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My Heart Health Story: I Thought I'd Pulled a Muscle

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Why me? Why now?

It's been almost three years when my day started out like any other day. I up woke early to get a workout in before work, knowing I had a full busy schedule for the day. I had business visitors coming into town for all-day meetings, so I knew I would be working late into the evening.

About 10 minutes into my workout, I began to experience severe sharp pain across my entire chest. I thought I pulled a muscle. I tried to stretch and tried to walk it off. I started to have difficulty breathing, so I went out on my front porch to get some fresh air. My friend found me slumped over, brought me in, and still I thought, "I pulled a muscle." I thought if I just lay down it would go away. Well, I collapsed, they called 911, and I was taken to the emergency room and soon after was rushed into surgery.

I was diagnosed with having Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, otherwise known as SCAD, a rare condition that strikes younger women and can result in sudden death. I had torn my LAD (Left Anterior Descending) artery approximately 2.5 inches, which was repaired through heart surgery. As the inner lining of the artery began to tear, it folded in, blocking blood flow and causing the severe pain as it continued to shred.

Late that night, after my family had gone home, my friends stopped calling... stopped texting. I was alone. It felt like I was in a bad dream. Why me? Why now? This can't be me. I have too much to do.

I heard a tap on my door, and I was so surprised to see my cardiologist, my surgeon, walk in. He sat on the edge of my bed, and the look in his eyes... I will never forget.

I said, "Doctor, tonight I only have two questions for you: Why did this happen to me? And am I going to live?"

He said: "Amy, the bad news is that what you have experienced is a very rare and fatal heart condition, so there is not much research done on why this happens, and the research that has been done has been done post-mortem."

He said: "Amy, the good news is that you are alive, you survived, you are going to be OK, and you can do this!"

When he left my room, I really felt alone and now scared. I didn't think I could do this.

I spent about a week in the hospital and completed eight weeks of cardiac rehab. Three months after recovering from my heart surgery, I ran my first 5k. My goal was to run the entire race and finish, and that I did. I was there to support my sister, who was there to run the half marathon, but she said what I did was more inspiring than any race that she has ever completed. She was there for me that day to watch me cross the finish line. I did it to prove to myself that I can do it! That I could go back to living a healthy lifestyle with small changes. I did for all of the women who didn't survive from SCAD and families who have lost their loved one. I did it to inspire others who deal with heart disease everyday that there is hope.

So why do I share my story? Because I can. The fatality rate of SCAD is significantly high, and with little funding and known causes of the condition; 80 percent of cases occur in young women who have similar profiles as mine. I have no known family history of heart disease, I do not smoke, I exercise regularly and, and I had good cholesterol screenings.

So as I continue to be a case study for my cardiology team, I am doing my part in trying to live a healthy lifestyle for me and my kids. Today, I'm back to running and exercising regularly, and it feels good!

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women, and so I tell my story hoping to raise awareness and help fund medical advances that have had a positive impact on the heart health of millions of people... including me.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about my heart day. Heart disease causes one in three women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute. I need your help so that the women in our lives, your lives, can hear the same thing I did from my doctor... that they can do it, they can survive.

For more stories heart disease, click through the slideshow below:

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