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Spontaneous dissection of coronary arteries: "They told me I would die if I had a baby"



Hayley Martin

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Hayley Martin thought he would die when he suffered a heart attack.

This is a rare disorder that causes a heart attack and often affects young women: spontaneous coronary artery dissection (CAD).

It occurs when one of the blood vessels in the heart creates tears that can block the flow of blood, cause a heart attack, heart rhythm abnormalities or sudden death.

Doctors often advise women who survive any of these events that they do not have children because of the risk of it happening again.

Hayley Martin, aged 47, remembers alive in the morning when his life changed forever,

"I woke up, I felt very, very bad, I put my hands on my head and I bought sweat, I knew I had a heart attack," said Victoria Derbyshire.

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DEAC occurs when one of the heart vessels creates tears that can block blood flow, cause a heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm or sudden death.

Hayley was 38 years old and was in good health when she suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection.

Until then, the disorder was unaware and never diagnosed.

DEAC is, however, the main cause of heart attacks in women aged between 30 and 50 years of age.

And that happens many times without a history of heart disease or risk factors.

When he arrived at the hospital, Hayley, who lives in Cheshire, England, feared the worst.

"I remember what I said to the doctors:" Am I dying? "And they said," We're trying to do everything we can, but nothing works, "he says.

"Disturbed as a woman"

Hayley survived, but like many women with DEAC she was told not to open because of the risk of another heart attack.

"It was another thing I robbed, I prefer not to think it because it makes me take the road of mourning," he says.

"I feel devalued as a person as a woman as a failure as if it were my fault."


What is spontaneous coronary artery dissection (DEAC)?

  • DEAC is a cardiac disorder that is often undetectable.
  • In particular, it affects women occasionally during pregnancy or shortly after pregnancy.
  • Menopause, extreme stress and exercise are associated with this.
  • During a heart attack, a sudden tear or scar occurs in one of the coronary arteries that blocks the flow of blood.
  • It can cause death, heart failure, cardiac arrest, and requires the patient to undergo heart bypass surgery.

Source: Leicester Biomedical Cardiovascular Research Unit, England


Now, however, the Chelsea and Westminster Clinic in London are helping women who suffer from DEAC to become pregnant and have a baby.

It is the first clinic of its kind in the world and is led by cardiologist Abi Al Husaini.

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Dr. Al-Hussaini is trying to get women informed about whether or not they have a child.

Dr. Al-Hussaini analyzes DEAC's heart damage and evaluates the patient's treatment, usually reducing the amount he or she is taking.

With this information, she advises the patient how her pregnancy may be risky.

The intention, she says, is for the patient to make an informed decision about whether or not to get pregnant.

If she decides to continue, she is referred to a "high-risk pregnancy team" at the hospital to monitor her during her pregnancy.

"I have seen many patients in recent years who were unhappy because they were told they could not have children"explains the cardiologist.

"That's one of the reasons I founded a clinic to give these patients the right advice and allow them to make an informed decision."

Acute pain

One of the first women who helped the clinic was Julie Murphy, 40 years old.

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Julie Murphy and Holly play with Bell, who was born in April.

Shortly before the wedding trip in 2013, Julie began to feel sick as if she had a flu. During the holidays in Kenya the symptoms worsened.

One day, when he was swimming, he felt a sharp chest pain. When he returned home, he underwent cardiac tests and "discovered the second day he had a heart attack."

The days and weeks that followed were very difficult.

"All the medication they gave me really weakened me, and when I got back from the hospital, I could not even climb the stairs, it was hard to understand what was going on," he says.

Just like Hayley, Julie was told she could not have children. But then he started to participate in the research project Dr. Al-Hussaini a her first daughter, Holly, was born in 2015,

She then became the first patient in the clinic to become pregnant for the second time. And her second daughter, Bella, was born in April.

Despite the hope she gives to patients, Dr. Al-Hussaini said he is experiencing resistance from some doctors around the world in terms of counseling patients.

"In the United States, it is against congestion after a heart attack or spontaneous dissection of the coronary artery," he explains.

"But I think it's because there was not much research, but more and more studies are still being done."

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