Katrine’s story

I had my first SCAD heart attack January 2014, I was in Denmark on vacation and preparing my luggage to return to Italy, when I felt a strange feeling in my chest (no pain) and that my left arm “fell asleep” it only took a few seconds, and then disappeared but something told me to react so we called 911 to ask what to do and they send an ambulance right away. In the hospital they took 2 blood test (12 hours one from the other) for enzymes but both turned out negative, also EKG was perfect, and I felt “normal”.

So as we had to return to Italy they decided to let me go, but told me to contact the hospital for a cardio stress test when back home. (Later I experienced that in Denmark they do not know about SCAD, maybe because we are not in many?).

It took 2 days drive home (we stayed in Germany overnight , I felt a little bit weak, but nothing serious), well at home I began carrying the luggage upstairs, and right away I felt tired and without strength, so we decided to go to the E.R. They made me wait 40 minutes, and more than once I was about to return home, but my husband insisted on staying.

Finally they called my number, and then everything got quicker, they checked EKG (still perfect), made a RX of upper body (all fine), Echo normal, took a blood test for enzymes (perfect), took a second (good), made me sleep there overnight, the day after I was walking around waiting to go home, when the nurse came running, shouting that I had to get back in the bed, as I was to be transferred to cardiac urgency ward, the enzymes had reached a high level and I have had a heart attack.

That night I was in the emergency cardiac ward alone in a room attached to a lot of machines without understanding what was happening…. I was sure to die, if not right away, without doubt later when an eventual second heart attack arrived.

The day after my parents arrived from Denmark and I was going to have a coronography (not at all a pleasant test!). The test showed that one of the coronaries was bended in the end, so no stent necessary, I was left in the hospital for 7 days, and another 2 weeks home, and then returned to my usual life. I got more or less no explanation or follow up treatment, even had to struggle to have the control echo after 4 months (and had to do it in another hospital) because there were no available appointments.

No physical or psychological follow-up, was only told that it surely was a onetime experience and that I should return to my normal life as soon as possible. The echo and also the stress cardio test after 4 and 6 months was perfect, so I returned in the gym running once a week with BPM below 145 (before SCAD I was running twice a week and much faster, but the only advise I got was to keep BPM below 145).

Then exactly one year later (about 1 month ago) I went to China with my work, our travel program was very tight and we travelled more than 4000 km in 4 days, arrived late at night in hotel and often did not even had time to eat or rest….. on the 5th day we was late for the train and my boss told us to run as fast as possible so that we did not miss the train to Shanghai…. I ran drawing my 25 kg luggage……….and suddenly I felt like someone punched me in the chest!!

But it was cold, and when I stopped running it seemed like the pain was getting a bit better, and then it was NOTHING like last SCAD. So I got in the train, travelled 3 hours to Shanghai with the pain (even checked my blood pressure in the bathroom - wouldn’t make a fuss - but it seemed ok, maybe slightly high, but nothing to worry about), also made a joke about not making me run like that anymore, as I could have another heart attack.

We arrived in hotel, but no booking received, so we discussed with the management for a while, and the pain got worse, so much that I had to sit down. Finally got the keys, went to lay down in the room, the pain was in the chest and back….but I still would not accept that it could be a new SCAD, so I went down to eat (around 11 a clock in the evening), my colleagues meant it could be a strap, so they recommended a hot shower (!!), which I did arriving back in my room, and actually it felt better, so I went in bed to sleep….

5 o’clock in the morning I woke up, the pain was awful, I called my husband in Italy, cried and told him that I would not go to the hospital, because we were applying for a second adoption and with a recovery the adoption would not be accepted! My husband insisted, if I did not call my boss, he would. So I called, and then I took the nitro – almost 16 hours had passed from the first pain! The hotel called the doctor (who came after 40 min…… I repeatedly told them, that I HAD to go to the hospital, at this point I suspected a new SCAD!

In the hospital the doctor asked me if I still had pain…. And surprisingly I wasn’t… it was almost 1 hour ago that I took the nitro… so she answered: “then I am sure that you are having a heart attack”. They took a blood test, and while I was waiting for the result I even fell asleep, the doctor woke me up, and I just knew right away, this time it was serious!! The Chinese doctors were very upset, more than 16 hours from first pain till recovery, the level of enzymes were very high, so they were talking about heart surgery and serious damage. I was rushed to CT scan, but the result came out fine, so they sent me to make (once again) a coronography and prepared me that probably they had to insert a stent.

But to their and my surprise the coronography didn’t show any blockage or tear, but the EKG and the enzymes still showed that I have had a heart attack. Everything was checked, they made an echo of my whole body, heart was monitored 24 hours, but they only found a very small damage, and I also felt fine.

After 6 days they released me from the hospital and we flew back home (my father reached me from Denmark and my husband from Italy, it was such a great feeling having them there with me, even if the Shanghai hospital was very pleasant…. Had it happened in one of the other deserted places that we visited in China I might not be alive today).

Back in Italy I could not get a visit, as there were no appointments available, so I had to pay to get checked. The Italian doctor confirmed that there were a very small damage (bigger than first SCAD, but still minor) and when they checked the video of the Chinese coronography, they found that an end of one of the coronaries was missing (?), so they guessed it was a 2nd SCAD.

3 weeks at home from work, now I am back working and they also told me that I can restart training, no follow up as last time, doctor says that I unlikely will have another SCAD (but they also told me so the first time!). I have a really hard time restart training (my husband as well is afraid - even more than me). This time (differently from first time) I am afraid of having a new SCAD.

As expected the adoption will be cancelled, as the adoption rules are very strict here in Italy. We got the confirmation that we had been accepted in Peru as adoption parents, the same day we had to inform about the heart attack… we still have not closed the adoption because it is soo difficult for me to accept that I cannot be a natural mother and now not even an adoption mother!! We tried everything to continue the adoption, but it is impossible (only famous and rich stars are able to adopt even if they had surgery/cancer etc.!!)

I live a normal life, have not even had an operation or a stent - only medicine! I might live until I have 80 years - but I am not qualified to be a mother anymore!!

Fortunately we already have our son, which we adopted 3 years ago, and I thank God every day for letting me experience the enormous love that there is between us!

I regret that the doctors did not inform me better about SCAD and future risks the first time! When I found the American and English homepages about SCAD, for the first time I understood what I was going through, and that I should be happy to be alive (I was shocked when I saw how many people dies due to SCAD!).

I now know that the second SCAD much likely could have been avoided if I had been informed better about SCAD and eventual future limitations! And I also know that waiting more than 16 hours to go to the hospital could have killed me!! I hope that I will be able to be more careful in the future.

Yesterday I finally had an appointment with a SCAD doctor who will make some further test and follow up on my case, tomorrow first day in the gym, can't wait!

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