Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac Rehab has been wonderful for me. Granted I am 29 and the youngest in the group but it has given me confidence and has made me feel more like me. When I first started rehab, I felt so nervous. My heart raced just for the warm up. My second visit I was scared and told the nurse that I was scared. She said that was a perfectly normal feeling to feel. That gave me relief. Every day I felt more confident and my energy increased. It is also a blessing to go and have your heart monitored three days a week while you do things to see that it is functioning as it should (or to let you know that it is not so you can see your doctor about it). Another blessing of Rehab is that you get to be around others who know how you feel and are going through what you are going through. That is an amazing feeling because I am 29 so I do not have any friends with heart issues! Whenever I talk to any of the other people in the group, I can relate to them and I always learn a lot. I also have enjoyed getting to learn about a healthier diet. I have always eaten pretty healthy but I have learned more about whole grains and fiber and the benefits they have on the heart. I would recommend Cardiac Rehab to anyone that has had an issue with their heart!

"Twinges" I felt after stents

After each time I was taken to the Cath lab (for stents & ultrasound) I felt little twinges in my heart. It was odd because every time I discussed them with the doctors & nurses they acted like it was the first they had heard of it. I thought that was very odd since they perform so many stent operations. My sister googled it and there were many stent recipients who stated the same sensations. That made me feel better because I thought something might be wrong! Also when I started Cardiac Rehab the nurse knew what I was talking about. Finally!!! I felt like I had a normal sensation in my heart and that made me worry a little less!!

ERP by Alyson "My Story"

My story with our photos!

A newer SCAD article

The latest article that my doctors gave me was from 2004. I found this article from October 2008. It has an updated number of reported SCAD patients and information that was not in the other articles.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Support Group

Thankfully I found a support group for women with heart disease. To my surprise there is a group of SCAD women. It felt so good to read their stories. The stories of women who experienced SCAD in the postpartum stage were very similar to mine. I have been able to relate to their fears and post heart attack symptoms. It has been such a blessing!

The inspire website has all sorts of support groups for women. From ovarian cancer to preemies.

SCAD Articles

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Story

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. It was too much to take in at that moment. 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 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."