Thursday, April 5, 2018

My SCAD Testimony

This was written a few weeks after my SCADs in August 2010. It was originally posted on my friend's photography website/blog but she recently took her website down so I have moved it back here for the time being. I now post on my group Life After Scad on Facebook. If you are a SCAD survivor  please request to join. We would love to have you and support you during your SCAD journey. We have an amazing group of survivors who are so encouraging and loving.

I cannot tell you how much it meant for me to do this session. My sweet friend had been faced with more over the last month than most of us have or will have in our lives. I want to share not only her pictures, but her story. Please take the time to read what our God did for her. I am so thankful my friend is alive and healthy and able to love her sweet baby girls.

On August 2nd we were blessed with our second beautiful daughter, Ryleigh Harper, a sweet blessing from the Lord. My husband and I enjoyed our time in the hospital with our new baby girl and our precious two year old daughter, Maycie-Grace. We were discharged two days later and left for home to begin our new life as parents of two sweet girls.

I was so excited to get to spend two weeks with my husband and our girls. The first couple days were the typical first days at home with a newborn. We were tired but were counting our blessings. It was quite the adjustment to have a newborn and a toddler but we were enjoying every moment of it.

August 9th was like any other day. We were playing with Maycie-Grace and loving on our new baby girl. That evening I began to have difficulty breathing. I called for my husband who ran into the bedroom where I was laying on the floor. I told him that I could not take full breaths and that I felt like I had an elephant on my chest and my left arm was aching horribly. I told him that if I did not know better I would think I was having a heart attack. We checked my blood pressure and it was high. My breathing was becoming more labored so I asked him to call 911. I just knew something was not right. It felt like it took forever for the ambulance to arrive. In the meantime my husband called our neighbors to come help with the girls. I just laid there in bed trying to calm myself down so that my blood pressure would decrease and hopefully I would be able to breathe more easily. I was terrified, to say the least, I just kept saying to myself that I did not want to die. I was so scared that when I tried to close my eyes to relax, I quickly opened them because I was afraid I wouldn't be able open them again. Finally the ambulance arrived and I was on my way to the hospital. Once in the ambulance, they ran an EKG and the EMT said to the driver "Step on it and turn on the sirens. We have a possible MI". I heard the sirens come on and we were flying. I asked the EMT "What is an MI?" and he replied "A heart attack". My worst fear was confirmed.

I was admitted to the hospital for cardiac observation. Early the next morning, after blood work was taken, we were awakened by the nurse saying that my blood work came back and that it showed that I had an elevated Troponin level. The nurse left the room and I asked my mother what that meant. She explained that it meant that I had heart damage. We instantly prayed that the Lord would take care of me. The next thing I knew, I was on my way down to the Cath Lab. The nurse said that it was probably something minor but if there was an issue the doctor would be able to fix it while he was in my heart. In the Cath lab I was asked tons of questions and given medication to help me relax. They began the procedure and there I was staring at a screen that showed my heart beating. I must have fallen asleep because the next memory is the doctor telling me that I would no longer be able to breastfeed because I would have to take medicine to prevent clots in the stint that he had placed in my artery. I began sobbing. I was then wheeled out and looked up at my sister, who is a physician, and the first thing she did was smile and tell me how blessed I was and that God had had His hand on me. She went on to tell me that I had had a heart attack and that fortunately it was in a small artery and that I had minimal heart damage. As she rubbed my forehead the tears ran down my face as I thought about what had happened. I was in shock.

Back in my room I began the six hour flat bed rest. I was so tired that I drifted off to sleep and was awakened by the physician who discussed the procedure and advised that I should not have any more children since the heart attack was caused by an extremely rare condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection which more than likely was the result of the pregnancy hormones weakening my arteries. It is so rare that as of 2004 there were only 151 reported cases. He advised that I had a narrowing in another larger artery, the LAD but that they felt it would heal on its own. This was almost too much to take in. In just a few hours I had learned that I had had a heart attack, was not able to breastfeed my daughter, that I could never mother another child of my own, that there was a possibility that this could happen again and that there was no set standards for treatment since the condition is so rare. The next two days in the hospital were tough. I was away from my sweet girls and was trying to come to terms with my new life at the age of 29. I decided to not focus on what I couldn't do but on what I could do. After all, I was alive.

I returned home on August 12th. It was tough to walk in the house because I immediately remembered the onset of the heart attack and then lying in bed scared for my life. The memories made me emotional. My husband took more time off from work to be with me and the girls because I was not able to be alone or lift over 10 pounds.

On August 17th we were on our way to pick up Maycie-Grace from preschool when I felt like I couldn't get my breath. Then my heart raced and I felt like I was going to pass out. I told my husband that something was not right and that he needed to take me to the hospital. I was terrified. I was quickly taken back to the ER where they decided to observe me overnight with the possibility that I would return to the Cath Lab to check for possible causes. The ER nurse wheeled my bed to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the on call Cardiologist came to see me. At that point I was feeling fine and he told me that I would probably go to the Cath Lab in the morning to see what caused the near fainting episode. My mother came to stay with me so that my husband could stay with the girls. She barely got in the door and sat her purse down when my heart started tightening up and I told her and the nurse that it was happening again. Then my heart rate spiked from the 80's to the 180's in a matter of seconds. The alarms were going off on the monitors and the nurses were running in and out of the room. My mother, who has been a nurse for twenty four years, told me not to listen to the monitor alarms. I looked back at the monitor and saw my heart rate was extremely high and then I glanced at my mother who turned away from the monitor. I saw the fear in her face. She tried to calm me while they gave me the maximum strength of medicine to get my heart rate down. Finally it worked and my chest pain released a little. In a few minutes, I was back in the Cath Lab. This trip I received three stents in my LAD that had not healed but had dissected. I had to lie in bed flat for the next twelve hours so that my incision site could heal and for the stents to remain in place. This was the longest twelve hours of my life. Since I was in the CICU, I could only have visitors for an hour every four hours. This was tough, extremely tough. Thankfully I had my Bible and was able to talk to my precious friends and family who prayed with me and kept me encouraged. Still that was not the complete comfort I needed. I was scared and my family and friends could not be there to comfort me but there was Someone who comforted me. I had known the Lord for years but really came to know Him at that moment. He gave me peace beyond understanding. He comforted me like no one else could. His words spoke to me and uplifted me. Even in the scariest of moments, I knew that I was not alone and that He loved me more than I could imagine.

The next day I was transferred to the Cardiac Floor and was told that I would be discharged the following day. I was beside myself worried. I wanted to go home worse than anything but what if it happened again? I knew God would continue to give me peace but my mind was racing with fear. I cried and told my mother that I just wanted to have peace and not have to live in fear. This was not like a terminal illness where you would progressively get worse; this was my heart which meant I could die instantly. She sat in my hospital bed with me and we cried and prayed for God to give me peace about going home. Then there was a knock at the door and it was the physician who said he had reviewed my films from the first heart attack to the second and wanted the whole cardiac team to take a second look the next day. He then went on to tell me that if there was narrowing on the top of the LAD that I would have to have open heart surgery. I couldn't breathe. He had knocked the wind right out of me. I felt sick. I grabbed my Bible and began to find scripture to give me peace. Oh how I needed peace in that moment. I tried to remain calm for my family’s sake but I was terrified and felt I was running out of strength. My family and I prayed and I called on every prayer warrior that I knew. That day was now the hardest day of my life. I could not believe what all was occurring. Was this really happening? It was a bit surreal.

The next morning, I was back in the Cath Lab. I was quite the "professional" now at viewing my heart on the screen. I was watching the physicians’' reaction as they injected the dye into my vein. My heart sank when I saw their faces. I turned to look at the screen and saw something I had never seen before. There was a large "ball" attached to my heart and it was moving. I was too afraid to ask. I didn't have to ask, the physicians’ faces said it all. In that moment I felt this peaceful feeling come over me and felt the Holy Spirit speak to me and say "It's okay, it’s just another bump in the road". After they were finished the physician patted my shoulder and told me he wished me well and that I was going to be transferred to a larger hospital. My family and I decided on UAB. Back in my room, my sister explained that there was narrowing at the top of my LAD and due to its position, they believed it would be impossible to stent. She also explained that the "ball" that I had seen was a hematoma. She began to cry. Watching each of my family members cry was so hard. I wanted to take the pain away. I reassured them that I was going to be okay. I just felt it but there was that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me otherwise.

I was transferred to UAB that afternoon and was told that it was possible that I could have another stent inserted in the LAD or open heart surgery to correct the issue. We made calls to our church and every person that we could think of asking them to pray that the Lord would guide the physicians in their decision to do open heart surgery or stenting. I was peaceful and confident that the Lord would guide them in their decision. I stayed at UAB five long days while they researched and made their decision. Finally the physicians came in and told us that they decided it would be in my best interest to allow the narrowing to heal on its own due to the risks of the risky stent placement or open heart surgery. I was beside myself excited that I would not have to have a risky surgery but also beside myself scared that it may not heal and dissect again. They also told us that my heart function had increased from 30% to above 55% which is above normal. I immediately said that I knew who had done that! To have two heart attacks in eight days and to have heart function above normal is nothing short of the Lord.

At home I alternated from moments of peace to moments of indescribable fear. I prayed and asked the Lord how I was supposed to live my new life with the fear of what could happen in the future as a result of the heart attack and stenting. I felt Him say that my life was really no different than before because what I had before was false security. That really struck a cord with me and from then on I kept my focus on God and His word. There I found comfort. As I think back over the last couple months, I know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am very blessed to be here. The Great Physician saw it fit to heal me. He was with me every single moment. From the first heart attack where I was lying in bed too afraid to close my eyes to this very moment. I cannot begin to imagine what someone would have felt had he or she been in my shoes and did not know Him. That thought alone brings tears to my eyes because it was bearable only because I was held in His precious arms. I could not ask for better family and friends but there is a limit to human comforting and in moments like that your soul requires more. I know He had His hands on me as I recount the numerous blessings. The first heart attack resulted in minimal damage which I believe allowed me to survive the second heart attack in the artery that is referred to as the “widow maker”. He had me at the hospital before the second heart attack began which is a blessing because even though I was taken down to the Cath Lab in a short amount of time; my heart function dropped 25%. I can’t imagine the damage had I been at home when it began. It is very likely that I would not have made it. He had my mother there comforting me so that I was not alone in that terrifying moment. Although I was told that I either needed open heart surgery or additional stints, I was released to come home to heal with above normal heart function. All praise and glory to God!

I know He has a purpose for this and even though I do not fully know the purpose of it yet, I know that I will forever be changed. I know that prayer is powerful and amazing things happen when people pray and believe. I know the Great Physician still heals. I know that my Redeemer lives and that His word is alive and relevant even today. I know that peace beyond understanding is available to everyone and I know that our Lord loves us more than we can imagine, more than we can fathom. What more could I ask for? My cup runs over.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Psalm 28:7 "The Lord is my strength & my shield; my heart trusted in Him & I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song I will praise Him."

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I have found it easier for me to update on Facebook rather than on the blog so please visit my "Life After Scad" Facebook page if you or someone close to you have had any heart related issues. I post about things that I have experienced since my SCADs. I have found such comfort in knowing that others have had the same experiences. As I say frequently, the more challenging part of having a heart attack is the journey after the event. If my candidness can help anyone in anyway then the page is serving its purpose for me.

Life after SCAD:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Life

If you didn't know my story, you wouldn't believe it by looking at me or being around me. I sometimes forget that it happened. That is SUCH a blessing because the Lord has healed my heart. I was blessed to have my heart return to "above normal" heart function before I was discharged from the hospital. That is nothing short of the Lord. My day to day is basically like it was before SCAD. I do have to take medication in the morning and at night and periodically check my blood pressure but other than that I am pretty much the same Jessica as I was before. Actually better in my opinion.

I eat healthy (most of the time but I do have a weak spot for sweets!) and always have but have really stepped it up since I am aware of the importance of it on the heart. I work out more than I did prior to SCAD. I was blessed with not ever having to really be concerned with my weight prior to SCAD and that is even after having a child. Good genes I guess! But after SCAD I had to step up my workouts. I was originally walking/jogging 3 miles a day, 3-5 days a week but then there would be a couple weeks that I wouldn't. I recently joined Fitness Boot Camp and I work out 3 days a week for an hour. I love it! I love to feel strong and especially do after what my body has endured. I don't know but the heart attacks really lit a fire beneath me to embrace the health that I have, that I really took for granted before. I think that is probably the case for anyone that has had a health scare. Something that you once never even thought of becomes so precious to you and you want to do it simply because you can!


I have seen those two acronyms more than I care to! SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) is what caused my two heart attacks. I was told that my SCAD events were because of pregnancy hormones and that a small percentage of women are affected by it. I was told that every day that passed that the hormones were returning to normal and decreasing my chances of SCAD reoccuring. I was also told that on record there were a few SCAD women that had SCADs 4 months post partum but most were within a few weeks after pregnancy like mine and that once I made it to the 6 month mark, I would be good to go.

After the 6 months passed, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it! I was then left with the possibility that scar tissue could block my stents  but that this usually occurs by 12 months. Scar tissue can always grow to block the stent but over time it becomes less of  a possiblity. Always a possiblity but not a major concern. Since I do have stents, I am at a slightly increased risk for having a "normal" heart attack caused by plaque build up. This is the type of heart attack that we are all most familar with. The kind that is caused by plaque breaking free and clogging an artery. The plaque can be caused from cholestrol, smoking and other environmental things. I knew that I was doing everything in my power to prevent that (exercising, eating healthy with very little cholestrol and taking my statins) so I just remained in prayer over my body and had come to a place of acceptance with SCAD and just felt like I had to go above and beyond to keep my body healthy to prevent future heart disease.

This place of "okayness" was changed a few weeks back. I was sitting with my husband and girls at a restaurant at the beach and I happened to pull up my Facebook page and saw yet another SCAD sister report that she had been diagnosed with FMD. What in the world?!?! It seemed like everyone that went to the Mayo clinic to see Dr. Hayes was being diagnosed with FMD (Fibromuscular Dysplasia). I began to research FMD and could not believe what I was reading. Everything that I had been told about how rare SCAD was and that I had a better chance of getting struck by lightening twice than having SCAD again was possibly not true. I remember feeling like I had been hit by a truck. I kept it in and did not say anything to my husband because I just wanted to process this "horrible" news. I could not get it off my mind, I researched for several hours and the next morning, I just broke down which is something that I do very rarely. My sweet husband asked if  I was okay and he received the response that he almost never gets, "No". I wasn't okay. My biggest fear was that I had passed this on to my girls. It ate me up. I cried and cried and cried. My husband comforted me and I prayed all day about it and slowly I became peaceful again. Its tough to receive bad news but especially to learn that your rare heart episode was possibly caused by yet another rare disease is super tough. I bet you will never guess what I found?!?! A Facebook support page for FMD! I asked to join and let them know that I had not been diagnosed but was waiting on a referral from my cardiologist but had so many questions about this rare disorder. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel so much better! In fact, I think I scared some of them because I had already had two heart attacks where they are just now finding out that FMD may not only affect the Renal, Carotid and Iiliac arteries. It has been a blessing to be a part of this group as well. To see their posts and to learn more about the disease has helped calm my mind. The best thing about it is to see that they still have normal lives. I am still waiting on my referral from my cardiologist but his sweet secretary is working hard on my behalf. I hope to have that appointment set up soon so that I can have the tests ran. I intially thought that I didn't want to know if I had it because it may make me worry but then I saw several women on the FMD page that have to be screened annually for brain aneurysms so I decided it was quite important to be diagnosed if I do have it! Thankfully the treatment for FMD is what I am already taking for SCAD, good ol "Granny pills" as I call them! I laugh becuase when i go to my pharmacy they pull my prescriptions out because I guarantee that I am the only 31 year old with blood pressure medicine, blood thinner and cholestoral meds!


I have previously mentioned that there is a Team Inspire page for SCAD but there is also a Facebook page (SCAD Survivors) that has been such a blessing to me. I can not tell you how good it felt to find other women that had survived SCAD. As I mentioned in my testimony, when I was first told I had suffered a SCAD induced heart attack, I was only given a medical journal from a few years back about a lady that had had a SCAD induced heart attack and was doing well one year later. That was it. I was being treated at St. Vincent's East in Birmingham and was told I was their first SCAD and that they may never see another one for 20 years. Talk about feeling special! I was told there was no set course of treatment and that they were going to treat me with what little information they had. I can not begin to explain how surreal that is. Most diseases have had research done and there are set courses of treatment, studies with reports on the patient's progress and people with information that will make you feel more comfortable. I, on the other hand, had doctors and nurses saying they had never even heard of it. I was later transferred to UAB and was told that I was, at most, the third person the hospital had EVER seen with SCAD. So needless to say, finding a group of women that knew EXACTLY where I had been and what I was going through was nothing short of a blessing. The group has grown tremendously since I have joined. At my last count there were over 140 members and we have about 1-2 join each week. This is sad to me because it means others have to endure something so challenging but also makes me feel good for them to have a group to join and not feel so alone as I did for a few weeks before I found the Inspire page. 

I can not say enough about my SCAD sisters. They have worked with Dr. Hayes at The Mayo Clinic who is now conducting research on SCAD. Yay!!! Hopefully more information will be available with time as there has already been some very important information already released (more on that later). Social media is amazing because it has allowed us to come together to say "Hey! There are several of us that have had SCAD episodes and this needs to be researched". Praise the Lord that Dr. Hayes took it upon herself to start the research because we all would like to have more SCAD awareness because so many of us were dismissed because we were healthy and young when our SCAD events occured.  Just not the "typical" heart attack patient, as I was told was the reason that I was having a heart attack for 12 hours before I was taken down to the Cath lab after my blood work came back with elevated troponin levels. I don't want that for anyone else and hopefully with more awareness that will not be the case. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A year!?! Really!?!

I can not believe it has been a year since I posted last. In my defense, adding the second child to the mix is quite the adjustment! Add a health scare and a new business and you might say I have been quite busy! Mostly just doing my most important jobs which are serving the Lord, trying to be a great wife, mom, sister, aunt, daughter and friend. Wow! Just reading that paragraph lets me know why I have been so busy!

Another reason I have not posted is because I was on a journey since my last post (more on that below). I am A girl that has to think through what I am dealing with and come to terms with it before I can talk about it. I have a few close people that I share "me" with but mostly it is God and I who work through things. Not that I am too strong to get help but it has always been my way of coping and working through things. Often times it is after The Lord and I have worked through something that I am able to discuss and then the feedback I receive from my trusted others helps pull it all together for me. Anyway I had to get all of this together enough (certainly not all the way because it is a process) to even be able to post. I thought about this blog often and hoped everyone knew i was still "kickin' it!" but I just didn't have any of me to give outside of what I was giving to my family, friends and my healing process. I felt the Lord leading me to post but It wasn't until one day when He spoke to me through a devotion that I realized what I was doing. It basically said that when we don't share our struggles with others- 1) others can't benefit from our journey 2) God can't receive the Glory by others seeing Him work through our struggle and bring us to victory. I remember sitting there and knew that was just from Him to me that morning. I LOVE those times!! You know!? It's those times that you are like "okay! I hear you and I know you are talking to me!".  I had never thought of it that way. I had just always wanted to take care of others and encourage them so I didn't want to concern them with my struggles so I always went to the Lord and we worked on them together. I never realized that I wasnt helping others by doing that nor giving God glory. Whoo! Those are the two most important things to me so I knew that I was being urged to do things a little differently. Now with that being said, after 31 years of doing something one way (or however long you are actually working through issues haha) its hard to stop the habit. So that's why I am back blogging. I can't be anything less than my best for this blog nor can I not be transparent ( it just isn't me!) so as hard as it is, I'm going to give you everything I got. Forewarning: I have been told I talk in circles and I REALLY like to drive in my point so you'll have to bear with me!

Now that I have explained my thought process, let's get back to the story......

To my surprise, and out of the blue, I had a rough 1 year anniversary of my SCAD events. I was rocking along doing so well! I was even able to come off of my anxiety medicine that I was told by my cardiologist that I may never be able to after the events. I was feeling great. I was exercising, had no chest pains, started a new business and was enjoying the summer with my family and BOOM!!! The anniversary rolled around. Anniversaries are supposed to be great occasions. They are milestones and should be celebrated but all I could do was maintain through the day. Praise the Lord my mom was here to help with the girls and to talk to me because it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. 

I have learned through my trials in life to be somewhat of a Mind over matter person better yet, a God over matter person is more like it because I know my peace of mind and strength comes directly from Him because this girl is nothing without Him! I could not get my mind to relax. No matter how hard I tried and prayed. It started out with some deaths of people that I knew. I would cry thinking about one's short life and the other's children. I guess it was some form of survivors guilt. Then the sound of an ambulance would make me have flashbacks and then it got to where when I was replaying the events on the anniversary dates (you know the good ole "at this time last year, I was..." )  it was like I was there. I could even smell the hospital sheets. I know you are thinking "she was loosing it" and quite frankly, I felt like I was that and having another heart attack. I would become so anxious that my heart would pound out of my chest Nd even send pain up my neck. Oh no! Guess what?!? That's one of the signs of a heart attack! More panic! As I type this, I get a little tickled because since my heart attacks, I have had several instances like that. Some are hilarious now because the symptoms would not be anything like a heart attack but yet my mind would go into over drive and I would be almost convinced it was and then thankfully common sense would kick in and I would be able to calm myself down. Not last August though. It was crazy! Initially my mind was fine but my body was over reacting to the anxiety and after a few days of that, my mind became tired and my emotions were all over the place. I spoke to my sister (physician) who advised I needed to get back on anxiety meds. I spoke to my cardiologist and we discussed what was going on and I was diagnosed with Post Tramatic Stress Disorder and back on Paxil I went. Praise the Lord! It started working within days and I started feeling like Jessica again and my body started acting as it should. It was tough to know that I had to take the anxiety med and still is a bit today but I realized I had to be kinder to myself. I asked myself if one of my sisters were going through that would you tell them to take the Paxil? Yes I would. Would I think they were weak? Not for a second. So in that, I was able to cut myself a little slack and know myself well enough to know that I had done all I could but just needed a little help. Praying with time that I can stop the Anxiety med but if not that is okay to because I have come to find that so many people are on them. Not that that makes it all better but a little easier to accept.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spent a little time on Team Inspire this morning...

and my eyes are filled with tears. I saw that while I was busy a new mommy with SCAD joined our group. It brings back the emotions of that time. I wouldn't wish it on anyone (plus I am not that way anyway! LOL). To be a new mommy and to have to endure such a challenging time is almost too much. Had it not been for the Lord and my family, I could not have made it. It took ALL that I had. These days I am dealing with a little bit of sadness that it did occur. I am BLESSED BEYOND MEASURE to be here but I can't help but feel sad that I did not get to really enjoy my sweet little Ryleigh as a baby, especially since she was my last. I tried, oh how I tried but mentally & emotionally I was consumed. I was here with her every moment but I did not get to savor it like I did with my first daughter and it breaks my heart because my sweet baby deserved more. Since I had the 10 lb limit, I was terrified to pick her up because I thought it could happen for the 3rd time. Even though I was encouraged to pick her up I just wouldn't because I thought it would be better for me to be here than to pick her up. I feel sad that I didn't get to truly have the joy that you have with a new baby. I had it for 7 days and I will cherish that. After that it was just a blur. I get upset & I cry my eyes out but then I remind myself that although I did not have any control over what happened and that it was not anything like I had hoped for it to be, that I am still BEYOND BLESSED to be here with her, with both of my girls, with my sweet husband and my wonderful family. I originally thought the weeks in the hospital were the hardest and boy was I glad the moment I was discharged but the moment I stepped away from the hospital, I was really faced with the toughest part of the journey. My sweet baby girl will be 10 months tomorrow and what a 10 month journey it has been! Mostly thankfulness & knowing that I am blessed mixed with a little bit of sadness and then a teeny, tiny bit of anger. But really that is life, it is what you make it so I choose to focus on what I have had and what I do have! I am blessed. :)