“Hi, my name is Maree and this is my 20th year of living with the reality and yet the constant uncertainty of SCAD. In that time I’ve had 3 heart attacks caused by SCAD. There is too much to tell in this short space, so I will try and give you a snapshot.

Each heart attack had it’s similarities and differences. Overall the symptoms I experienced ranged from quite mild and subtle to rather distressing but manageable.
 Mild but constant chest discomfort which I thought was reflux through to strong pain
radiating through my chest.
 A “pop” followed by a pain like I’d been punched in the gut and winded.
 Pressure around the base of my throat or a tightness inside my throat.
 Mild nausea through to constant vomiting.
 Uncontrollable trembling all over as I was in shock.
 BP unusually high and fast heart rate.
 Feeling light headed and clammy.

SCAD #1
2003, Age 41 – fit, healthy & active, keeping up with 3 busy active kids. But I had been living with long term stress and anxiety.
I experienced quite mild symptoms and thought I was coming down with a stomach bug. The thought of these being cardiac symptoms were furthest from my mind.However a trip to the GP who did and ECG, directed me to present at Emergency. The Emergency Doctor thought I looked too well for this to be a cardiac event but at least they still did the routine testing. I’ll never forget the Doctor’s face when she said that the Troponin blood test indicated a heart attack and I was to be admitted. I think in that instant, she was more shocked than I was – but only for a moment! Then I felt stunned and scared, I was unfamiliar with Emergency & Cardiac wards. What did this all mean?
The angiogram confirmed the heart attack but SCAD wasn’t diagnosed until a later time. Not a great deal was widely known about SCAD back then. I was told that it was rare, given a brief explanation, but had no literature to read or SCAD specific support.
Almost 19 years later, with a few false alarms causing me to present to Emergency (checked and cleared), I was feeling like this SCAD thing was a part of my past. But, to my shock…

SCAD #2
2021, Age 59 – dealing with Covid lock down and other general stresses but no specific triggers that I was aware of.
It happened quite suddenly after a relaxing evening joining an online video catch up with friends. This time I was able to articulate at the hospital that I had previously had a SCAD heart attack, which they took on board and acted quickly but still the Emergency staff seemed
unfamiliar with SCAD. Although, there was a different atmosphere in the Cath Lab as the angiogram confirmed another SCAD. A buzz of interest from the young(ish) Lab technicians as they had never been present to see a SCAD first hand.
I’m glad that they were able to have the extra education. I just would have preferred it not to be me!

This time I left the hospital with some extra direction to be able find updated information about SCAD, to connect with the Facebook support group and to seek out testing for Fibromuscular Dysplasia, which has been found in my renal and spenic arteries.

Only 16 months later…
SCAD #3
2023, Age 60 – the only possible l trigger that I can identify is lifting a box down from a shelf above my head? Symptoms began on another relaxed evening after dinner, while watching a tv show. The ambulance was called immediately, asprin taken and paramedics attended quickly. Quick action assisted in a good outcome as the ECG had identified this one as a full blockage, where the previous 2 SCAD’s had been partial blockages. Angiogram, medications adjusted slightly, and this time they kept me on bed rest for longer and directed me to a much slower recovery pace on leaving the hospital.
I received great care at the hospital and my Cardiologist also collaborated with the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.
Over the years, I’ve had to become my own advocate. To learn as much as I can about my condition, to speak up and ask questions and to explain SCAD to any health practitioner that I see.
My life has changed with each SCAD event and it’s continuing to be quite a journey of adjustment. Living with ongoing medications that protect your heart but at the same time hinder you in other ways (e.g. fatigue, brain fog), restrictions on lifting (small grand-children included), some household chores that I took for granted (well that’s not so bad – a good excuse for help), second guessing every pain or unusual sensation in my body (learning a balance of listening to my body and assessing my needs versus stressing and worry). But a healthy and sensible lifestyle has got to be a priority. And in the event of strange pains, “if in doubt, check it out”.
Quick action in the event of a heart attack makes a huge difference to the outcome –minutes count!

As a multiple SCAD survivor, I’m so very grateful for the research into SCAD over recent years that is making much needed progress, but there is so much more that is still unknown.”