BY: Matthew Turner | IN: Medical Malpractice
In a three-day period, she suffered two heart attacks and nearly died. The cause? A rare condition known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection.
Morgan recently shared her story on the University of Michigan Health Blog.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is a condition in which a tear occurs within the layers of one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart. As the Mayo Clinic video below describes, the tear blocks the flow of blood to the cardiac muscle, causing a heart attack, abnormalities in heart rhythm, or sudden death.
Warning signs for SCAD include:
Although SCAD causes a small percentage of heart attacks overall, it is responsible for 40 percent of heart attacks in women under the age of 50. Further, more than 90 percent of SCAD patients are female. People with SCAD may not have any risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. As such, SCAD is often misdiagnosed, resulting in a delay or lack of lifesaving treatment.
This is precisely what happened in Morgan’s case. Sommers Schwartz attorney Matthew Turner represents her in a medical malpractice suit against the hospital that failed to recognize and treat the SCAD and prevent the second heart attack.
On January 30, 2019, Morgan started her day like any other, but she felt ill as the day progressed. Thinking it was indigestion, she called her doctor when the pain worsened, her left arm went numb, and her body temperature fluctuated. She was told to go to the nearest emergency room.
The doctors at the hospital told Morgan she as having a heart attack. She was admitted overnight and was discharged the following day – without having the necessary diagnostic tests and after being told it was safe for her to be evaluated as an outpatient. Two days later, she experienced similar pain and was taken to a different hospital.
An EKG showed Morgan had suffered a second, more severe heart attack. She underwent a heart catheterization, which showed massive cardiac damage. Doctors told her she was lucky to be alive.
Morgan regained consciousness in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) several days later, intubated and hooked up to numerous monitors and machines. When she awoke, she was struck by what she saw written on the board in her room: “heart failure.” At 35 years old, she thought the diagnosis had to be a mistake.
After three weeks in the ICU on a cardiac pump, Morgan went home. She now lives with her parents because she needs continuous care and assistance.
Morgan accepts that her once active lifestyle has been replaced with regular rehabilitation, short walks, and frequent naps. It is often difficult for her to walk across a room. She also recognizes that people do not necessarily understand she suffers from a life-threatening condition because she is young and appears to be healthy.
Morgan’s situation has prompted her to educate others about heart failure, SCAD, and the toll it takes on people, no matter what their age. In particular, she wants others to know that SCAD is the leading cause of heart attacks in women under age 50, and in pregnant women and new mothers.
Despite the unexpected challenges she now faces, Morgan maintains a positive perspective. She eventually wants to become a spokesperson to alert the medical profession and general community of the dangers of SCAD and heart failure.
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Matthew Turner is a shareholder with Sommers Schwartz, and focuses his practice on medical malpractice, legal malpractice, ERISA, and class action matters.