“I never thought this would happen to me. I assumed I had no risk of a heart attack as I had just turned 40, had low blood pressure, no cholesterol issues, a healthy diet, exercise routine and two young kids to keep me active! In retrospect – 6 weeks prior, I presented to a hospital fever clinic for a COVID test with chest pain and respiratory symptoms. Not being a typical candidate for heart problems, no one thought to investigate further.
I have amnesia of the month prior to the event and the week after it. Apparently, I woke my partner Matt at 4am on 8 May 2020 with what I thought was a pinched nerve in my neck and he called a 24 hour Queensland health hotline. The nurse advised to monitor my situation and soon after, Matt witnessed me experience a heart attack that rapidly progressed into cardiac arrest.
It was over the following months that Matt fed me titbits of information from that morning, not wanting to overwhelm me. My heart had stopped for 11 mins, which meant I essentially died. Luckily, he remained focused and brought me back to life with guidance from the paramedics over the phone and drawing on his memory of CPR training. I marvelled how he managed to unlock the front door and gate for them, as our 5 and 7-year-old slept peacefully through the ordeal! When the paramedics arrived, they used a defibrillator – an electric pulse to my heart, which revived my heartbeat. Then, as result of heart arrhythmia, they induced me into a coma to facilitate recovery. It was 6am down in Hobart when the police knocked on my parent’s door to wake them and tell them the news, as their phones were on silent. I was then rushed to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane to be cared for by an incredible team of cardiologists and nurses. Matt stayed home to take the kids to school, anxious and uncertain of what was to come.
When the kids woke up they asked “Where’s Mumma?” He smoothly reassured them “She had a fall and is in hospital, don’t worry, she’ll be ok.” The first thing I remember was 5 days later when I came out of the coma with Matt squeezing my hand and me squeezing back. After a few days, I regained consciousness, confused “how long have I been out? I need to call my manager!” I had no recollection I recently left a stressful corporate role to work with Matt in our growing business, Renovations Brisbane. The kids couldn’t visit me in hospital due to COVID restrictions, but I awoke to their beautiful handwritten messages on homemade cards, which filled me with emotion I realised Mother’s Day had passed while I was in a coma. I frantically tried to organise a gift for my mum from hospital, having no memory that I’d already sent her one.
Shortly after I came out of ICU into the cardiac ward my dad arrived to help after a stressful trip from Hobart, including an overnight stop in Melbourne and negotiating police and army border controls at Brisbane Airport, at the height of national COVID border closures. It was a worrying time for all of us, but I recovered more quickly than expected and was discharged from hospital after 10 days.
A few months have passed as I write this. During my rehabilitation I have been overwhelmed with offers of help and kindness – from those near and dear, to newly formed friends reaching out from the school community. My Mother, recovering from breast cancer surgeries, remained in Hobart while Dad helped us through until my strength and memory improved. I have been unable to drive for 6 months due to the cardiac arrest. I have also been diagnosed with Fibromuscular Dysplasia, a vascular condition impacting blood flow and commonly found in SCAD patients. I am so grateful to be well on the road to recovery, supported by a wonderful group of medical professionals and others. I am hopeful that I can find ways to make a difference to the lives of others affected by this little known or understood condition; by helping to raise awareness of SCAD, by participation in genetic research through the Victor Chang Cardiac Institute, and fundraising to support crucial studies into why SCAD happens and how it can be treated. And also, to promote the importance of CPR training – without which, I may very well not be here today.”