The paramedics who came to me during my heart attack said that my normal ECG meant that I was having a panic attack. They asked me if I would like to go to hospital to get checked out.
We went to my local A+E, not a heart centre. The on-call registrar did a troponin blood test to rule out anything serious. I’m not sure who was more surprised when the result came back saying I’d had a heart attack!
I spent a week in hospital before being diagnosed. I was then discharged with a bag of pills all for conventional heart attacks, even though an angiogram had shown my arteries were as clean as whistles. I was told there was no medical protocol for SCAD, so I’d be on the medical protocol that did exist, one for patients with atherosclerosis, which I didn’t have.
It was August 2015, 14 months after my SCAD when I took part in the first UK study of 100 SCAD patients. I willingly provided blood, a skin samples, got measured, scanned and questioned about my family’s medical history. That day I discovered I also had fibromuscular dysplasia, a condition often found in SCAD patients.
The first thing Dr Adlam’s research fellow, at that time Dr Abtehale Al-Hussaini, said to me was “Tell me all about what happened to you.” I burst into tears. For the first time I felt properly heard, understood and validated. I also came away with a plan for managing my condition going forward. On top of that I felt I could now be part of the solution. It was both incredibly moving and empowering.
The significance of the research that Dr Adlam does is huge and the awareness raising that has come about as a result is crucial. This is because too many SCAD patients still struggle to be believed when they get taken ill; getting told they have indigestion or anxiety when they’re mid heart-attack, struggling to get taken to hospital, waiting for hours before receiving a troponin blood test, and then when the test comes back positive, those with few or no cardiac risk factors will be asked when they last took cocaine. If the correct diagnosis gets made, not enough hospitals can tell patients about SCAD so many get sent home with a bag of pills and no guidance. Some get told they don’t need cardiac rehab because they haven’t had a real heart attack.
It’s only through research that we will get the answers we need to ensure that guidelines get updated, healthcare professionals get trained and patients get the care they need.
So in summary what Dr Adlam does is give SCAD patients hope, hope for our own futures, and for those of our children.