Four letters that meant nothing to me until July 1, 2015.
My name is Erin Elizabeth and I was blessed to celebrate my 39th birthday just five days ago. Thank you so much for this opportunity to tell my story and raise awareness…
At the age of 36 I was home alone with my then 2 year old son preparing to leave for Mount Pleasant as soon as my husband got home from work to attend my grandmother’s funeral. She had passed away at 10 o’clock the previous night. I laid my son down for his nap at noon and headed to my living room to rest. Shortly after laying down the symptoms started: shortness of breath, pain up my arms, nausea, irregular heart beat and a burning sensation similar to heart burn. I knew something serious was occurring, I felt completely out of control of my body. I grabbed my phone and headed outside. My instincts told me to get outside in case I passed out or stopped breathing (I didn’t want to be alone in my house). By the grace of God my neighbor was outside and Greg was on the phone. Greg called 911 from work an sped to Sparrow to meet me in the ER. Initially when the paramedics arrived they didn’t believe the severity of the situation. They actually made me get up from the ground and walk into my house. Thankfully, they hooked me up to an EKG, their expressions changed immediately. Fast forward to an ambulance ride to Sparrow ER it was confirmed… I was having a HEART ATTACK. I was rushed to the cath. lab where Dr. Karve (another one of my angels) saw a tear in my LAD (that’s right the artery known as the widow maker) and it was a big one. So large in fact he could not place a stent without the risk of totally splitting my artery. I hear in a very stern voice, “I can’t place the stent we have to get her into surgery now”. I didn’t even know what this meant. I kissed Greg in the hallway told him I was going to be fine and told my BIL, Dave, not to leave him.
Next snapshot, waking up in Cardiac ICU with a breathing tube down my throat and a body filled with tubes and wires. I had just gone through open heart double bypass surgery…Um What!
Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, a tear in an artery wall causing blood flow blockage and potentially causing a heart attack. Scariest part is the cause is unknown. SCAD is most likely to happen to healthy women in their child bearing years with no known heart disease risk factors. And to top it off the recommendation is to avoid future pregnancy. My heart was breaking again, Greg and I had just decided we were ready to have another baby. Too say the least I spent the next 5-6 weeks in total shock trying to adjust to my new normal. It was also the beginning of approx 18 months of intense research learning about heart function and SCAD, contacting doctors all over the US and UK.
Fast foward to present day. I am 2 ½ years post HA and I feel it is my mission to raise awareness. My heart function is strong, I feel great and I am happy to report I made it safety through a second pregnancy!! My best friend and her blog to have given me a chance to tell my story during February, National Heart Month. February 2nd is National Go Red for women day. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death for men and women in the US. I hope to use my story to inform people that ANYONE can have a heart attack. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms I listed above please seek immediate medical attention.
Since my SCAD and open heart surgery I am a changed person. There are some great life lessons I feel I have learned and I would like to share them with you:
1. Life is precious and delicate. Find joy in every day.
2. Sow strong nets. When I was at my weakest my family and friends where there to catch me. Make your inner circle small and strong.
3. Trust your instincts. I knew something was wrong and I followed my gut.
4. Miracles happen daily, never lose faith. My most recent miracle: Evelyn Faith born 9-18-2017.
5. Advocate for your own health. If you don’t like how a doctor is handling your case, find a new one. There are amazing doctors out there, it just takes time to find them.
6. Post traumatic growth is possible! Just because you experience trauma does NOT mean it has to influence the rest of your life negatively. I wouldn’t change one piece of my story. God gives his toughest battles to his strongest warriors.
I hope you will join me by wearing red on February 2nd, to specifically support women’s heart health awareness.
To learn more about SCAD please take some time to explore www.SCADresearch.org
Any donations made at SCADresearch.org go directly to SCAD research taking place at Mayo Clinic by
Dr. Sharone Hayes (she is awesome).
Thank you for reading and sharing my story! Can’t wait to see you in RED!
And thank you to my bestie Brooke, and her blog My Casual Mom, a lifestyle blog to allow me to tell my story.
Erin Elizabeth Sparrow Health System
#SCAD #SCADstrong #survivor