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The Ultimate Heart Break


Mary Mitchell and her daughter Faith with Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Wang.Seven days after giving birth to her daughter Faith, Mary Mitchell and her husband Ryan were having a late dinner at their Ijamsville home. With their older daughter Grace spending the night at a friend’s house, the Mitchells were anticipating a quiet evening at home getting to know their newborn baby. Suddenly, Mary experienced a sensation of searing heat accompanied by severe pain in her chest. Nauseated and short of breath, she knew she needed to get to the Frederick Memorial Hospital Emergency department as quickly as possible.

The likelihood that she might be having a heart attack was the furthest thing from Mary’s mind. At just 37 years old, she had no family history of heart disease and no risk factors.

Mary’s first EKG seemed normal, but an elevated level of cardiac enzymes in her blood showed that Mary had indeed suffered a heart attack. Additional tests revealed that she had suffered a Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, also known as SCAD. SCAD is a rare condition in which the wall of the heart’s main artery tears and blood is trapped between the torn layers of the coronary artery, which cause it to bulge and narrow. This obstruction keeps blood from reaching the heart, resulting in a severe and sometimes fatal heart attack. The faster blood flow is restored to the heart, the more heart muscle can be saved, providing a better outcome for the patient.

Interventional cardiologists are specialists trained to clear these blockages and restore blood flow. Using a small, flexible tube with a deflated balloon at its tip and x-rays of the patient’s anatomy, the interventional cardiologist threads the tube to the blockage in the artery. At that point, the balloon is inflated, pushing open the blockage. A stent is then inserted to prop the artery open, restoring blood flow to the heart.

Mary’s condition quickly became very serious and she was rushed from the ED to the Catheterization Lab where Dr. Thomas Wang and his team were ready to provide the life-saving care she needed. During an emergency procedure, Dr. Wang used three stents to repair the massive tear in Mary’s coronary artery and restore blood flow to her heart.

Three years later, the Mitchells are a happy and healthy family of four. Little Faith loves to play, cuddle, and read stories with her mom. Mary works full-time and is very active with her church. She follows up with her general cardiologist regularly, limits salt and unhealthy fat, and takes her medicines as prescribed.

“I don’t think about why this happened, or dwell on the ‘what-ifs,’” said Mary. “Instead, I focus on the fact that I was able to get to FMH in time for Dr. Wang and his team to be able to help me. There’s no doubt in my mind that it is only through the grace of God and the skill of Dr. Wang and his team that I am here today.”

To learn more about cardiology services available through Frederick Regional Health System, click here.