• Laura

Let me tell you why I'm a brave girl......

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

I sometimes tell people that I'm the coolest person they've ever met, or at least I was on July 3-4, 2016. I don't say this out of arrogance. I say this because it's literally the truth. (Sidenote: I've been told I overuse the word literally. I think it's appropriate here.)

On July 2, 2016, at the age of 47, I had a heart attack which resulted in a full cardiac arrest. This happened while I was at an Urgent Care facility where I had been taken after experiencing severe, unexpected and unrelenting chest pain. One minute I was talking to the nurse, the next minute I fell off the exam table and began seizing on the floor. I am told that my body then went still. Neither the attending nurse or doctor could detect a pulse. They began chest compressions which continued until EMS arrived to take over. I was defibrillated and transported to Methodist Hospital in Omaha, NE by ambulance. My medical records indicate that I was not reacting normally when I arrived at the ER. I was alive, but not coherent. Naturally, due to the fact that my heart had stopped, I was taken to the cath lab. The cardiologist, Dr. Fiksinski, found a dissection which was repaired with a stent. Because there was concern about possible brain and organ damage due to a loss of oxygen, the medical team decided to place me in therapeutic hypothermia, also known as "code chill". When this was explained to me later, I asked if this meant I was placed in a steel drawer in the morgue and covered with ice cubes. In case you are also wondering how this works, that is NOT what they do to you. A catheter is inserted in the femoral artery in the groin with cold saline running through it. This then chills the surrounding blood and reduces your body temperature. The cooling and rewarming process is gradual. It takes 12 hours to reach the target "code chill" temperature (which is just a few degrees below "normal"), then the patient is kept in "code chill" for 24 hours. Following that, the patient is rewarmed over a 12 hour period. Obviously, I have no memory of any of this. My cardiac arrest was on Saturday evening. My first conscious memory is of my ex-husband bringing my sons to visit me around 10:00 a.m. the following Wednesday. I've been told that I was extubated on Tuesday and was responding verbally to questions. I have no memories of this day. That may be for the best, as I'm told I was confused and upset.

Prior to this medical catastrophe, I had never heard of an artery dissection. I had never given my heart a second thought. My diet was mostly clean; I exercised fairly regularly; my body weight was in a healthy range. Additionally, I have no family risk factors for heart disease. The exact heart condition I have is called a SCAD. This stands for Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. In a SCAD, the lining of the artery tears (or dissects) causing blood to pool. This can cause a heart attack and, in some cases, can cause a full cardiac arrest. It can often be fatal. I was very lucky that my chest pain happened when I was with someone and that they quickly got me to a medical facility.

You might assume that healing from such a traumatic event is mostly physical. I can tell you that the psychological and emotional effects of my SCAD were the hardest to overcome and are present to this day. I am almost 3 years out from my SCAD. We survivors call it our SCADiversary. My third SCADiversary will be on July 2. I am thankful for my life. I am a survivor of physical and emotional trauma from my SCAD. I have to force myself to be brave whenever my chest hurts. I have been to the ER 3 times since my SCAD. I have learned to live with the fear that it may happen again. This is why I can proudly say that I am a very ......


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