Dec. 20, 2017 was the happiest day of Lindsay Ferrante’s life. After years of infertility treatments, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy at Christiana Hospital.
But eight days later, her life nearly ended. She awoke at 3:30 a.m. with a knot in her throat and pains in her chest.
“It’s a feeling that tells you something just isn’t right,” she said.
Ferrante, a 40-year-old business support manager from Wilmington with no history of health problems, had suffered a type of heart attack called spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. This condition is responsible for 40 percent of heart attacks in women under age 50. Between 10 and 15 percent of cases are related to pregnancy.
“I thought, how can this be happening? I’m completely healthy and just had our miracle baby,” she said.
Her husband Rocky called 911 and asked for an ambulance.
A skilled team from the Center for Heart & Vascular Health was waiting when she arrived at Christiana Hospital.
Due to the nature of the injuries to her artery, catheterization wasn’t an option. Ferrante was rushed to the operating room, where Fernando M. Garzia, M.D., of Christiana Care Cardiac Surgery, performed a double bypass that saved her life.
“They lost me two times during my surgery, but each time they brought me back,” she said.
Because SCAD restricted the blood flow to her heart, Ferrante developed heart failure, which means her heart was not able to pump enough blood throughout her body.
To keep her artery open, Christiana Care’s heart failure team treated her with IV medications and temporary mechanical support for her heart, in addition to bypass grafts implanted during her surgery.
“The right side of her heart is still doing very well,” said Sourin Banerji, M.D., a cardiologist specializing in congestive heart failure. “But there is scarring and damage to the left side.”
Her recovery was long and challenging. Ferrante spent seven days in the cardiac intensive care unit. She came down with pneumonia. She missed her newborn son, Rocco.
After six additional days in a stepdown unit, Ferrante was well enough to go home with a LifeVest, a defibrillator she wore under her clothes in the event her heart went into abnormal rhythm or cardiac arrest.
In April, she received an implanted cardioverter defibrillator and is “one step closer in my recovery and living my life,” she said.
As a partner in her care, Ferrante sticks to a low-sodium, heart-healthy diet with expertise from Christiana Care dietitians. In cardiac rehabilitation, she is building stamina, putting in time on the treadmill. Upper body exercises strengthen her chest and minimize scar tissue.
“In cardiac rehab, we are trying to help her tissues extract oxygen to the greatest degree possible,” Dr. Banerji said.
Dr. Banerji said Ferrante’s compliance with her medications and rehab are key in her recovery. She is also proof that getting expert care quickly makes all the difference.
“If she had waited longer, she might not be here with us.”
Through it all, Ferrante said she relies on faith, family and her team at Christiana Care.
“Every surgeon, doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, resident, nurse and nurse assistant I came in contact with had an outstanding bedside manner and gave me an exceptional level of care,” she said. “I consider them my angels.”
Ferrante is working with Christiana Care to raise awareness of SCAD. She is captain of a Christiana Care team that will participate in the Heart Walk on the Wilmington Riverfront, Sept. 9. Staff members from the cath lab are part of her team — and baby Rocco will be participating, nestled in a stroller, encouraging walkers to take heart.