“Not Your Typical Heart Patient”- Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection
Lisa was training for a marathon, so she ran an easy three miles that morning. She continued on to her office for a couple of massage appointments and deskwork before heading home for the night. While driving home she experienced pain across her collarbone and decided to stop at her parents’ house, which was along the way. Not long after arriving at her parents’, she began to experience jaw pain, as well as pain down the back of both of her arms. Schmidtfrerick-Miller stressed, “Anyone who knows me would describe me as not your typical heart patient.”
Katherine Leon of Alexandria, VA had just recently given birth to her son in 2003. Seven weeks after welcoming her little boy home she experienced a sudden heart attack. Leading up to her attack, Leon described suffering from debilitating fatigue, brain fog and weakness. Leon noted, “Every doctor I saw told me I was fine.” Leon describes the heart attack as, “A ‘classic’ Hollywood heart attack with central chest pain, shortness of breath, upper back pain, and arm pain and weakness.”
On Sunday, October 20th at 8:00 PM, Kyleen Leiker began to experience symptoms out of nowhere. With her husband out of town, Leiker had just turned on a movie for her three young boys and went upstairs to nurse her baby who at the time was 4 months old. Leiker describes her symptoms: “Out of nowhere I had an overwhelming sense of pain in my chest and shortness of breath. The pain traveled up to my upper back and radiated across both shoulder blades and then traveled up my neck.” Leiker then experienced numbness in both of her arms and elbows as the pain kept getting worse by the minute.
Four months prior to January 23, 2013, Meredith Champion, a 30 year old, had been experiencing angina-like symptoms. While not too severe, the chest, back, shoulder and arm pain would come on suddenly and happen multiple times a week. Champion notes, “I never associated this with my heart.” One morning, Champion woke up dizzy, nauseous, and woozy. She felt like she was going to pass out, even though she was lying in bed. Champion was able to get up and grab a light meal and figured these symptoms must have been the oncoming of the flu. It wasn’t until she was in the shower when she began to experience chest pain. Champion describes the pain: “It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest.” When the pain didn’t go away, Champion took to the Internet to search heart attack symptoms. When she noticed she had every single symptom she called 911.
These four women were about to have their lives drastically changed in a few short hours. They were experiencing spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a relatively rare and poorly understood acute coronary event that typically affects a younger, otherwise healthy population, according to scadresearch.org. According to scadresearch.org, “SCAD occurs when a split or separation suddenly develops between the layers of the wall of one of the blood vessels that provides blood to the heart. The space between the layers of the artery may fill with blood which may reduce or block blood through the artery, or a flap of loose tissue may create a blockage.”