Whether it was the kettle bells, or the launch of a new store, the stress that I've put myself under in 2016 caused me to be diagnosed with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection which lead to me having a heart attack at the ripe age of 38.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection — sometimes referred to as SCAD — is an uncommon emergency condition that occurs when a tear (dissection) forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) can slow or block blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack, abnormalities in heart rhythm or sudden death.
Let me back up. Watch this video of me explaining what happened to me on September 15, the day that changed my life.
My 9 year old son had a PD Day and he had an orthodontist appointment booked for 9:30 am. I woke up and had a shower. As I was getting dressed I felt so hot. I was sweating hard and stripped back down to nothing but my skivvies. I laid on my bed and called my sister because by this point I was feeling tightness in my chest. She and I both decided I must be having a panic attack. I've never had one, but this could be it. I decided to drive Tristan to his appointment because we'd been waiting to get his retainer. I was really confused and felt disoriented. We drove the 4 minutes to his appointment. By this time I couldn't walk up the stairs to the second floor, we took the elevator. We checked in and now I was in tears. My chest was tight, it felt like something was digging into my armpits on both sides, I couldn't take a deep breath without feeling nauseous, my throat started to swell, I thought that I was maybe having an allergic reaction. The receptionist asked if I was alright, which I wasn't. I sent Tristan in to his appointment alone. Now my head was between my knees, and my left hand started feeling numb and I remember shaking it thinking this just isn't right.
I asked to use the phone because mine was dead. Did I call an ambulance? No. I called my mother. I told her something was wrong, I was crying, I asked that she bring my brother Marco so that he could stay with Tristan. Mom arrived within 10 minutes and we were off to the hospital. Once there I stood in queue to see the triage nurse. I told her my symptoms, she took my blood pressure and temperature and I was asked to take a seat. Within 5 minutes I was in the back having an ECG done and from there I was wheeled into the emergency cardiac area. I've spent many hours in Emergency rooms and I've never been wheeled anywhere on a bed. I thought to myself that something must be wrong and it wasn't all in my head.
My sister and Mom were with me by now and my husband was notified that something was up. He was working out of town and told that he should come home. They started an IV, and had me continually monitored. I had blood tests, ECG's, an ultrasound of my heart and more. My heart was going into tachycardia - up to 174 bpm and then back to normal. This continued throughout the day. I was given aspirin and nitro which i remember thinking, this is what they give people who are having heart attacks...let me also tell you that a lifetime ago I studied to be an EMT. At NO point throughout this ordeal did I ever think that I was having a bloody heart attack. I am a healthy, kinda-fit young woman! I was in good spirits from what I recall, I really did not think the worst and felt that I was improving already. I was ready to go home. It was a long day and by about 3:00pm I remember I really had to use the toilet but I was plugged into so many machines that they brought me a commode chair to use...I was absolutely mortified, but my husband and sister thought it was pretty funny.
I remember an elderly man beside me being sent for an angiogram while I was waiting and I thought to myself, damn that guy must be in bad shape. I could hear the nurses and doctors talking about me, trying to understand what was going on. I have the memory of a goldfish, since this was a life changing event for me, I remember quite a bit, and the rest has been filled in by my Mom, sister and husband.
No troponin was showing up in my blood work, my heart ultrasound looked good so the ER doctor was going to send me home. Thank GOD that Dr. Ayyobi was near. He's my cardiologist now. He said that no way was I going home. He was taking me upstairs to the Critical Care Cardiac Unit. They wheeled me upstairs and hooked me up to a 12 lead ECG. Within 3 minutes my heart went into tachycardia and the nurses came running in. The nurse told me they'd made the decision to send me in for an angiogram. I burst into tears when she said they had paramedics waiting outside my room and that they'd be taking me right now via ambulance to the University of Alberta Hospital. So my husband got into the Ambulance with me, we made the trip there, it all happened so quickly.
I was signing papers, getting told I'd be given Fentanyl, I was told all the possible complications and my husband patiently waited for me. We were told that it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to hours if they had to do surgery, the chances of which increase significantly during an angiogram. Here is a picture of me just before getting the procedure at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.
I was higher than a kite, I could feel the catheter going past my elbow and into my shoulder and that was really a crazy feeling.
Immediately I was diagnosed with SCAD (type 2) and fortunately I didn't require any open heart surgery, and they decided because of the location of the dissection that they wouldn't put any stents in. I would be medicated for a year and on strict rest for the foreseeable future.
Here is a picture of where the dissection was in my heart. The procedure was completed within 30 minutes and I was on my way!
I was sent back to the Sturgeon Hospital and was in critical care for 4 days. I called my boss and I thought, well this sucks. I didn't really get a weekend or any time off because I've been in hospital for my normal 4 days off. My doctors and nurses practically laughed at me, letting me know then how significant of an event this was, how I'd likely be off work for quite some time. It really took me not only days but weeks to fully understand what my body had been through.
Throughout this endeavour, my husband did not leave my side, he slept on the floor and finally on a cot. He was my eyes and ears when the doctors explained everything. I have never been a good listener, there was so much to digest and I was exhausted. My Papa was always the first one there each morning and the last one to leave each night. My mom took care of Tristan, my 9 year old son as it was the weekend that hockey evaluations started. My family and friends brought me care packages and showed me how loved I am. The MANY emails, text messages and personal phone calls amazed me. It felt almost like a living funeral. I am amazed how many people's lives that I've touched in my 38 years. I truly feel loved and cared for.
I joked with my Cardiologist that the kettle bells gave me a heart attack. I had my first class on Monday before my heart attack and my chest was so sore from the intense workout. But I can tell you with confidence that it was not the kettle bells, with my lifestyle and go-go-go personality, it is with almost certainty that my SCAD and heart attack was caused by stress.
So while I was in Critical Care, my amazing sister Renata continued prepping the store, because after all, we were having our Grand Opening in just one week! I honestly cannot tell you the amount of work that she's put into it, along with my Mother and Papa, extended family and friends, but I want you to know that I am forever grateful that you stepped up when I could not.
Thank you for all the support that you've given, whether it was bringing us frozen meals, calling and wishing me well, supporting our store and offering to help drive Tristan to hockey. It does not go unnoticed.
If you have it in you to help, please follow this link to shop our Heart Healthy jewelry collection. All portion of the sales will go directly to SCAD research right here in Canada.