June 8, 2018

What happens next?

My previous post made shocking reading I know, there's no way to sugar coat having a heart attack, I wish there was.

It has taken a long time to get back to anywhere near normal, both physically and mentally, I am getting there though, and if it helps others, and also raise awareness about a few things, I'd like to write a bit about what happened next.

In hospital, wired up to a heart monitor with a cardiac nurse watching every beat, its calming to know if anything else bad happens, you're in the right place. Returning home is a mixed bag of emotions,
nights spent almost counting the breaths, and checking my pulse. The early days are terrifying. Many Cardiologists are unfamiliar with SCAD, and are also unsure how to treat it. Since it happened to me, there has been a research paper published which includes a suggested treatment plan, recommending no stenting of the dissected artery, opting for medication instead (dual antiplatelet therapy, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors etc), I was on 7 tablets a day (now reduced to just 2!).

Next, was 6 weeks of taking it very easy, during that time I leaned the hard way how vital resting was, did too much too soon, 2 weeks post SCAD I was back in an ambulance with chest pains again and an overnight stay on the cardiac ward. The arteries need time to heal, and that means giving the heart a rest. Following that, it's an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the chest), from this, they can work out the LV function or how efficiently your heart is pumping out blood, normal range is between 55-70%, this number will reduce if there's been heart damage or if there's heart disease. The heart damage can occur during a heart attack, the reduced blood supply causes the heart muscle to die off. At the moment, it looks like I have been very lucky, no muscle damage means my LV function is around 65%, totally normal. This is possibly because I sought treatment quickly, I was given aspirin and GTN spray within an hour of the symptoms starting, both took pressure off my struggling heart potentially reducing lasting damage.   

I have just had an MRI scan, am waiting for a CT scan next. These scans are looking for a number of things, one is investigating why the SCAD happened (but more on that in another post), they are also looking to see that the 2 arteries that dissected have healed, and also if there is any scar tissue left behind. At the moment, I'm playing the waiting game for all the results. 

SCAD has its own set of after effects, I have had a lot of chest pain, the theory is this pain is unique to a SCAD and is caused by arterial spasms as the arteries heal. It feels like a bee in my chest, I can feel a spasm coming on, it almost buzzes, then the pain starts. It comes and goes in waves, accompanied by dizziness, sweating, it's most unpleasant. These spells have gradually decreased in severity and frequency, but I do still have bad days.

I'm writing about this as SCAD mainly affects women, healthy women, it is not linked at all to heart disease or high cholesterol, and women are twice as likely to die from a heart attack than men. This is for a number of reasons, one being that women have a higher tendency to dismiss symptoms and not seek medical help, or when they do, the symptoms are dismissed as emotional, eg panic attack/anxiety based, rather than physical. More women also die of heart attacks or heart disease than of cancer. I found this on You Tube, not a SCAD but the heart attack symptoms are very similar to what happened in my case (yes, that is Elizabeth Banks!).


If you'd like to know more about what a SCAD is, this also helps explain what actually happened inside 2 arteries in my heart that November morning...


I joined SCAD research and have taken part is some additional tests which will go towards the international investigating going on to learn more about SCAD, why it happens and genetic markers. This research is taking place at the Mayo Clinic in USA and also at Glenfield Hospital here in the UK. This weekend there is a SCAD conference with many SCAD survivors attending plus the 3 UK based expert Cardiologists, it will be an interesting day on many counts, not least due to being in a room of at around 63 (at last count) others who all know exactly what I've been through as they have all been there themselves.

There are many reasons why you may experience chest pain, but if that pain comes with other symptoms, dizziness, sweating, pain radiating elsewhere, or if your instinct is just that something is not quite right, go get help, just get checked out. 

It could save your life.

January 24, 2018

Hearts and things...


Long time no blog! I'm not even sure if blogs are as popular as they used to be when I first started in 2007. The online landscape has changed so much with Instagram, Pinterest etc. But it is something I need to get back to. The prolonged absence has been for a few reasons, work, life and health just about covers it.

Health for me has been the trickiest issue. Firstly there was a knee thing. I call it a thing as it turned out to be quite bizarre once the scary side was out of the equation. In a nutshell, my knee swelled up one day a couple of years ago. A year after that, I noticed a hard lump inside the swelling. The hard lump grew so my GP sent me to see an Orthopedic Oncologist, suspecting it could be a cancerous growth. This meant I had 3 months of investigations, MRI scan, biopsy etc, to test to see if it was sarcoma. All very scary at the time, and a huge relief when I finally got a diagnosis of pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), which is basically a joint disease that grows benign tumours. After another 3 months on the surgery waiting list, the tumour came out. I won't go into detail but it was very painful and took a while to recover from, and can regrow in the future, but for now, I'm having more physio to realign my kneecap, and so far so good.

Then last November, something happened that I was least expecting, I had a heart attack. 

Out of the blue, no prior symptoms, I'm not unhealthy (at least I don't think so!), had been doing pilates once a week since my knee surgery, low cholesterol, barely drink, don't smoke, and yet, one morning, the 2nd November 2017 to be precise, at 8.10am, I could barely breathe. It felt like my lungs and chest were being crushed, followed by a sharp pain in my heart. What followed is a bit of a blur, GP surgery, ECG, ambulance and hospital. At 3.30pm, the blood test results came back, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by nurses. There was troponin in my blood, which confirmed, I'd had a heart attack. I went into shock, trying to take in what was going on around me, to me. Nurses, doctors, heart monitors, blood being taken again, injections, tablets, my head was spinning.

I was admitted into the coronary care unit, and the next day moved again, by ambulance to a different hospital, for a procedure called an angiogram. At this point, I knew I'd had a heart attack, but the missing piece of the puzzle was why. An angiogram is not a very pleasant experience, and there were complications afterwards with excessive bleeding. It is done via an artery, which should seal up once its over, however, the first course of action with heart attack patients is what they call dual anti-platelet therapy, ie blood thinners. I didn't stop bleeding and spent the night with my arms elevated, in pressure straps and ice packs. The good news was the cardiologist found the issue. From my angiogram report...

"The main body of the right coronary artery was normal, however, there was an abrupt step down in calibre of both the posterolateral branch and the posterior descending artery with an appearance suggestive of spontaneous coronary artery dissection"

So there you have it, I had something called a spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD. Quite rare, affects mainly women, and happens spontaneously. It cannot be predicted and cannot be prevented. In short, part of an artery either bruised or split, causing the blood supply to my heart to be compromised, which in turn caused an acute non-stemi myocardial infarction. I came home from hospital massively bruised and on a lot of medication. It's taken a couple of months to feel anywhere near normal, it's not normal though, its a new normal really.

Next steps are, I'm waiting to see a cardiologist in March and also have an assessment appointment early February with cardiac rehab. I've had an echocardiogram since it happened, so far, it looks like there hasn't been any permanent muscle damage to my heart, beyond that, the other important factor is the dissected artery healing, which I've been told can take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. Long term there's a good chance of a full recovery, in time the medication may reduce, the lasting factors will be the memories of it all and the medic alert bracelet I now wear.

Just before all this happened, I'd begun work on another book, and in fact have ideas for 3 new books. Now I'm starting to feel better, am itching to get back to work so am going to keep going. One of the first projects I'm currently working on is a fundraising pattern, a softie that can be personalised for survivors of trauma, proceeds will go to a heart research charity initially. A cause close to my own heart right now!

*Edited to add - this post really only just skims the surface of what happened, I will write about it in more detail soon for the Beat Scad website. 

December 17, 2016

Carrots and sprouts are not just for Christmas...!

I have a couple of new free patterns, but have decided to go about putting these online in a slightly different way.  I have been an absent blogger this year, a few reasons, work, real life and health have had other plans.  More on that another time, but for now, better late than never, but as the title says, carrots and sprouts are not just for Christmas!

If you fancy squeezing in making some new Christmas tree ornaments in between online shopping and wrapping presents, these are very quick and easy and will look rather cute on the tree (and also hanging in the kitchen till next Christmas!)


The free PDF patterns for these are available via a website called Craftsy.  The reason I've uploaded them this way is to conduct a little market research, as I can access information as to how many times each pattern has been downloaded. 


The Carrot is available here, you will have to register or sign in to Craftsy, to gain full access but both patterns are totally free to download.


The Brussel Sprouts are available here.


As with all my sewing and craft patterns, these are small projects that only need a small amount of materials, everything I used for my Carrots was up-cycled.

I've not used Craftsy before, so this is a bit of an experiment, any problems with the downloads, leave a comment or email, and I'll help all I can.




December 8, 2016

Christmas pudding bauble,

As my part of the 'Sew a Softie for Christmas' campaign, here is my pattern to make a really simple Christmas pudding tree decoration.


You will need...

a circle of brown fabric, can be patterned or plain, 15cm (5 3/4") in diameter
white felt 12cm x 12cm (5" x 5")
green felt 8cm x 8cm (3" x 3")
2 or 3 red buttons
white embroidery thread (I used pearl cotton 8)
brown embroidery thread 
brown sewing thread
toy stuffing

plus the usual needle, pins, scissors etc...

(Templates, drag and drop the image onto your desktop and print)

STEP 1
Hand sew a running stitch, using the brown sewing thread, 0.5cm (1/4") in from the edge, all the way round the brown circle of fabric.  Gently pull the thread to begin gathering and stuff the inside with the toy stuffing.  Once you are happy with the shape of the pudding, pull the thread tight to continue gathering, and secure closed with a few stitches. 

STEP 2
Cut the icing shape from the white felt, either pin or hold in place, over the top of the pudding, hiding the gathering, and sew in place using running stitch around the edge using the white embroidery thread.

STEP 3
Cut out three holly leaves from the green felt and attach in place to the top of the pudding by adding some leaf veins in straight stitches using the white embroidery thread.  Add holly berries by sewing the red buttons in the centre of the leaves.  Finish off by adding a long loop of brown embroidery thread to the top of the pudding so it can hang from your Christmas tree.


Make as many as you want, I used scraps of fabric from old clothing, even the buttons are up cycled. 

The pudding baubles are quick, simple and cheap to make.


The idea of the 'Sew a Softie Day' is to get more people sewing, and Softies are so easy to make.  Check out the 'Sew a Softie Day' blog for more information and other sewing patterns you could sew.  Join the Facebook group and you'll find a 'stocking' full of additional patterns too.

As with all of my free patterns, refer to the images if there's anything you're stuck with, sometimes seeing it makes it easier to understand than reading it, if there's anything you're stuck on, send me an email or leave a comment and I will help.

Don't forget about my other Christmas tutorials, you can find the Christmas Tree Softie via this link.


November 18, 2016

Ladybird,

Many moons ago, I had a free pattern posted on a craft and sewing blog called Whip Up.  Sadly, Whip Up is no longer live, which, after double checking some of the links on my blog, also means the pattern for the ladybird is also no longer live. 

There's been a long absence for me from blogging, reasons for which I'll go into in my next post, but for now, I'm going to add the ladybird pattern here, it was a popular pattern and is also one I've used myself a few times when I've done teaching sessions, its small, simple, quick to do, doesn't require a huge amount of materials and can all the sewing can be done by hand.

pattern skill rating : easy

You will need...

2 pieces of fabric 3” x 4” (7.5 x 10cm) for the body
1 piece of craft felt 3” x 4” (7.5 x 10cm) for the wings
1 piece of craft felt 1” x 2” (2.5 x 5cm) for the eyes
2 small buttons
sewing thread
stuffing
small pebble to weight the ladybird

plus the usual needle, pins, scissors etc

Begin by printing out the template image below


STEP 1 : making the body
1.  Cut a body shape using the template, from each of the fabric pieces, place them both right sides together and pin.
2.  Sew round the edge leaving the turning gap open.
3.  Turn the body right side round, stuff with a little of the stuffing, then pop in the pebble to give the ladybird a little weight to it.  Continue to stuff until it is almost full then fold in the raw edges of the turning gap and sew it closed.

STEP 2 : adding the eyes and wings
1.  Cut 2 eye circles from the smallest piece of craft felt.  Hold one in position on the body (the opposite end to where the turning gap was), and anchor in place by attaching it on with one of the small buttons.
2.  Repeat for the other eye.
3.  Cut 2 wings from the other piece of craft felt and attach one to the body using small random straight stitches along the short straight edge.  Flip the other wing and attach in the same way so both wings line up as indicated on the template.

STEP 3 : embroidery embellishment
1.  Add some french knots dotted around each of the wings.  To do this, anchor your embroidery thread to the ladybird’s body with a knot underneath one of the wings.  Bring the thread up through the wing, wrap it round the needle 3 times and then take the thread back down through the body, coming up where you want the next stitch to appear, pulling the previous french knot tight as you go.
2.  Add some antennae by passing a short length of embroidery thread through the head from one side to the other, just above each eye.  Remove the needle and tie a knot in each end of the thread trimming each end if needs be.


And there you go, to finish off, here's a batch of ladybirds made in a class I taught at my daughter's high school.