Rose had three heart attacks in a week in November 2018 just a few months after giving birth to her second child.
She was just 30, a fit and healthy mum with no family history or risk factors for heart disease.
Rosie was seriously ill and was taken by ambulance from the William Harvey Ashford Hospital to St Thomas’s, London, and spent nearly a month in hospital. The SCAD had completely torn her LAD (left anterior descending) artery and left her with permanent heart damage.
Nicola, Rose’s mum, said: “Her third heart attack was the most serious of the three. She squeezed my hand begging me not to let her die as I comforted her, but the fear that I had at that moment and the look in her eyes will never leave me.”
The cardiology team St Thomas’s worked collaboratively with the UK SCAD research team at Leicester University (Dr David Adlam) and Dr Abetehale Al-Hussaini at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, who is a SCAD expert and works closely with Dr Adlam.
Nicola says they count themselves lucky Rose was diagnosed quickly and had great care. “Rosie was lucky as her condition was diagnosed correctly and we will be eternally grateful to the emergency services and hospital staff who have cared for her,” she said.
Having to deal with physical and emotional challenges of her illness on top of becoming a new mum was incredibly difficult for the family to cope with, said Nicola.
She and the family rallied round to look after Rose and her two small children while she recovered. “In the early days my daughter was unable to move at all. She wasn’t able to lift or carry anything (including her baby and small child) and had to avoid raising her blood pressure in any way. The volume of medication affected her concentration and memory and she was exhausted from that alone so needed help with the children for basic daily tasks.”
Rose’s husband took on extra hours at work to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads as Rose was (and still is) unable to work and didn’t qualify for financial support.
The psychological impact of SCAD can be enormous. “After her SCAD my daughter felt incredibly overwhelmed by what had happened to her.”
Rose has suffered from anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is still trying to overcome the enormity of what has happened to her.
Nicola says: “Medications made her tired, cold, weepy and ‘not normal’ and her SCAD journey has made her emotionally and physically fragile at times. As a parent to witness your child go through something like is just awful, it took every ounce of strength to hold it together as a family and we just prayed she’d get through it safely. Caring and nurturing two tiny grandchildren to keep things as ‘normal and stable’ as possible for them and the beautiful relationship we have with them now is immensely rewarding and rather special.”
Having quick and easy access to counselling and other support to manage stress, grief and other emotional issues, has been vital.
“Cardiac rehab and cardiac counselling are valuable stepping stones in regaining confidence in a safe environment, although often tailored to the older cardiac patients and unhealthy lifestyle interventions. The Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust Cardiac Rehab team have been outstanding in their support for Rosie and her wish is to support others in their journey of recovery in the future and so she has volunteered to work with them to help others,” said Nicola.
Just over a year since Rose had her SCAD, Nicola said: “It has been a difficult journey and she has been unbelievably courageous and brave. This condition and the experience we have all witnessed over the past year has been incredibly distressing and life changing for my daughter, as for other SCAD patients and their families. We are lucky we still have our daughter. Sadly some families have not been so lucky.”
The family are now looking to the future. Nicola said: “A year ago we couldn’t have even contemplated sharing our story as it was so distressing. As time goes on we almost want to put the experience behind us, get on with life and not have to relive the experience again. We feel it is important to us to raise awareness of this terrible condition and encourage anyone not to ignore their symptoms however trivial they seem.”
Rose and Nicola have been raising awareness both locally and across the world. A local journalist saw a social media post by Rose about her SCAD and wrote a story. Her story has since been picked up by UK other news outlets, including Kent Online News and BBC South East as well as news organisations across the world.
“She was just 30, a fit and healthy mum with no family history or risk factors for heart disease.”
“It has been a difficult journey and she has been unbelievably courageous and brave.”