Helen attended her first meeting with the Women@Heart program in July. “At first, I didn’t feel like I belonged there,” she says. “But after attending a few sessions, I began to learn more about heart disease and its impact on women.”
Helen wasn’t aware that she had “SCAD”. SCAD stands for Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, which is a rare condition that occurs when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels in the heart.
“I felt fine in the morning. I was heading to take a shower when I started not feeling well,” she says. “It hit me very fast. I even cancelled a couple of appointments because I wasn’t feeling well at all. And then the chest pains started.”
Helen called her husband who immediately advised her to call 9-1-1. She was having a heart attack. While doctors knew she had had a heart attack, they couldn’t determine what had triggered it. Then they did an angiogram and discovered she had SCAD. She was cleared to go home the next day and provided medication and a referral to cardiac rehab to support her recovery.
Doctors and the team at the Prevention and Rehabilitation clinic encouraged Helen to join the Women@Heart program, but she was hesitant at the beginning. “I didn’t want to go. I’m a problem solver and I am curious by nature, but everyone kept saying to just try it so I did.”
Less than 20 per cent of women go to the Rehab clinic at the Heart Institute and yet, statistics show that women are more at risk of dying of heart attack following their initial medical intervention. Helen says that women are often overwhelmed with the information they receive once they leave the hospital. Others simply choose not to seek assistance, and return to their daily routine.
Helen participated in her first Women@Heart meeting in July. She liked it so much that she did her training to become a Peer Leader and graduated last November.
“The Women@Heart group is not just about sharing information. There’s a whole self-management process that needs to take place once a patient is out of the hospital. Unfortunately, women just don’t have the time to take care of themselves. The Women@Heart program allows women to absorb information and what’s great about it is that we convene every two weeks.”
Luckily, along with the Women@Heart program, the Centre offers various tools to help women take control of their heart health, like the CardioPrevent program and now the Virtual Care Program. Since following the program, Helen feels like a changed woman and is more confident about her health. More importantly, she’s made some lifelong friends who meet regularly for tea outside of meeting hours. Helen is eager to spread the word and encourages other women to educate themselves on heart disease.
“This program is absolutely worth it. It is a strong program that combines education, coping tools, knowledge and builds confidence. It links the mental with the physical which is so important for heart patients. Best of all, every participant contributes just as much.”\
Watch her story: