Arlene's Story

November 2012, I had a coughing fit. I sometimes get Laryngospasm. It can happen two or three times a year; twice it woke me up. Very frightening. All of a sudden I get a tickle in my throat and then I cannot breathe. It's as though someone has put a vice around my lungs. Every breath, or rather noise, that comes from me is a real effort. 

On that day last year, I started to cough, it did not develop into a complete breathless attack but it was severe. After it had subsided, I had a really bad pain in the middle of my chest; I really did not feel well at all.

My partner asked if I wanted to go to my GP, and I said yes. I felt awful and was very lucky that he was about to open the surgery. The nurse at the surgery gave me an ECG while I was waiting for the doctor. When I saw him and he read the ECG he sent me directly to hospital.

I started to feel better after an hour or so. The hospital took ECGs constantly and said they really did not think I had had a heart attack but they needed to give me a test 12 hours after the initial pain to be sure, so I was to stay in overnight. The test came back positive and they arranged for me to have an angiogram.

On the day I was due to have the angiogram, the head cardiologist came to see me with his team. He asked what had happened prior to the attack and I told him about the coughing. He immediately said to his team, get an echocardiogram here and let me examine this woman before she goes to have an angiogram. When he looked at the echocardiogram, he said to the team, "I think I can see a small dissection" and I need her to have a CAT scan before having an angiogram. They did the CAT scan and came back and said I was to have an angiogram the following day.

When I did, the doctor who did the angiogram diagnosed heart spasm or prinzmetal angina; no stents or anything needed, just medication.

On a return visit, I saw the head cardiologist again, and he said that he was convinced I had had SCAD and showed me the pictures of the angiogram. He said I didn't need treatment of any kind, and in fact a few months later he took me off the statins and aspirin, he just kept me on my blood pressure pills and said to come back in five years after a further echocardiogram showed no damage to my heart whatsoever.

So that is my story. I am of course very happy with the end result, but very interested in why this happened to me, and although the doctor said he would be amazed if it happened again, I do worry a bit!!!

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