She Had a Heart Attack at 35. Part Two of Dawn’s Story.

So if you read last week’s post, you already about Dawn. She had a heart attack at 35 when she suffered a spontaneous dissection of an artery; which sounds exactly as scary as it was.

THIS kind of scary.

THIS kind of scary.

Let’s jump forward two years. Dawn is doing well. Her heart, though always going to be a bit weak, is on the mend. She has lots of stuff going on in her life and she’s generally kicking ass and taking names. She knows how to recognize symptoms now, which is how, when she had another heart attack, she knew to get herself to the hospital.  As scary as that may seem, this one wasn’t nearly as bad and since she already knew the signs, she knew to treat them with respect. Here’s what happened:

May 2016

Thank you, everyone, for your well wishes. They mean so much to me. I am home and resting. I want to start at the beginning of the story, but it’s hard to define where that is because this is essentially a sequel story and it’s far more boring than the first.

In May 2014, my right coronary artery spontaneously dissected, which means its innermost layer ripped about a finger length. That ripped flap blocked blood from flowing to my heart, causing a moderate heart attack in which the lower part of my heart died. In emergency surgery, my cardiologist placed four overlapping, drug-eluding stents, reinforcing the artery and saving my life. The healing process from this experience was very long. It took about two and a half to three months for my body to remove the dead materials, my lower heart to scar over, and my artery to absorb the cyber parts. I also began taking a bunch of medication and could expect to do so for the rest of my life (so not my favorite thing).

If you want more details about that experience, I’m linking in the comments to my post from 2014.

On Thursday, I had a minor heart attack, causing no lasting damage. My family was eating dinner and I began to feel a slow burn of pain across my chest. I decided to go put on looser clothing in case that was the culprit. Since my first heart attack, I now experience chest pains and pricks and aches frequently, so it’s tough to tell whether this time it might be real. Within minutes the pain spread from armpit to armpit and felt like a snake squeezing my upper body. The pain began traveling down both arms. This felt just like the first time but lacked all the other symptoms, such as the sweating and vomiting.

We didn’t want to take any chances, so we went to St. Pete’s ER, where I was instantly taken back and given an EKG, which showed nothing despite the intense pain I was experiencing at the time. (I have little faith in these machines now. I was actively having a heart attack and it didn’t pick it up.)

Anyway, the pain started at 6:05 and suddenly stopped at 7:20 or so for no obvious reason. I started to feel stupid for wasting everyone’s time. Now we had to wait six hours in the ER for a second blood test to check my troponin numbers. Upon entrance, it showed nothing. They prepared my discharge papers, and James and I sat around waiting to be released. Six hours later, the numbers showed heart strain/damage and I was admitted to the cardiac ward. The number continued to grow through the night.

The next day, I was taken into the cath lab and had an angiogram. Being the giant baby I am, I asked to be drugged to the nine moons so I didn’t have to be aware of them threading through my system and into my heart. They complied.

Here’s what they discovered: My arteries are gorgeous and squeaky clean except for the two to three inches of stenting, which is gathering plaque. A piece of that plaque broke off and smacked into my heart, causing the heart attack. It thankfully dissolved, releasing the pressure, before any permanent damage could occur.

So I’m a bit tired, like following a wicked flu, but that’s it. One medication’s dosage has been increased, and I was sternly reminded to take all my pills at the same time every single day, something I haven’t been great about. My inconsistency didn’t cause the heart attack, but it sure didn’t help things either.

Here’s the good news:

  • Manmade parts not functioning as human arteries do essentially caused this heart attack. That makes sense to me and gives me hope that eventually science will improve stents, and I’ll be able to have better cyber parts.
  • I didn’t have another spontaneous dissection, which is what I fear most these days.
  • The angiogram showed that my arteries look very healthy except for that area of stenting.
  • I now know that despite having two different types of heart attacks, the pain felt the same for me, giving me more data to use when self-monitoring. And data is always good.

What now? I go back to my regularly scheduled life. I can’t pick up anything heavier than 5 pounds for the next week, which makes things difficult with Baby A, who doesn’t understand why I won’t pick him up when he asks. I plan to go back to work right away. I might just do half days for the first few days as I get my energy back. I take all my pills on schedule and keep extras in my purse.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I’m 37.

Thank you for sharing your story, Dawn.

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