Hi I’m Rebecca Trahan, founder and heart of takeheart.live
I’ve been a long-distance runner for decades and have kept fit as a way of life. Between staying in shape and managing Barking Dog Design, my graphic design and communications business, heart disease was the furthest thing from my mind.
In 2011, I experienced the classic symptoms of a heart event: hippopotamus taking up residence on my chest, shortness of breath, nausea, pain radiating down my left arm and into my jaw. Knowing I was in excellent shape, I ignored my symptoms. I even pushed myself through vigorous workouts, unknowingly risking my life. Finally, after five days, I met with my doctor. She was skeptical of cardiac involvement, but since I had complained of chest pains, she was obliged to order the requisite suite of cardiac diagnostic tests. The results? My heart was barely functioning.
I was rushed to the ER, STAT. There, I received my diagnosis: spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). That's a condition that occurs when a blood vessel to the heart spontaneously dissects (tears), often resulting in a heart attack. In my case, the left main coronary artery had dissected, blocking three branch arteries of essential blood flow. The first dissection should have killed me—fewer than six percent of people survive such an event.
Just two weeks before, I had celebrated my forty-ninth birthday. Now the odds of me making it to my fiftieth were slim.
I received a triple bypass—just in time. I managed to make it to 50. Then 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56.
As a survivor, I am compelled to share my story. I had known that heart disease was the leading killer of women; I had just never considered that it could happen to me. I want to pass on that understanding to other women: it could happen to them, too.
I became an advocate for women living with heart disease and for the many more at risk. I have been privileged to form lifelong bonds with other women living with cardiovascular disease and healthcare professionals. I’m thrilled to say I’m also running again.