Tracey had a SCAD and cardiac arrest but the quick actions of a paramedic saved her life

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In March 2015 at the age of 38, Tracey went to work for the NHS just as she did every other day. The day was hot and the office even hotter. Tracey made a comment to three of her work colleagues late in the morning that her “toes looked like sausages and her legs were swollen”. Little did she know this was a vital warning sign for her.

Nevertheless, the working day finished at 5pm and she returned home a little later than usual, just after 7pm. Tracey then went on to do the tasks and chores that every parent does including sorting sandwiches for herself, her son, James and her now husband, Wayne, then went on to cook the evening meal.

Shortly after having their evening meal, a few minutes before 8pm Tracey was overcome with what she describes as an “instant and excruciating headache” and said she was heading off to bed. Tracey is a person of habit and always takes her handbag, car keys and phone to bed with her, she left all this downstairs when her SCAD occurred and this triggered alarm bells in Wayne’s head and he followed her upstairs.

Tracey had got onto the bed but couldn’t settle, so went to the bathroom – she was “sick beyond anything I have ever been before”. As Tracey stood in the bathroom she went from one extreme to the other, from roasting to freezing, hot to cold and started sweating profusely. Tracey said: “Something didn’t feel right, although I didn’t know what, so I asked Wayne to call the NHS Direct Service before I headed back to bed.”

Tracey recalls speaking intermittently to a lady on the phone from the NHS Direct Service. She remembers explaining to the lady that she had indigestion and a pain in both her arms, but quickly got to a point where she was unable to speak to her because she was unable to breathe properly, and handed the phone to Wayne.

During this call, Tracey was unaware that an ambulance was already on its way and that a First Response Unit was en route; fortunately on this occasion the First Response Unit had just come on duty and Tracey was his first call, the First Response Paramedic lived on the same estate as Tracey, less than a minute away!

As the paramedic walked into Tracey’s bedroom he asked her how she felt and how she rated the pain out of 10… Tracey’s response was “about a five”. This was all the conversation they had.

The SCAD caused a blockage in the main artery to the heart, stopping the blood flow and at 8:02pm Tracey suffered a cardiac arrest. The quick actions of the paramedic in attendance saved Tracey’s life. She was taken by ambulance to Glenfield Hospital in Leicester where she was immediately taken to theatre to repair the damage in the artery by stenting.

In June 2016 things became increasingly worse and during a hospital admission she was given an anticoagulant, which unfortunately did not agree with her. Tracey was informed that she had picked up a virus which had gone directly to the heart. The damage caused was not repairable.

Tracey generally remained well, although did undergo hospital admissions intermittently (the longest being from the beginning of July until the end of September 2016) at which time Tracey was referred to Papworth Hospital in Cambridge with Idiopathic Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

In February 2017, Tracey nearly lost the fight for her life, however, she underwent a heart transplant at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on 28 February 2017.

Tracey said: “I will always be grateful to all the staff who have helped in my recovery and the specialists in SCAD who have made this diagnosis an easier one to understand. This research must continue in order to educate those, including medical professionals, who have not heard about this condition. The quicker SCAD is diagnosed in a patient the easier and less invasive the treatment could be.

“It also goes without saying that I will be eternally grateful to my donor and their family for allowing me to be able to do things I haven’t been able to do for years. You are in my thoughts and I will carry a piece of you with me always.”