Margaret didn’t have the common symptoms. There was no pain in her chest – no “classic warning signs” – before suffering a heart attack three months after her 40th birthday.
It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Margaret didn’t feel quite right at work that day. She had cold sweats and a strange numbness in both arms. “I thought I had the flu”, recalls Margaret. She was dizzy, nauseous, and generally felt unwell. So she did like anyone would have who thought they were coming down with something; went home, had a ginger ale and went to bed.
The weekend went on without incident.
But when Monday morning came, Margaret still didn’t feel quite like herself. “For some reason my morning coffee didn’t taste quite right.” She recounts. “I thought I must have been getting sick so I decided to go back to bed.” But even upstairs in bed she was restless. “I was lightheaded and couldn’t get comfortable. I went from lying down to standing, to sitting repeatedly.”
Unable to settle, she remembers asking her husband for a ginger ale to help calm the nausea. She doesn’t remember anything after that.
Her husband, Steve recounts finding her, “She was gasping for air and was turning purple.” He quickly called 911 and dispatch began relaying instructions by phone, “They began prepping me to preform CPR.” The fire fighters arrived quickly after the call and attended to her.
Margaret was taken by ambulance to St. Mary’s where she was immediately assessed by the on-call cardiologist and taken up to the ICU. To prevent damage to the brain due to lack of oxygen, Margaret was put into a medically induced coma for three days. She only remembers bits and pieces of the recovery that followed.
An angiogram diagnosed Margaret with Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) which means there was a sudden tear in the blood vessel in her heart. Very little is still known about the causes of SCAD. Hormones are suggested to play a role and, as a result, the condition often affects women, most commonly in their 40’s and 50’s.
What is known about Margaret’s ordeal with SCAD is that she is fortunate. Fortunate her husband was still home that morning to find her. Fortunate the firefighters were trained in CPR and worked quickly to revive her. Fortunate that St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Centre was so close to diagnose and treat her. Ultimately fortunate that there was no long term damage to her brain or her heart.
Today Margaret works hard to prevent a reoccurring attack. She works out, maintains a healthy diet and takes time for herself; reducing added stresses in life.
She has a message for other women, “The warning sign of a heart attack is not always going to be pain in your chest.” Symptoms of SCAD often include; a rapid heartbeat or fluttering, pain in your arms and shoulders, shortness of breath, sweating, unusual and extreme tiredness, nausea, dizziness. “Know the symptoms and share them with the women you love. It could mean the difference between life and death.”
This Friday June 9, 2017, join Margaret as we celebrate Red Day, a day to spread the message about the importance of women’s heart health. Wear Red in support of St. Mary’s and the women you love