Ursula with her baby on a ride

Ursula's SCAD heart attack story

Just weeks after giving birth, new mum Ursula had a SCAD heart attack

Ursula Bouzaid had enjoyed a straightforward pregnancy and birth. But four months after welcoming her daughter into the world, Ursula’s life was turned upside down.

Ursula smiles with her new baby in a carrier on the beach

Ursula shortly before her SCAD heart attack

The day in November 2021 had started like any other with no indication anything was amiss. Ursula recalls: “I woke up and went to visit friends on the other side of the city. We were having lunch and suddenly, I had terrible chest pain and was sick. I felt crushing chest pain in a way that I had never felt before. My friends said to me, ‘What's wrong? And I said you've got to call an ambulance.”

Ursula was just 37 years old and whilst she did not think she was a candidate for a heart attack, the pain was so bad she thought she thought it was a distinct possibility.

The first responder told her that it was probably not cardiac-related – something Ursula thinks is reasonable given her age and gender.

Ursula says: “The first responder nonetheless took me seriously and I felt like I was in very good hands.

“What happened next was a bit of a blur, but the medical staff at the hospital confirmed I was having a heart attack. I also had an angiogram. They then took me up to the ward and said I had had a SCAD heart attack. I didn’t really comprehend what was going on. I just knew I had had some serious cardiac event, some sort of tear.”
Ursula in hospital on a video call with her baby after her SCAD heart attack

Ursula in hospital on a video call with her baby after her SCAD heart attack

Things began to sink in that night.

“The nurse told me I was very high risk, would be closely monitored overnight, and to tell her if anything changed. And that's when I thought this is pretty serious. To go from being relatively fit and healthy with a normal pregnancy and birth to this was a shock,” adds Ursula.

Ursula from Sydney was in hospital for around four days. She was readmitted shortly after being discharged with recurrent symptoms – something she was told is not unusual after suffering a heart attack.

Like most young women, Ursula had never heard of SCAD and certainly not with it being associated with pregnancy.

Ursula says: “It was just not something I was aware of. But it has really impacted our lives. It took several months to physically recover, and during that time I was unable to care for my daughter. That was hard – being a mum, but not being able to actually ‘be’ a mum.

“I’ve also been told I could be at risk of having another SCAD if I have another pregnancy. We spoke with a few specialists who could not provide any definitive statistics or risks. What they could tell us is that there is no way to predict or prevent another SCAD, and I’ll only know when it happens. And the consequences of another SCAD may be dire. I was lucky once, but I may not be a second time. So, we’ve decided not to have another baby. My husband really does not want me to take the risk, and I have to think about him and my daughter in making this decision.”

Ursula with her husband and baby on a plane

Ursula is now balancing the demands of being mum to two-year-old Eleanor and managing a busy career. “The first 12 months or so it played on my mind, but now I am just focused on being a mum and getting on with my life.”

Ursula also wants to raise awareness of SCAD associated with pregnancy.

“I know it’s rare, but it is something pregnant women should be aware of. It’s not something to worry about, just something to be aware of, so you don’t dismiss the potential signs and symptoms because you don’t fit the profile for a heart attack.”
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.

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