Kristen Patton knew something was wrong when she felt a searing pain in her jaw one night while feeding her infant daughter. But at only 40, she didn’t expect her symptoms were those of a heart attack. When her husband found her unresponsive, he called 911.
Uncovering a Rare Heart Condition
Paramedics had to use a defibrillator to start Kristen’s heart when they arrived. Once they stabilized her, they brought her to the hospital so doctors could determine why she’d suffered a heart attack in the first place. Despite multiple tests, the answer was unclear. Kristen had a second heart attack just days later.
However, the second heart attack did give Kristen’s doctors insight. She had a rare heart condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Walls in her artery had torn, cutting off the oxygen supply to sections of her heart.
The damage was so extensive that Mary Beth Cishek, MD, a Seton Heart Institute cardiologist, knew she’d need a transplant. But first, Cishek and her team performed a life-saving triple bypass and began ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) treatment to oxygenate the blood.
Heart Surgery Recovery & Rehabilitation
Kristen faced a long, slow recovery from her bypass surgery as she waited for a transplant. Doctors implanted an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) to help her blood pump normally. She was hooked up to a battery full-time.
Then, on her 41st birthday, Kristen got the best present imaginable: a call that a transplant match was available.
Following her successful heart transplant surgery, Kristen feels passionately that more people need to be proactive about their heart health. She hopes that sharing her story will help. While her own condition is quite rare, she lost her mother to a heart attack, and knows firsthand how devastating the impact can be.
“My hope is to raise awareness so that people go get their hearts screened,” Kristen said.
You can check out the full story here.