The healthy woman’s heart attack
Have you ever heard of SCAD? AKA spontaneous coronary artery dissection? Bobbijo, who works in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, had never heard of it either. Early in January 2017, Bobbijo felt something was wrong, and passed it off as acid reflux, thinking it would go away. One week later with shooting pain from her sternum through to her back, she ended up in the emergency room.
After a GI cocktail (addressing possible indigestion issues) and nitroglycerin (medicine used to ease chest pain), which neither helped, normal EKG and normal blood work, Bobbijo was placed on observation. After a slightly elevated troponin level (blood proteins released when the heart muscle has been damaged), she was moved to the cardiac unit, and then to ICU as her troponin level tripled. An echocardiogram revealed a tear in her left anterior descending artery (LAD – the most important artery of the heart). It was described to her as “it’s like a hangnail in your artery, so the blood flow just finds another route.” The tear was pulled up and no stents were needed.
Bobbijo started cardiac rehabilitation at a facility near her house but quickly switched to Hennepin Healthcare’s Cardiac Rehab. Her Hennepin rehab team caught her premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) which are extra heartbeats, so a cardiologist is still following her progress. Her heart attack affected 5% of her heart, but thanks to her rehab, she has regained all of her function. She says, “At Hennepin’s cardiac rehab you really feel like you are part of a cardiac family. They make you feel so comfortable and at the same time let you push yourself. They know your comfort level and even your facial expressions if they see you becoming anxious. They embrace the whole mind, body and spirit.”
SCAD is a somewhat newer finding in the cardiology world in which a tear forms in an artery of the heart causing blood to pool and possibly form a clot causing a heart attack or even sudden death. SCAD is uncommon and occurs mainly in women. Of SCAD cases (90% of them are women) in their 40s who are healthy and have absolutely no risk factors for heart disease. It is responsible for 40% of heart attacks in women under the age of 50. Once you have it, you have up to a 20% chance of recurrence.
Bobbijo found comfort in a Facebook SCAD support group at first, but left it after members shared stories of recurrence. “I have anxiety about it, of course, and the fear is always there, but I try not to dwell on it. I have my sons and two wonderful grandchildren now. ” In this month of February, we strive to bring awareness to heart issues, and bring attention to the excellence of our cardiac rehab program.