Personal Stories: Jennifer Butler
My name is Jennifer and I am 38 years old. One week after the birth of my 2nd son, I developed chestpain and was rushed to the ER via ambulance. After spending the entire night and next day in the ER, they performed a heart catherization and discovered that I had had a heart attack but fortunately, there was minimal damage to my heart. No stents were required at that time. I was ready to be released when I again experienced chest pain and was sent back to the cath lab where they discovered I had experienced a major heart attack and they inserted 3 stents in my LAD (left anterior Descending) artery. I was kept in the hospital for a total of 11 days with my young sons (4 yrs old & 1 week old) at home. I was sent home on blood thinners, blood pressure meds and cholesterol lowering drugs.
This was Sept ’07. In Dec ’07, they discovered at cardiac rehab that my EKG was abnormal. I required another heart cath where a 4th stent was put in. From Jan ’09 til June ’09 I was feeling great! I had lost 30 lbs. on Weight Watcher’s and was feeling really strong and good. Then I started developing chest pain while walking on my treadmill. A 4th heart cauterization discovered that I had several blockages and triple-bypass surgery was needed. In June ’08 I underwent the surgery. One day after my surgery, which went quite well, they did a routine scan of my heart and the technician discovered I had a tear in my aorta. I remember thinking this can’t be good. I was kept in the hospital for 2 weeks total. I later found out from my husband that I was only given a 50/50 chance of making it 48 hours. Then I was only given a small chance of making it 2 weeks post surgery. But, its been over 7 1/2 months since my surgery and I’m still here and doing good.
I have had genetic testing and it was ruled that I do NOT have Ehler’s Danlos or Marfan’s. They also checked for TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 which came back normal. The geneticist want me to have a chromosome analysis next. As of now they “remain unable to offer a unifying genetic diagnosis” for me.
My cardiologist believes I have suffered from SCAD (spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) which can happen to women in the weeks following birth. Its a condition where the high levels of Estrogen during pregnancy can weaken the heart and cause the vessels to tear.
Living with this condition has been difficult for me. I had thought that after this much time, I would be getting over my daily thoughts & fears of dying. I have seen a therapist and have taken Xanax off and on for anxiety. I’m trying to learn how to live with this condition and not let it consume me. I have two young boys & a loving husband to live for. I don’t want to leave my boys without a mother at such a young age. I try not to get on the internet because all the news about aortic dissections is so grim.
I have CT scans every 3 months right now to check my aorta. I have another one this week and I always get so anxious until I hear that everything is ok. The best news I can hope for is that nothing has changed. So far, since my surgery last June, the tear has not gotten worse. So that is good.
I just pray that I make it long enough to see my boys grow and mature. I also pray that they come up with some kind of surgery that will cure me. Some way to stitch up the tear? I’m not ready to leave this earth. I want to hold my grandbabies and grow old with my husband.
I need support! I would love to talk with other survivors and learn from others how to cope with this scary, life-threatening condition.
Thanks so much for reading my long story.