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SCAD Heart Attacks: How One Survivor is Healing Through a Love of Jewelry Design

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Original Post from February 19th, 2019

SCAD Awareness Week Braclets by Solsiss
SCAD Awareness Week Braclets by Solsiss

Greetings Dear Reader,

If you are reading this, I have piqued your interest in SCAD heart attacks: Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. What is that you wonder and what does that have to do with fashion? Well, read on to learn more.

Donna and I at SCADaddle Convention 2017
Donna and I at SCADaddle Convention 2017

Donna Sugimoto is a stylist, writer, and philanthropist who had her life turned upside down by SCAD. During her healing process, she turned to jewelry design, making essential oil-carrying jewelry with calming, positive energy. Listen to Donna’s life-changing experience and find out what’s behind her line of bracelets, SOLSISS.

Donna: On the morning of September 23, 2016, I had a day off from my very busy life. Aside from my normal job as a hairstylist of about 30 years, I was working several days a week on a fiction trilogy for teens with my two writing partners. I was also doing family history research, working with curators, and placing family artifacts in national exhibitions on the WWII Japanese American Incarceration experience. Not a light topic.

I was excited to have a day off to stay home and clean. That was the day life changed. That was the day I had a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, also known as SCAD.

I was doing my normal cleaning routine, walking up and down the stairs and taking a break to check emails when I felt a very light pressure in both of my arms, nothing too intense, just...weird. It wasn’t until I broke out in a cold sweat that I knew something might be wrong.

A friend took me to the ER (I was later told that in this circumstance you should always call 911 since an EMT would start treating you immediately!). Imagine my shock and confusion when I discovered a young, healthy, active, long-time vegetarian like myself—who was not at-risk—had a heart attack!

But it wasn’t a “normal” one. It was something called, “Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection” also referred to as SCAD—a tear in the inner layer of one of your heart arteries causing blockage to the blood flow to your heart. It was a rare type of heart attack that they knew little about.

Heart Founders of Solsiss Jewelry
Founders of Solsiss Jewelry

When I asked the doctors how or why it happened, how long it would take the tear to heal, or if it could happen again, all they could tell me was they didn’t know and that it could heal just as spontaneously as it happened. Not very reassuring.

I was sent home with a handful of medications, told to return in a few weeks and in the meantime, to rest, not do any heavy lifting, and to try to get back to my normal life. SCAD was not well-researched, and most in the medical field knew very little about it. Since then, researchers have come up with some basic guidelines during this sensitive time of heart healing.

Solsiss Jewelry for SCAD awareness
Solsiss Jewelry for SCAD awareness

I realized that as soon as you have a SCAD (which many call “the club that you never wanted to join”) you become a “warrior,” fighting to survive. I felt like if I rolled over in bed the wrong way I might have another one. After trying to find answers for myself, I found a Facebook group called SCAD Survivors and a virtual research study on SCAD by the Mayo Clinic, which I joined hoping that my experience would help the researchers learn more.

For the first 6 months, I stayed close to home to heal and recover physically and emotionally. What if I had a SCAD while stuck in LA traffic? What if it happened while I was sleeping? I had never felt so weak and vulnerable. Things that I used to do effortlessly had become difficult.

I never thought of myself as a stressed person, just a very busy one, but when I learned stress could possibly play a factor in it—it’s not the reason SCAD happens but it could contribute to the perfect storm—I decided to do more things to help me relax.

I worked on self-care to deal with the aftermath of SCAD. I finally found a new doctor who had been following the research and was more informed than most. It wasn’t until a year later that I slowly started to feel remotely like myself again.

Soulful Synergy from Solsiss Jewelry
Soulful Synergy from Solsiss Jewelry

During that time of physical and emotional healing, I went through months of rehab, rest, therapy, meditation, listening to calming music, drinking soothing tea, and more rest, and I also started using the essential oils my sister, Terri, had given me. She had been accessing the benefits of essential oils for years. I found them to be helpful and experimented with which scents were calming and relaxing, for muscle aches or to just breathe better. I would sometimes put a few drops in my bath, in my drinking water and tea, or dab some on my temples or wrist.

Terri told me about lava stones in jewelry to diffuse the oils and we both loved the idea, but after looking online we couldn’t find anything that we really liked. That’s when we knew we were going to design our own! I made my own jewelry when I was younger and also worked assembling pieces for a jewelry designer for many years. Our mom had jewelry parties when we were growing up, and we both have always been creative. Our aunt Eloise had recently been designing her own jewelry, so we played around with her treasure trove of beads, and SOLSISS Jewelry was born.

I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking. I know positive thoughts, words, and actions can create positive shifts in people. I had a LOVE charm on a necklace from a secondhand shop. Each time I wear it I get compliments and smiling faces from people of all ages. I could tell it transferred good energy to them, and it made me feel different when I wore it.

Solsiss necklace  for SCAD awareness
Solsiss necklace for SCAD awareness

Heart-Inspired for SCAD Collection - Rhodochrosite, Rainbow Moonstone & Sterling Silver Totem Diffuser Necklace w/BELIEVE Affirmation Heart

SOLSISS Jewelry is designed with the intention not only to enhance your wardrobe, but to draw in more positivity, joy, and harmony to those who wear it and in turn, emanate that energy out to others in the world. It is the simple concept we call, “Soulful Synergy.” Who doesn’t need a little more of that in their lives? We are infusing the world with good energy.

Solsiss Keychains
Solsiss Keychains

We combine natural gemstones (which are also known to have different vibrations and properties) with lava beads for grounding and use of the essential oils and then highlight our designs with meaningful focal beads and charms with words to invoke positivity. Sometimes all it takes is a little reminder for your energy to shift. You can also use our pieces to meditate with. Terri is a Reiki master and infuses our jewelry with lovely Reiki energy.

Solsiss Bracelets
Solsiss Bracelets

In the earlier stages of SOLSISS, when I was wearing my bracelets with our inspirational word heart charms, just knowing they were on my wrist gave me the extra support I needed in moments of doubt or fear that my heart might tear again. I wore my “Courage” and “Strength” bracelets on the first flight I took post-SCAD and added my essential oils. It was so helpful. Through meeting and reading about others on the SCAD Survivor Facebook page, I knew most survivors experience that doubt and fear. I wanted to share our bracelets with them.

I did my first SCADaddle—The Annual Carlsbad 5k for SCAD Research, Inc. in 2017 with Terri and my niece, Michelle. SOLSISS donated bracelets to the silent auction, and we knew we could do more. Hearts symbolize so much more meaning after you have survived a SCAD. We’ve created a special collection called the “Heart-Inspired SCAD Bracelet Collection” with survivors in mind. We also plan on designing a special SOLSISS Heartbeat Charm for this collection.

A portion of proceeds from this special collection is donated to SCAD Research, Inc.—a non-profit dedicated to supporting the Mayo Clinic’s research and the virtual SCAD research registry. They are working hard to find answers for us. We made our first donation from the Heart-Inspired SCAD Bracelet Collection in December!

Now over two years post-SCAD, I am busy with my new perfect storm. I am still seeing clients and working on my book project, am on the board of directors for a non-profit, The Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, which helps to preserve a historical landmark in Los Angeles, and I volunteer for the Annual 5K SCADaddle.

Solsiss Pendulums
Solsiss Pendulums

And I am co-creating SOLSISS Jewelry with Terri. As partners, we run every aspect of our business ourselves, and we both design and make our pieces—which is so much fun. We will be adding additional collections in the near future, including Nature, Ocean, and more. We plan to expand to a full jewelry line.

For now, this is bringing us so much joy! Life is good! I just don’t sweep anymore!!

We are grateful to Inside Fashion Design for sharing our story.

Donna Sugimoto – SOLSISS Jewelry partner, designer, and co-creator, power of positivity thinker, author, hairstylist, family history researcher, SCAD Thriver

Terri Bell – SOLSISS Jewelry partner, designer, and co-creator, ceramicist, reiki master, essential oil enthusiast.

Thank you for reading today!

Thank you for sharing your story, Donna! You can find SOLSISS online here.

Heart Flower Bouquet
Heart Flower Bouquet

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