SCAD survivor Sandy with her two young children

Sandy's story of SCAD

Sandy was grieving the sudden death of her brother two days earlier when she was struck by blinding pain gripping her chest, nausea and dizziness.

"I thought it was just stress," she remembers.

Sadly, she was wrong. When the pain became even worse her husband called an ambulance. Within an hour of arriving at the hospital she found herself being rushed into open heart surgery. As she was wheeled into the operating theatre she wondered is she'd ever see her loving husband again.

Sandy was only 28 and apparently fit and healthy.

She has suffered an unusual and very dangerous type of heart attack called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD): an artery leading to her heart had spontaneously torn.

Her first thought was for her young children, Alexander, then 4, and Simona, still a baby.

"I was determined to survive," she says. " I had to - for them."
Sandy and family

Very little is known about the causes or triggers for SCAD, although there i emerging evidence that there may be a genetic link. Many - but not all sufferers - have recently given birth and/or have frequent migraines.

Two years later Sandy is still trying to rebuild her strength.

Every day she wakes up wondering if it will be her last. If she gets dizzy or tired while trying to get her kids off to school, she just has to lie down until it passes, even if it makes her children late.

She can't lift things. It took months of rehabilitation to be able to walk up a flight of stairs.

A possible genetic link to SCAD gives Sandy even more reason to worry for her kids.

"But I'm so grateful that we might get answers from research, if not for me, at least for them."
Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years