Photo courtesy of Bronwyn Pullin

Photo courtesy of Bronwyn Pullin

The terrifying chest pains and tightness started two weeks after Bronwyn Pullin had her baby boy.

“I brushed it off as anxiety about a new baby and all the changes that come with it,” said Pullin. “I would try laying down, moving around or eating. The pain would come and then finally go.”

Her mother, who has a heart murmur, was very aware of heart attack signs and encouraged her to go to the doctor. Her mother thought the chest and arm pain were possibly symptoms, “but she said when I told her that my jaw hurt, that is what gave it away,” said Pullin.

Instead of calling 911 as recommended by the American Heart Association, her husband drove her to an urgent care.

“I was surprised by how quickly they got me back. I thought I would have to wait in the waiting room to be seen, but they brought me straight back to a room and immediately started hooking me up to monitors,” said Pullin. “Everyone was moving very quickly. At that point, my husband was taken out of the room to fill out some paperwork and the nurse asked me if I knew what was going on, and she told me I was having a heart attack.”

Pullin, who was only 33 years old at the time, thought the nurse was joking.

“I had a two-week-old son who needs his mom. I had a four-year-old daughter who depends on me. How could my kids grow up without me?” said Pullin. “My baby needed me.”

Pullin, was transported to a hospital near her home in The Woodlands, Texas. There she was immediately pulled in for a cardiac catherterization, a procedure that is used to identify heart problems and to help unblock arteries.

“I was awake for the entire cath procedure and stent placement. I was trying desperately to see through my own tears what was on the screen; a huge blockage in my left circumflex,” said Pullin.

Pullin had suffered from a tear in her coronary artery wall, allowing blood to pass through and become trapped. Called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, this can cause a heart attack because the blood flow cannot reach the heart muscle.

Researchers aren’t sure what causes SCAD, but patients are often women who are otherwise healthy with few to no risk factors for heart disease.

Some studies have pointed to a hormonal link, showing a greater incidence among postpartum women. According to AHA-based research, 30 percent of SCAD patients have recently had a child.

“Looking back, I think how can something that kills healthy young mothers be so unheard of?,” Pullin said.

Nearly two years later, Pullin believes she owes her life to her mother’s knowledge of heart attack and her encouragement to seek medical attention.

“I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like if I hadn’t listened to her. I’ve always been blessed by having an amazing mother who loved and supported me,” said Pullin. “Now, I have the chance to be a mom to my kids and for that I can never thank her enough.

“She gave me life, and saved my life.”

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