Trudi in hospital bed hugging her son

Trudi's story: SCAD & FMD

I survived a SCAD heart attack and FMD

Trudi Edwards not only has one deadly heart disease to contend with, she also battles a condition which affects her arteries and has already seen her undergo major kidney surgery.

Trudi with her tennis gear

It’s understandably turned the life upside down of the former professional tennis player who was fighting fit before she had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) heart attack in February 2021.

“I had never heard of SCAD until it happened to me,” recalls Trudi, who first started feeling unwell one Friday lunchtime.

“I had chest pain, it felt heavy, and I just didn’t feel good. I considered seeking help but dismissed it and instead just googled the symptom. SCAD kept coming up, but I still didn’t think it could happen to me. By Saturday lunchtime, it had gone, and I felt better so I played golf and was back tennis coaching on Monday.”

Trudi managed to get through the morning’s lesson but in the afternoon, she had to stop coaching and sit down after the chest pain returned, accompanied by a strange feeling down her arms.

She says: “I felt like I was going to vomit, could hardly breathe and was passing in and out. But I was still thinking about others, thinking about who was going to mind my son Levi and that I would have to cancel my next lesson.

“My parents came over and they were the ones who called an ambulance. I remember being on the way to hospital and seeing we were on the wrong side of the road and saying to the paramedics, ‘We need to calm down, you are over-reacting.'

I knew something was up but not to the extent that was happening because I had been so fit and healthy my whole life.”
Trudi playing tennis Australian Open Junior when she was younger

Trudi was 43 years old and a former professional tennis player who had won the 1994 Australian Open Junior championships. She did not consider herself a candidate for heart disease, but in fact SCAD is responsible for around a quarter of heart attacks in women under the age of 50. Trudi says:

“They told me that I had had a SCAD heart attack that night and spent five days in hospital recovering. But then they also discovered that I had a second disease, fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD) and a few months later I was back in hospital for an operation . It was a lot to take in, especially as this was during the COVID lockdown, and I was in there on my own. I just wanted to get home to see my family.”

FMD is a vascular disease that is thought to affect up to one in 20 women. Most women have either mild or no symptoms, but it can take a devastating toll and cause serious complications.

In Trudi’s case, it turned out she had a huge (2.5cm) aneurysm or dilatation of the major artery supplying blood to the right kidney, which could have rupture at any time.

The only way to fix the aneurysm was to perform a kidney auto-transplant operation that involved removing the kidney, remove the aneurysm, repairing the artery and then reattaching the kidney—not back in its usual position, but in the lower abdomen. The surgery performed at John Hunter Hospital (JHH) in Newcastle was so successful her blood pressure is now well controlled with minimal medication.

“It was major surgery and I felt incredibly rough for the first few days in hospital, but I am now feeling great and back to playing tennis and golf again. It does play on my mind that I have a heightened risk of having another heart attack.
Trudi with her family on holidays

“I am also at increased risk of getting a clot and a perhaps a stroke, but the chances of this are low as the arteries supplying blood to my head are not affected and I’m on a blood thinner. Also, I know I am in good hands, and you can’t think about that all the time. I try not to stress, and I try not to lift heavy things.

“It has been hard on my family. When I came home the first time after having the heart attack, my son Levi had been told to go easy on mummy, to let me rest. He was showing me a drawing from school and then suddenly cried for 20 minutes for no reason which is just not him. So, when I went back in for my kidney operation, we made sure he was really prepared and knew what was going on.

“I talk openly about what happened to me with him. I tell him that if he comes in and can’t wake me up, he needs to call triple 0. He needs to know what do to, but I hope that never happens.”

Trudi is now in the care of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute’s, Professor Bob Graham, who runs Australia’s largest SCAD research program, and now does a monthly SCAD clinic at the JHH.

“I am so lucky to be seen by Professor Graham. I was a bit in awe when I realised who he was, but I feel in very safe hands as a result.”

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