instincts and never hesitate to seek medical attention if unsure about unusual symptoms. SCAD is a silent threat, often presenting itself in atypical ways. Don't ignore those signs or let anyone dismiss your concerns. Your health is worth fighting for, and you deserve answers.





Understanding SCAD: Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection primarily affects women, often during or shortly after pregnancy. However, it can also occur in men and individuals who do not fall into these categories. SCAD differs from other types of heart attacks because it typically affects younger individuals who do not have traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity, high cholesterol, or smoking.


Causes and Risk Factors: The exact causes of SCAD are still not entirely understood. Research suggests that hormonal changes, including those during pregnancy, may weaken the arterial walls. Other risk factors associated with SCAD include intense physical exertion, extreme emotional stress, connective tissue disorders, and certain underlying vascular conditions.


Signs and Symptoms: SCAD can present symptoms similar to a heart attack, including chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea. However, it is essential to note that SCAD can manifest as atypical symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, and fainting. This variation in symptoms often leads to a delayed or misdiagnosis, making SCAD challenging to detect.


Diagnosis: Given the unique nature of SCAD, accurate diagnosis requires specialized tests and procedures. Cardiac catheterization, where a dye is injected into the arteries to visualize any dissection or blockage, is a common diagnostic tool. Intravascular imaging techniques, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), can provide more detailed information about the artery's structure and identify the presence of a dissection.


Treatment Options: The treatment for SCAD is individualized and depends on the severity of the condition. In some cases, conservative management, including medication to manage symptoms, is sufficient. However, suppose the dissection causes a significant blockage or leads to a heart attack. More invasive procedures like percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) may be necessary. Cardiac rehabilitation and long-term follow-up are essential components of the recovery process.


Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection is a complex and challenging condition that predominantly affects women. While the exact causes of SCAD remain elusive, ongoing research is improving our understanding of this condition. The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you experience any unusual symptoms related to the heart, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. With continued awareness and research, we can enhance our knowledge of SCAD and improve the care provided to individuals affected by this condition.


Thanks for reading today and gaining awareness about SCAD. Please share this with others. If you have any questions, please reach out via email: design@insidefashiondesign.net




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Hey there, lovely fashion friends! My name is Britta Cabanos, and I'm thrilled to have you here! 

 

I'm a 25+ year fashion industry design professional, and I'm passionate about supporting conscious designers, ethical makers, and sustainability. I believe that fashion can be a powerful force for good, and I'm committed to helping aspiring fashion industry pros make their mark in this exciting and ever-changing field. 

 

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