My name is Andrea, at the age of 38 I was living a normal, busy life that I loved. You could find me working as a realtor in St. John’s and raising two beautiful children with my amazing husband. Life was busy, especially the week before Christmas. You know the one, filled with social activities, too many treats, late bedtimes, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, all while balancing work and family commitments.

As the week was nearing a close and I checked off all my to-dos I was energized by the rush of getting so much done so I decided, why not keep going?

It was 9 p.m. when I told my husband I was going to pop out and pick up the turkey and all the trimmings! I kissed my kids goodnight and said I would be back soon. Little did I know routine errands would lead to a life-altering event.

Navigating the grocery store aisles, an unsettling feeling overcame me. Initially thinking it was anxiety, I kept shopping. However, persistent unease led me to stay in the produce section, where I noticed someone working nearby. I called my husband, sharing my exhaustion, worry and discomfort. As I spoke to him, the tightness in my chest got worse, feeling like a knife stabbing through me.

I told my husband I was not coming home. I stumbled towards a produce worker with my hand on my chest, barely able to talk, I managed to tell him that I needed an ambulance, telling him to call 911. The next thing I knew, I keeled over on top of the melons. Two employees rushed to my aid. One got me a chair, and another ran to the pharmacy and came back with two aspirins and said, “this is gonna taste horrible but chew it”.

At 38, while shopping for a Christmas turkey, I suffered a heart attack.

The paramedics arrived and moved me into the back of the ambulance. They were incredible—fast, kind, and thorough in their assessments. They asked questions to understand what was causing my pain. You’re under 40. You’re not overweight. You don’t drink. You don’t smoke.

They started pushing on my stomach, maybe it’s your gallbladder. They worked quickly, never ruling anything out. They hooked me up to a portable EKG machine and within a minute confirmed that the issue was my heart.

The paramedics had the technology on the ambulance to not only identify that there was something wrong with my heart but also pinpoint what side of my heart was experiencing the issues.

I arrived in the Emergency Department and standard tests confirmed I had experienced a heart attack. The surreal speed of events left me grappling with reality. I waited until 6 a.m. to share the unexpected news with my family.

Transferred to the cardiac floor, I shared a room with three older men, who lightened the atmosphere with jokes and laughter. I think if it had been a different dynamic, I would have been more stressed by the heaviness of my situation. The amazing nurses made me feel safe and protected.

Dr. Connors was overseeing my care. He, along with his resident team, provided updates and talked with me, patiently answering my questions, and providing me with information on what was happening.

My journey continued to the cath lab, where on Christmas Eve I was diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). SCAD is a rare condition affecting mainly women under 50. Instead of a blockage causing my heart attack, the heart itself had a tear leading to a blockage.

Released late on Christmas Eve, I was given instructions for medication and rest. I spent the holiday season adapting to a new reality. The following days and months were a blur.

I felt like I was rebuilding life with fading batteries. The period before starting a Cardiac Rehab Program was the most challenging—lonely, disconnected, and frightening. It was spring when I was finally strong enough to start the Cardiac Rehab Program. This program provided much needed peer support from a group who understood what I was going through. Guided by medical professionals, as a group we worked together to rebuild our strength. The rehab team was there to help patients with any questions we had along the way. The Cardiac Rehab Program was a gateway to health professionals and support that I did not know I needed.

Reflecting on the months that followed my heart attack, I was devastated and in shock, but the gravity of what had happened to me had not sunk in. I was sick; I was in bed for months and it took weeks to work up to the simplest of things like walk to the end of my driveway. I was completely wiped out and I was in denial. It wasn’t until I started the rehab program that I began to process what had happened to me. My counsellor helped me see my heart attack not just from the perspective of a mother of two children, with a husband and busy career but as Andrea, who was basically incapacitated for months.

I still live with the effects of that life-altering day. Medications, monitoring, and lifestyle adjustments are part of my daily routine. My story is of the resilience and strength required to rebuild a life after a heart attack, highlighting the critical role of ongoing support for advances in technology in cardiology care.

I want you to know the profound impact that your support can have on individuals facing complex medical emergencies. Your generosity contributes to advancements in technology, rehabilitation programs, and ongoing research, fostering hope and recovery for those affected by cardiac conditions.

You help ensure that people like me return home to hug their loved ones, snuggle their pets, and kiss their kids goodnight.

With all my heart, thank you.

Andrea K.

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