Pamela McKenzie, 45, Busselton, WA
Pushing a load of dirty laundry into the machine, I sighed. It was the last of my chores before I could relax with my family. But as I turned around, I felt a strange snap in my chest. Pain shot down both of my arms. I’m having a heart attack! I panicked.
I phoned for an ambulance and after some initial tests I was flown to Royal Perth Hospital. There, I was wheeled in for an operation.
I’m having a heart attack! I panicked.
‘You’re extremely lucky to be alive,’ the surgeon told me afterwards. He explained I’d survived spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). It’s a rare condition where a sudden tear forms in the heart. The surgeon put three stents into the affected artery and I was allowed to go home the next day. Then it hit me.
My hubby Shane, then 47, could’ve been without a wife. My kids, Aaron, 24, Kalila, 22, Jacinta, 18, and Becky, 16, could’ve lost their mum.
No-one could tell me why SCAD occurs, so I lived in constant fear.
‘My own body tried to kill me for no reason,’ I sobbed to Shane. ‘How can I trust it?’ I tried researching SCAD but there was hardly any information so I started a Facebook group, Australian SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) Survivors. Soon there were more than 100 members. The majority were women in their 40s, and most hadn’t shown any prior signs.
I presented these findings to Professor Robert Graham at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. In November 2014, we began working on a research paper. When it’s published, I hope it will help medical experts and other SCAD survivors.
Every day I feel lucky to be alive. Being able to support others has given me a new lease on life.
Origtinally published in that's life! Issue 32, 2016.