James M's story
I am a runner, first and foremost; my life is based around my running (or was). I started running aged 30 when I realised I could no longer depend on my metabolism to keep middle-aged spread at bay. I was hitting the scales at just over 13 stone and was not happy, so I started running, firstly on the treadmill, then on the roads, and on to cross country (XC). I joined my local club after a year and started competing, at a high level. Pretty soon it was consuming me; I just had to run.
All was going well, my weight was 11.5 stone – perfect. And I was always the first on the start line. I met a coaching team and started winning provincial and national medals.
So I am not your average heart attack case.
On 15 December 2015 we were at the track and we had run a hard session, 400m reps, with one-minute recovery. It was intense and I felt tired my times were poor. I was getting slow as the session progressed. I completed it and headed to the changing rooms, feeling just wrecked, and I was unhappy with my session. I made my way back to the track for the warmdown, but I felt nauseous and collapsed on the track.
The next 12 hours were a complete blur. My coach and another runner are nurses. My pulse was fading and my coach administered CPR, I came to and the ambulance arrived and took me to the hospital. An angiogram two days later showed a dissection in the LAD (left anterior descending) artery, and another after five days showed good healing, I was released from the hospital with medication after a week, my ejection fraction was 50%, which was very good. My strong heart and quick-thinking nurse saved my life for sure.
Seven weeks post-SCAD I could not exert myself above 90bpm and my weight was increasing. I wanted to run, even jog, it’s my life’s work, I think, and I have so much that I need to achieve.
As for the impact on my life, I live alone, so I have not the usual family worries, so I could sleep lots, which I did – I needed eight hours per night after my SCAD and am still tired lots. I had a constant ache in my heart, like a muscular ache. I walked a little; it was not the same as running but it was OK.
The biggest hindrance was that I was afraid to head out alone, I used run a lot alone but that was gone. I needed to stay where there are people as it might happen again. I have no other health issues and I am grateful for that.
Since my SCAD, I have returned to the sport I love and have always stayed positive and driven.
After 14 weeks I went out with my coach and jogged (struggled) one mile in a nearby forest. It took us 14 minutes. I then started doing 45 miles a week in a group at a moderate pace. It’s not competitive, for sure, but I am now in a much better place than when I wasn’t running. I hope to become a beacon for all those who are suffering from SCAD, to show them the light,” he said.
I would love to return to competitive running but I am told this is not feasible. But for now, 45 miles a week and a healthy lifestyle is good. SCAD is there in the background but that is where I aim to leave it, for now anyway.”