If you asked me a month ago what was Spontaneous Coronary Artery Disection (SCAD) I would have not been able to answer as I had never heard of it. However, on January 4 this year I suffered a SCAD whilst doing a strength session – not that I knew it at the time.
I write this blog to raise awareness to this rare condition and also to demonstrate that you really never know what is going to happen to you.
My day had started as usual and was at work early. A senior player of ours had just been diagnosed with a long term injury and was ruled out for the rest of the season. I suggested we go to do a strength session to take his mind off things and that for the fun of it I would join him to see if he could out lift an old man like me.
I hadn’t lifted heavy for a significant amount of time but decided to do a wave load session which I had been talking about with my great friend Ashley Jones. The session was hard but we both enjoyed it.
That afternoon I went for a run and felt tightness in the chest, nothing too serious but a little strange. I went home from work and went straight to sleep only awaking at dusk and decided to go for a bike ride. Again I had chest pain and could only complete 14 minutes but again ignored it. That evening my sleep was impossible with what felt like the worst strength training related muscle soreness I had ever had.
I went to work the next day and again tried to run but just didnt feel right. This went on for another day or 2 and on the 7th/01 I was able to run 5km with significant pain. Luckily my wife made me go to the Dr that evening and I was rushed to the hospital.
At first I was thinking I may have had a virus etc but as more tests were completed it became obvious that at some stage I had suffered a heart attack. This was confusing to the medical staff and myself as I have no risk factors accept that I am 45. My blood pressure, cholesterol, family history were all positive, I am a vegetarian, I have an extensive exercise history for over 30 years and I am a non smoker, non drinker and am at normal weight.
I remember speaking with the Cardiologist trying to justify all my negative results when he said “Craig your ECG, Echo, Troponin Levels are all pointing in one direction and also you conducted your own stress test 3 days in a row”. He stated that the next step was an angiogram and that there was a possibility of a SCAD as I kept stating that it all started from the strength session on the 4th.
So for someone that has or had a massive fear of needles and of hospitals the last thing I wanted was an angiogram but the seriousness of the situation was starting to get through to me. When you are put in an intensive care cardiac unit things start to fall into place particularly when you see the people that are in the normal cardiac unit.
So the angiogram revealed I had a disection which was extensive probably due to my persistence in trying to run. Fortunately for me I had brilliant cardiologists at Royal North Shore Hospital work on me and 3 stents were inserted. After another week in hospital I was released but my life has changed significantly.
I now am on 5 medications, I am unable to run. I am unable to lift anything over 5Kg and I have to attend cardiac rehab. The prognosis is positive long term if everything works out during the next 6 months to 2 years but the reality is very little is know about SCAD.
My wife, children, parents, family and friends have all been amazing but now I can truly empathise with those that have had heart issues. Every pain you think “Oh what is that” but with support each day gets better.
I am fortunate because physiologically and psychologically I am strong but it truly knocks you around so if you know people that have had heart disease always remember that its not easy. In fact sometimes I feel like I have a ticking bomb in my chest but Im told that is normal.
SCAD is very rare and up until recently the medical literature only had around 150 reported cases and very few related to exercise, However, with new techniques it appears there maybe significantly more incidences of this condition. The MAYO clinic in the USA is completing a large study and hopefully from this more questions will be answered.
I always believe that everything happens for a reason and I think of myself as being very fortunate. There is no doubt that during my run on the 7th the consequences of my exercise obsession could have been fatal. Furthermore, having a fear of hospitals is never going to work as ignoring warning signs only made my condition worse.
I think it is also vital to remember that even your worst day in life is going to be better than the day when there maybe no more life. Its my mission to enjoy every moment and to never take anything for granted.I also want to raise awareness to this condition and the need for heart screening of our youth who participate in sport.
I will continue to log my progress and as you can imagine Im keeping lots of data so in the future there is more information on the recovery from SCAD.