I recently had the honor and pleasure of being invited to become a WomenHeart champion. To become a champion, I was trained at the Mayo Clinic. I was one of 50 women in the country chosen. Everyone in this illustrious group of women either had heart disease or had a cardiac event. In my case, it was the latter.
My 9/11 experience
On September 11, 2017, in a Toastmasters meeting at the hospital, I just returned to my seat after a brief presentation. I felt a burning sensation that originated in the middle of my chest and spread to both shoulders and into my jaw. I even felt it in my bottom teeth. It wasn’t particularly painful but it was a sensation I had never experienced before. I sat for a few minutes and tried to squirm my way out of the feeling but a voice in my head that became louder and louder said, “women’s symptoms are different from men’s” over and over again.
I turned to the gentleman sitting across the aisle from me, as he was the closest, and asked him to walk out with me because I was afraid I might get worse if I walked out and I didn’t want to faint…or worse. We walked out, I thought inconspicuously, and flagged down a hospital employee who quickly rallied the troops to get me into a wheelchair and off to the ER. While I waited for the wheelchair, I called my husband to tell him of my new adventure.
This can’t be happening to me
As my reality became evident, I began to panic. I had too much to do to be laid up with a heart attack. I’m a vegetarian so this can’t be happening to me. My blood pressure and cholesterol are on the low side so this can’t be happening to me. I’m a health coach and I teach people how to avoid such situations so this can’t be happening to me.
As soon as I arrived at the ER I was hooked up to an EKG and sure enough, it was happening to me. I was in the throes of a heart attack so they whisked me up to the cath lab to unblock what they thought was a blocked artery. What they found was something else. I had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection aka a SCAD. What is a SCAD, you say? It happens when one or more of your coronary arteries starts to come apart and cause a blockage resulting in a heart attack. I didn’t have a plaque buildup or a normal blockage. No, my artery started to peel apart and caused its own blockage. I was fortunate that it wasn’t a main artery and I feel like I dodged a gigantic bullet because here we are, almost 16 months later and I feel pretty good.
It was this event that led me to WomenHeart and all the courageous heart warriors I met at Mayo. There were women from 27 to late 70s who survived multiple near death experiences and several trips to the ER. They were not taken seriously and could have died from their illness.
There were women whose hearts were nearly shredded from the damage they suffered. It was enormously humbling to hear their stories of triumph and survival.
Some of them were born with a heart abnormality. There were some who were misdiagnosed over and over again. Some had multiple events and multiple life threatening conditions. They were all there for the same purpose. They want to help other women navigate the terrifying uncertainties of a catastrophic cardiac event.
These women were feisty, strong, funny, smart, curious, generous, loving, creative, supportive and still alive and wanted to give back. They were all so grateful to be alive and for defying the odds. I am in awe of them.
These are the people I hold up as my (s)heroes. They make me want to make them proud of me. I am so honored to be in their company and count them as my Heart Sisters.
As a Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I work with women who face serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free strategy call about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.
Wow that's powerful., Karen! I'm a retired nurse. When I read coronary artery dissection, I said Holy Shit. My mother has an aortic aneurysm, diagnosed 17 years ago. It's right in the aortic arch. Not good at all. Very risky surgery then and now. It was her choice for no surgery. She's had a good run. We had a rocky road 2 yrs. ago. But she's still holding her own. My parents are still living independly on their own. I wish you luck and good health.
Thanks Lily…I'm one of the lucky ones. There are so many women who are much younger than me who have it so much worse than I do. I am so blessed to be here and healthy. I hope your mother continues to stay strong. Thank you for your good wishes.
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Wow, this post was gripping and so helpful. I saved it for future reference, thank you. Wishing you good health in this new year and beyond.