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Talk about a detour to remember! Morgan Saxe was on her way back home to Wisconsin on Oct. 14, 2019, after visiting her sister in Omaha for the weekend. About 30 miles west of Cedar Rapids, she began experiencing what she thought was heartburn. In the car with her mother and her aunt, Morgan stopped to purchase antacids. Still, the pain continued.
At the urging of her mother, Morgan searched Google for a nearby hospital, and they headed for Mercy.
Once in Mercy’s emergency room, Cardiologist Ryan Hollenbeck, MD, (pictured here with Morgan) said she exhibited classic signs of a heart attack; she was experiencing shortness of breath and chest pressure and appeared pale and sweaty. An electrocardiogram (EKG) confirmed Dr. Hollenbeck’s suspicions. Even before Morgan’s mother could park the car and get inside, Morgan was on her way to Mercy’s cath lab.
Once there, Dr. Hollenbeck determined Morgan’s condition was even worse than anticipated.
“We took pictures and immediately saw the problem. She had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a condition where the main artery to the heart was torn apart. This creates a second path for blood flow and prevents blood from getting to the heart,” Dr. Hollenbeck explained. “Morgan had the single most extensive SCAD I’ve ever seen. The entire left branch of her heart essentially fell apart.”
Dr. Hollenbeck, in consultation with Mercy’s Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon, Dr. C.C. Lee, determined Morgan would need emergent open-heart surgery. Soon after, Dr. Lee was operating on Morgan to repair the extensive damage. The surgery was successful.
Morgan says she still finds it hard to believe she had a heart attack. She’s 39 years old and, other than being a smoker, felt she had a healthy lifestyle. She says she’s thankful she found her way to Mercy and that she got the care she needed from Mercy’s heart team.
“I believe having an open heart program here was the only chance for this patient,” Dr. Hollenbeck said. “If she would have needed to be transferred, I don’t believe she would have made it.”
“It just could have been a lot worse; things could have gone horribly,” Morgan said. “If it had to happen, I couldn’t have asked for things to go any better than they did.”
Best wishes to Morgan as she continues her recovery at home in Wisconsin!