A mother has opened up about surviving a heart attack and cardio arrest at the age of 35, saying she was in a coma for nine days after initially brushing off her symptoms.
Amy Cavaliere, 40, from Pennsylvania, woke up on the morning of February 1, 2017, with tightness in her chest and labored breathing. She thought her heart attack was a panic attack, even though she had never had one before.
‘My husband [John Paul] kept insisting that I needed to go to the hospital, but I was mad at him, ‘she told Yahoo Life. ‘I wanted no part of that. I have three kids, and my focus was to get them to school. ‘
Amy Cavaliere, 40, from Pennsylvania, suffered a heart attack and went into cardio rest on February 1, 2017, when she was just 35 years old
The mother of three woke up with tightness in her chest and labored breathing, but confused her heart attack symptoms with a panic attack. Her husband, John Paul, insisted on calling 911
Cavaliere was still insisting she was ‘fine’ when she went into cardiac arrest. It took 45 minutes to restore her normal heart rate, and she was put in a medically induced coma for nine days
After she started hyperventilating and her skin turned cold and gray, her husband called 911 despite her protests. In an interview with the American Heart Association (AHA), she recalled how she insisted on walking to the ambulance.
Cavaliere was still claiming she was ‘fine’ when she went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital. A paramedic temporarily revived her by giving her an epinephrine injection, but she lost consciousness again.
The EMT started CPR, which doctors continued in the hospital for 45 minutes as they worked to restore her normal heart rhythm.
‘I was shocked with a 10-plus times defibrillator because they could not regain my heart rate,’ she told Yahoo Life.
After her heart rate recovered, she was put in a medically induced coma and taken to the cardiac catheterization lab for resting.
It was revealed she suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a tearing in the coronary artery wall that can slow or block blood flow to the heart
Cavaliere also developed ‘severe double pneumonia’ and had one lung collapse before she started to recover. She said it took her 14 months to start to feel like herself again
Cavalier now has to see a cardiologist every six months, take medications to control her cholesterol, and restrict her exercise
It was revealed that she suffered a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a tearing in the coronary artery wall that can slow or block blood flow to the heart. The dissection led to a heart attack and then cardiac arrest, according to the AHA.
She was in a coma for nine days, during which she developed ‘severe double pneumonia’ and had one lung collapse.
‘That almost killed me,’ she told Yahoo Life.
As part of her recovery, she started physical therapy to learn how to stand up and walk again with a walker. She continued outpatient therapy after she returned home three weeks later.
It has been a difficult journey for Cavaliere, who used to play tennis, jog, and lift weights before her heart attack.
Five years after her heart attack, she is a certified CPR trainer in her community, and she has partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) to raise awareness for heart disease
‘Listen to your body and advocate for yourself,’ Cavaliere advised
She told the AHA that it took her 14 months to feel like herself again, but she still can not lift more than 20 pounds or allow her heart rate to go above 150 beats per minute.
Her heart no longer pumps at the bottom, so the mother of three has to see a cardiologist every six months and take medications to control her cholesterol in addition to her exercise restrictions.
Cavaliere was diagnosed with fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), a rare blood vessel disorder that’s associated with SCAD, though doctors aren’t entirely sure what caused the condition.
Five years after her heart attack, she is a certified CPR trainer in her community, and she has partnered with the AHA to raise awareness for heart disease.
‘So many women and moms today are so distracted and busy with life, jobs, children, and family that we do not pay attention to what our bodies are going through,’ she told Yahoo Life.
‘Listen to your body and advocate for yourself.’