Michelle’s story

Published Mon, 4 Feb 2019 by

Michelle’s story

At the time of my SCAD event, I was a 43-year-old active single mother of three living in Norway. I had always tried to stay relatively fit. I ate a balanced diet and I have never smoked. I drank alcohol on occasions.

On the evening of 1 May 2013, I experienced my first symptoms. The children were in bed and I suddenly felt unwell, but in no particular pain. I tried to shake off the unwell feeling by keeping busy, but I continued to feel really strange and unwell.

Then things suddenly got worse. My left arm became very heavy and I felt a tightening in my jaw. I asked my neighbour for advice and we decided to call the emergency services. They arrived within 10 minutes and they confirmed it was a heart problem and that I would need to be admitted to hospital.

Once in A&E I remember feeling very calm, amazingly calm. After a lot of blood tests and examinations I was moved to a heart observation ward.

On the morning of 2 May, I recall being violently sick. I was taken for a coronary angiogram and was immediately referred to theatre for emergency open heart surgery. The angiogram had shown an acute dissection. There were complications during the surgery which meant not only did the operation take a lot longer than planned, I had to undergo a second operation, and the closing of the sternum was delayed by 24 hours.

My mum, my eldest daughter, (14 at the time) and her dad were all by my bedside when I recall waking up the first time. My mum had flown over from England. I was very drowsy and don’t remember anything else that day.

I wasn’t stable enough to be moved from intensive care to a cardio intensive observation ward until 10 May. After being moved from post op, however, I contracted an infection which meant that I had to be put on strong antibiotics.

A couple of weeks later I was able to start some physio. We started off easy by moving me out of bed to a chair. I felt like I had run a marathon. The goal was to be able to climb a flight of stairs. Only then could I be discharged.

Before leaving I agreed to have a visit from 10 medical students who had to try and diagnose my illness simply by observation. The bandages on my chest, full inside right leg, part of left leg and groin made it a little easy for them, but they were puzzled about the fact that I was a fit, young, slim female. Hopefully that put SCAD on the radar for future medics.

At the end of May I was was moved to a rehabilitation home, where I stayed for two weeks. This gave me time to get my body back into normal routines and continue my physio before going home and having to fend for myself.

By the middle of June I was home with my kids. My mum stayed with me for three months. As I wasn’t allowed to drive she did all the errands with the kids and food shopping and much more. My siblings also flew over from England to take a turn to help out. Friends and family here all rallied around and I will be eternally grateful to everyone for being there when I needed them all the most.

By October 2013 I was able to do a phased return to work and after six months I was back working 9-3 as I did before my SCAD event.

In July 2015 I attended a research day with Dr Abi at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. I received my results letter in 2017 which said I have an ejection fraction of 35% and I do not have Fibromuscular Dysplasia (FMD, which seems to be present in many SCAD survivors).

My cardiologist in Oslo has since informed me based on the results letter, that my body has redirected the blood flow discarding the bypass. Although slightly concerned at first, I have faith in that the body is doing its best to heal itself.

I function well in everyday life, although I do have to pace myself and listen to my body. The only restrictions I feel I have is heavy lifting and the restrictions in amusement parks. So I pretty much live a normal life.

I am keen to help with future research programmes to help spread awareness about SCAD.