Anna's story

I'm a 39 year old teacher living in Hertfordshire with my partner and our 5-year old son.

Last year (2014), about August time, I experienced SUDDEN CHEST PAINS following some fairly strenuous housework. I assumed they were INDIGESTION, but they were severe enough to make me nauseous and they lasted a few hours. My chest was sore for some days afterwards.

Then, on 25 November, whilst sitting at my desk at work I experienced THE SAME SUDDEN CHEST PAINS. It felt like VERY INTENSE HEARTBURN. I took a Rennie but it had absolutely no effect on the pain. My boss suggested I go home and lie down, so I drove myself 10 miles up the A1 motorway, SWEATING slightly, with a strange sensation in my LEFT ARM as though I'd slept on it all night. At one point I was close to pulling over and dialling 999. I made it home and drank some milk and lay on the sofa.

The pain subsided slightly so I walked to my son's school to collect him. By the time I got home the pain had returned, so I called my GP for advice. The advice from the Receptionist was to go to A&E straight away. I told her 'I CAN’T BE HAVING A HEART ATTACK, I'm 38, healthy, and I don't smoke or drink!' Nevertheless I drove myself and my son to the hospital, fortunately only 2 miles away.

Once there, a number of tests were performed. My partner had arrived by now, and I remember lying on the bed and a doctor coming in and telling me that a blood test had come back abnormal (TROPONIN was 1376) and they were going to keep me in. My partner was shocked, but I still thought it was indigestion!

Early the next morning I was taken for my first angiogram. The cardiologist SUSPECTED ARTERY SPASM, but my artery didn't respond to GTN so he was cautious about this diagnosis. He said it COULD BE SPONTANEOUS CORONARY ARTERY DISSECTION but he couldn't be sure at this stage.

I'd never heard of either condition!

I was put on a number of medicines and taken back to the ward. Unbeknown to me at the time I was UNSTABLE ON THE WARD FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS. Then, suddenly, the same pain came back.

I was having ANOTHER HEART ATTACK.

I was taken for another angiogram, through the same wrist that was now bruised and swollen, and this time a cardiologist inserted a camera too. IMMEDIATELY HE DIAGNOSED SCAD. I saw the flayed left circumflex artery on the screen in front of me. The other arteries were pristine. Two stents were inserted to hold my artery together, my meds were altered, and I was discharged 36 hours later.

I started rehab 5 weeks later and RETURNED TO RUNNING, but I now AVOID WEIGHTLIFTING. Physically I have ongoing chest pains, which only subside when I'm running. Psychologically I generally feel fine, but I get the odd wave of panic when I imagine my son losing his mum. People around me are amazed at how well I've coped, especially at work, as I returned after 8 weeks off (I think they expected me to return much later).

I'm on clopidogrel and aspirin for a year, then aspirin alone for life. I'm also on blood pressure tablets and beta blockers. My BP and HR were fine before SCAD so they are obviously pretty low now. Hopefully I won't be on them for long!

My heart function is good; there is some damage to the outer muscle, but I've been very lucky really.

I JUST HOPE IT DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN!

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