Returning to work after SCAD
Some SCAD patients have to make decisions about whether to return to work and if they do, whether they should work full or part time. Many find it daunting discussing this with their employer, and Harriet Mulvaney, HR Consultant and former Director of Human Resources, told the delegates how she re-evaluated her life and priorities following her SCAD in 2014, which led to a decision to leave her high-powered job, start her own business and achieve a better work-life balance. She offered invaluable information and advice on employee rights, employer responsibilities and how to prepare and discuss options such as phased returns, job changes or negotiating an exit with employers.
Before lunch, we asked delegates to discuss what Beat SCAD should prioritise in the coming months as well as how each delegate can help – we’ll update you on this once we’ve analysed the results.
After lunch, Dr Adlam gave the keynote address, updating delegates on the progress of the research project – this is the most important part of the conference for many attending and all eyes were on Dr Adlam as he covered as much information as possible, while taking care not to overload the delegates with medical jargon. The researchers are currently analysing the results of the tests that have been done on 110 SCAD patients and 40 healthy volunteers, so there will be more about the results in the coming months. The research, funded by the BHF and NIHR, has raised lots of questions and opened up potential new avenues in terms of exploring theories about what causes SCAD. There are more than 400 SCAD patients waiting to be part of the research and the research team is applying for more funding in order to continue the work.
Dr Adlam discussed the recent news that a European SCAD Study Group has been launched, with support from the European FMD (Fibromuscular Dysplasia Group). Many SCAD patients have been found to have FMD so this is an important partnership. Members of the Group include Dr Adlam, cardiologists Angela Maas from The Netherlands, Christiaan Vrints from Belgium and Fernando Alfonso from Spain. The Group’s aims include maintaining a European registry of SCAD patients, formulating a European consensus on the diagnosis and management of SCAD; improving accurate diagnosis by raising awareness of SCAD; and supporting patients. For more, see http://m.eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org/conte…/…/3073.full.pdf and http://www.escardio.org/Sub-specialty-communities/Acute-Cardiovascular-Care-Association-(ACCA)/Study-groups/scad.
Psychological aspects of SCAD
Following Dr Adlam’s presentation, Catherine Mulcaster, Registered MBACP Accredited Counsellor/Psychotherapist and Supervisor, led a panel session on managing the psychological aspects of SCAD. Dr Abi talked about hyper-vigilance, panic and anxiety being normal following a traumatic event and discussed a recent literature review on the psychological impact of SCAD, undertaken by SCAD patient Colette Soan.
Some SCAD survivors have been found to experience ‘at least’ moderate anxiety and some have experienced depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Higher scores of anxiety and depression were seen closer to the SCAD event and if the survivor was young and peripartum. Prior to SCAD, nearly 40% had a history of depression and nearly 60% experienced intense emotion or stress prior to the SCAD event. SCAD survivors who took part in cardiac rehab experienced a significant improvement in terms of depression and reported emotional benefit.
Catherine discussed what SCAD patients can do to help themselves and access help from family, friends, the medical profession and Employee Assistance Programmes. She outlined different types of help, such as medication, talking therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), life coaching, hypnotherapy and mindfulness.
Catherine Beck, retired Health Play Specialist and 17-year SCAD survivor, spoke on how to talk to children about a SCAD event. Many SCAD patients have children who may have been frightened or traumatised by what has happened to their parent. Talking to them honestly and in an age-appropriate way is important. Catherine gave some tips on how to achieve this.
After another opportunity to network with other delegates and discuss what SCAD patients, family and friends have achieved since SCAD, Dr Adlam answered questions that had been placed in the ‘question bucket’ during the day. Topics included medication, exercise, SCAD recurrence rates.
The conference ended with a drinks reception for delegates – complemented by the fabulous and tasty Beat SCAD themed cupcakes made by SCAD Survivor Jacqui Hughes.
Click through the gallery below to see some photos from the day.