Today, I had the chance to share my heart story for the Ames Go Red for Women on April 25th. Believe it or not, I am the face of Heart Disease. If you think it only happens to baby boomers you are wrong! Watch the video to learn signs of a heart attack and what you can do to be healthier.
Wow, it’s hard to believe three years have passed since my heart attack. That’s three years of laughs, hugs, new friendships and celebrating life! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would still be telling my story. Hey, my names Melissa and I had a heart attack!! But talking with people and sharing my crazy heart attack ride has opened my eyes to the need to help others. The thing about having a heart attack is there’s no outward sign telling people about your journey. Many times we recover in private and act like it didn’t happen. We may be too embarrassed and think that we did something to cause it. I didn’t exercise enough! Was my diet crappy? Maybe, I’m too stressed out? We are often too quick to move on and get back to the hustle and bustle of life. This needs to stop, and we need to TALK!!!
Just within the past two weeks, I have met two women both in their 40’s who’ve had a heart attack. It's funny how we all look at each other like you have to be kidding... Right? Had I not so publicly shared my story and went on as nothing happened I would have never had the opportunity to help others. Many times I’ll ask Joe do you think people are getting sick of me yet?? And of course, being the amazing husband, he always says no. I have to thank Joe for being the one to inspire me to continue writing this blog. This has led me to meet so many amazing people at the American Heart Association who also have the same purpose, to end the #1 killer!
I celebrated my three-year heartiversary this past weekend. To be honest, it dredged up some not so fun memories of the night I had my heart attack. You start to remember the feelings of, is this happening? I am way too young? Why me? Nuts, could this happen again, what if the stents have started to block? But then you look around and see your beautiful family and remember that you are here for a reason so don’t let it go to waste.
With February being heart month I’m trying to increase education around heart attack symptoms, hands-only CPR and furthering the cause of the American Heart Association. So like it or not your gonna be hearing a lot from me!
Below, are a few of the fun photos from the events that I have been able to attend and get the word out about not being a heart attack victim but a HEART WARRIOR!
DSM Heart Ball 2019
Ken, Colleen and Kurt’s Valentine’s Day Radiothon
Wear Red Day 2-1-19
In closing, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and facebook posts. I hope you never have to share your story with me! So let’s work together to get the word out about heart disease and put an end to a devastating problem!!
After a very long and never-ending winter, Spring has finally sprung! Not to mention, not a moment too soon for the AHA 2018 Heart Walk. I was truly blessed by all the support from friends and family in the form of donations to #LifeTicksOn and T-shirt sales.
It's hard to believe that this is my third heart walk since my heart attack, YIKES! I look forward every year to wearing the RED Survivor hat and walking with all the survivors. This is just one more step, literally in the journey of recovery. The community of "survivors" range in age from infants to the elderly. I love the fact that you can do as little or as much of the walk. No pressure to hurry or have people running by you. That is not what this walk is about. It's about every step reminding you of how far you've come and the wonderful things that await.
Speaking of reminders, did you know patients admitted to hospitals lived an average 6.44 years after their heart attack? That sounds like progress to me. The funds raised by the American Heart Association through the heart walk and other fundraising events help to increase the chance of survival. #LifeTicksOn
#LifeTicksOn 2018 members from near and far. We had representation from all over the US with our T-shirt sales!!
As I looked around at my #LifeTicksOn group, I am truly amazed at how every one of us has been touched in some way from a cardiac issue or stroke. My mom Liz has Atrial Fibrillation, has had multiple surgeries and now sports a sexy pacemaker. My Aunt Trisha has had open heart surgery for a valve, suffered a stroke and heart attack and has come out swinging! Wow, not many people can say that. I just love her attitude about life!! Not to mention all the other family members that have had to deal with the ups and downs of our crazy recovery journeys. I can't say enough "Thank Yous" to my husband Joe, Parker and Brenna for always being there to support me. I would like to say a special Thank You to Krystal for all the money you helped raise to bring our team to over $1000.
My hope is that next year you can join us at the heart walk and also in raising money for this great cause!
In the meantime, Stay Heart Healthy!!
Time to take a road trip to Kansas City to learn about SCAD!
While most people head to Kansas City, MO for barbecue my trip took on a different mission. I loaded up the car with my daughter Brenna as my co-pilot and set the GPS for St. Luke's Hospital. Our mission: To learn as much about SCAD, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection.
My daughter happened to be studying hearts in science and wanted to go along to see what caused my heart attack. I was a little hesitant at first because she's only 12. What if she hears words such as morbidity or mortality? Will it freak her out? Will she have more questions than when we set out? In the end, it ended up being a fantastic experience for both of us. Not many 12-year-olds get to hear a public forum on SCAD conducted by two amazing Cardiologists.
The SCAD talk conducted by Dr. Jason Lindsey and Dr. Tracey Stevens at Muriel I. Kauffman Women's Heart Center in Kansas City, MO. The 90-minute discussion flew by! I ended up with pages and pages of notes and still wanted to hear more. At one point I looked over at Brenna, and she was taking notes. I was in shock. Here a 12 year old was taking notes on a subject where there's no test! Although there are more questions than answers known about SCAD, it's so intriguing to see what might be the cause.
While I was at the talk, the American Heart Association put out a scientific statement on SCAD. This inspiring news and the massive step in the right direction. Many times when I tell people my story and tell them my heart attack cause was SCAD and not plaque they are confused. My goal is to educate everyone and let them know that it can happen to anyone.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the SCAD town hall: (These are from my notes taken from Dr. Lindsey and Dr. Stevens town hall
1. SCAD accounts for less than 0.5% of heart attacks, but it accounts for 25% of heart attacks for people under 50 years old.
2. 9:1 ratio women to men. Still not understood as to why
3. The person is healthy without risk factors
4. There can be a hormonal relationship, most common cause of pregnancy heart attacks. Non-Pregnancy related SCAD is much more common.
5. Genetic link??
5. Medical management, no approved drugs for SCAD.
6. SCAD Symptoms: 45% Chest Pain, 24% Palpitations, 21% Shortness of Breath
7. Ask to have your doctor rule out Fibromuscular Dysplasia ( seen in around 60% of patients)
8. 57% postmenopausal, rare in 65y/o and higher, 10% malignant arrhythmias, 5% Connective Tissue disorder, 12% Systemic Inflammatory disease
9. Exercise: STAY ACTIVE POST SCAD
10. Prognosis: Recurrent SCAD around 10%
11. 10-year mortality 1.1%
12. Most dissections will heal in 1 month. Not placing a stent is a better treatment plan. Avoid hormone replacement, Usual medicines Asprin and Beta Blockers. Cardiac rehab has been shown to decrease rates of recurrent SCAD.
Future Direction: Genetic Predisposition? Determine how to prevent the 1st event and recurrent events. Ask for a CT coronary angiogram for follow up if needed and not a PCI.
THE NEED to have a prospective registry.
As Brenna and I drove home we discussed what we had learned. I was shocked at how she retained the information from the night before. We both agreed that more research needs to be done, still too many unanswered questions.
In the end, it's up to us to get out there and not only educate ourselves but others! I'm just one SCAD survivor trying to make a difference!
It took a call from a friend today to bring back the memories of telling family and friends that I had a heart attack. I remember having feelings of embarrassment and shame. Asking myself what are people going to think? What do I say? Should I tell them everything and over qualify that I didn't have plaque! Or should I say my heart is clear it was just a crazy abnormality? You're probably wondering why would she think that? Well, whether or not we want to admit it we all have in our minds a preconceived notion of who will have a heart attack. They must be obese, smokers with high cholesterol and blood pressure. Sorry to say that is not the case.
Crazy as it is, my friend after an angiogram found out he too had S.C.A.D (Sudden Coronary Artery Dissection) same as what caused my heart attack. What are the chances? This is so crazy. But I hate to say it.. but I now have my first member of my crazy heart attack club.
Do you know somebody who has had a heart attack? Was it a family member, friend or loved one? Did you ask yourself upon finding out, why did they have a heart attack? Well, imagine what the person who had the heart attack is thinking. We tell ourselves people are going to judge me and they must think I'm a horrible eater. She must not have any idea of what the inside of a gym looks like. She must spend all her time eating at McDonalds, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and drinks like a drunken sailor. Well, let me tell you that is not the typical heart attack victims lifestyle. Most heart attack victims actually live healthy lifestyles and are avid runners and exercise more than four times a week.
During the first few weeks, I would find myself over explaining my heart attack. I would tell anybody that would listen that my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugars were below normal levels. I did stop at my weight.. now that maybe a little too much TMI..
I wanted everyone to know that mine was not caused by plaque but due to S.C.A.D. (Sudden Coronary Artery Dissection). The scary thing about S.C.A.D. it has no explanation. No one knows what causes it, why and when it happens, and who's affected. It just is one of those crazy things in the universe that decided to happen to my heart.
In the end, we all need to remember that people who have heart attacks are just like you. They still can eat, drink and have fun. Don't judge them and think that all they should ever eat is chicken, lettuce, and carrots. You are going to see us having fun and living life. Hell, we just had a brush with death. What is that quote about everything in moderation? I just ask that before you give someone advice about how they should be doing things think" Am I perfect?" Do I always live a 100% clean lifestyle? Don't judge or label us just because we had a heart attack. You have simply been lucky to not be a member of our "crazy heart attack club".
At the end of my call today with my friend, I finally felt like I had somebody who knew what I was going through. We currently have a support group of two but my hope is to work with the American Heart Association to identify others. Healing from an event like this is not just physical but a mental journey as well. So be kind when you hear of somebody having a heart attack.. Think more with your heart than your mind!