VERSAILLES — Cassidy Helman, a math and science teacher for six and seventh grade in Versailles, was just 10 days out from having her new baby boy, Declan, in April 2017 when she had to have quadruple bypass surgery.
Helman said she had a normal pregnancy and her delivery went smoothly. When she started experiencing symptoms that weren’t normal, she contributed them to just delivering a baby, never thinking it could be anything serious. She said she had tightness in her chest and numbness in her arms. After her husband insisted she go to the hospital, they went to Wayne Hospital in Greenville.
Upon arrival, she was almost immediately called back and set up to an EKG machine. They tested a few times, with both tests coming back abnormal, indicating she was having a heart attack. The doctors sent her to Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton. She said because the doctors thought her condition was so severe, they opted to send her in an ambulance, settling on this instead of Careflight because of bad weather.
When she arrived at Good Samaritan, she was rushed into surgery for a quadruple bypass. She was diagnosed with SCAD, Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, which resulted in her having a heart attack.
“SCAD is still something that they don’t know much about what exactly causes it, but I was a textbook case in the way that it’s usually women 30 years or older. I was 31 and then it’s multiple pregnancies, usually three or more, and then this is my third child. So, I kinda fit the criteria as far as that goes,” Helman said.
Helman said nothing really prompted her heart attack. According to a recent article from Cardio Smart about a publication from the American Heart Association Journal, Circulation, SCAD is common in women and many times, the heart attack is due to emotional and physical stressors. The emotional stressors are more prevalent in women while the physical stressors are the main cause for men.
“It’s a different heart attack because it’s usually in women that are healthy,” Helman said.
When someone has a heart attack due to SCAD, the arteries are shredding upon themselves and collapsing, which causes blood clots. This is because of a tear in the blood vessels in the heart. This ultimately makes the blood flow slower or not at all.
Helman’s condition was a severe case of SCAD. She said she had four blood clots blocking her arteries. That is why doctors needed to perform a quadruple bypass. Doctors did the bypass around her clogged arteries, and six hours later, she woke up from the surgery.
“I just wanted to get home. I have three little kids at home, and they were able to fix me up,” Helman said.
She was able to leave the hospital five days after her surgery, which doctors said was a blessing, considering most heart attack patients have to spend long periods in the hospital. Her younger age made it possible for her to heal and recover faster.
Helman’s journey wasn’t over yet, though. She still needed to undergo rehab and had tight restrictions. She wasn’t able to lift anything over 10 pounds, which meant she couldn’t pick up her new baby, Declan, who had been 9 pounds at birth. She also could never run again, but she said this was a small thing to give up compared to having her life. After rehab, she has a lifelong restriction of lifting anything over 35 pounds.
During her time of recovery, her mother came and helped her care for her children. She said she was fortunate for all the help her family gave her and the timing of it all. Helman said she was going on maternity leave and was scheduled to return shortly before the school year ended. However, because of the heart attack, this was not possible, but it did give her the entire summer to recover.
She had to go through a 12-week rehab program and will need to take medication for the rest of her life following her bypass surgery. Helman said she was eager to return to work and was really excited once she was able to.
“I could go back to what I love doing. I mean, when it initially happened I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to do it again just because stress is something that they want you to avoid,” she said. “It kinda puts your life in a different perspective once you go through something like that and you don’t let the little things bother you that used to.”
Her fellow teachers and students constantly check to ensure she is not doing anything she is not supposed to, such as lifting anything above 35 pounds or exerting herself. She found out in May that the other teachers nominated her for teacher of the year, which she won.
“It felt really special this year, especially because I’m glad that I was able to overcome this and to win that made me feel even more special,” Helman said.
Helman commended Wayne Hospital and Good Samaritan for doing everything they did for her. She said not many medical professionals know a lot about SCAD and hopes her story can bring awareness for both doctors and women, especially those who recently had a baby.
Some signs that could indicate you are having a heart attack are: pain in the chest, pain or numbness in the arms, jaw, or shoulders, inability to catch your breath, fatigue, dizziness and sweating.