Heart & Sole: Survivor’s Perspective on SCAD

Heart & Sole: Survivor’s Perspective on SCAD

Cynthia Mauzerall was planing to race the USATF Cross Country Championships with the Boise Betties’ masters team.  Just a month before the race, she suffered a heart attack.  It was an incredibly scary time for our team.  Here Cynthia shares her perspective on the events immediately following the event.


When I woke up, I saw faces staring at me-friendly, helpful, concerned, surprised.  Family members were tearing up and I had no idea why.  The only words I could think to say were, “hi” and “what am I doing here?”  My husband was told he would be sharing the details with me over and over again until my memory got stronger.  When I was informed that I had suffered a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), I wasn’t sure how to wrap my arms around that.  Frankly, I thought maybe they made a mistake.  I asked myself, “Are they overreacting?” The look on the faces of the team of doctors suggested it was true.  Amongst this team of white lab coats was one of my best friends since age 15.  Certainly she will tell me what’s what.  Dr. Jen (formally known as Dr. Jennifer Anderson) was calm and composed and yet seemed to empathize with how odd all this was to me.  She likely knew I had to grasp that this was serious enough that I would not be heading out the door for a run any time soon.

Once the doctors left the room, I searched for evidence.  What are all these tubes, catheters, and scars?  Family explained that a stent was placed over the dissected artery.  I began to feel pain in my chest and ribs.  They told me that was CPR that was conducted by 2 everyday heroes at the gym- a retired paramedic and a physical therapist.  Slowly I ventured out of detective mode into one of Gratitude.  I was grateful for Family and for amazing medical team that despite their current unassuming demeanor had to respond at lightning speed with limited information when I arrived at the ER.  I was grateful for those who stepped up and did CPR knowing that it might not make a difference.

The theme of gratitude has been on my mind continually- much because my story was filled with events that now seem rather miraculous.  However, I am also grateful for mindfulness and science.  Dr. Jen and her team keep abreast of advancements and case studies in Cardiology.  In fact, Dr. Jen has been known to stash The New England Journal of Medicine in her bathroom for “easy reading”.  A new gratefulness has emerged for curiosity and mindfulness.  Dr. Jen has reiterated that we are experts on what are bodies are communicating to us.  We need to listen, to be curious, to ask questions.  I had ben slowing down substantially on my runs and workouts but felt foolish mentioning it to anyone.  I felt lucky to be as active as I am at 42.  I could have simply said, “Maybe this is nothing, but….” We don’t have to be MDs to be mindful of our bodies, and what they communicate to us.  There are folks out there like Dr. Jen whose passion is to understand what the symptoms mean, we just have to vocalize those symptoms.

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