Karen Sauer is a musician who enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and gardening. Though she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, she manages it with medication and exercise. But in February 2018, Karen experienced a different medical event—a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, also known as a SCAD. SCAD is an emergency condition that occurs when a tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart.

Although SCAD may seem similar to other conditions that cause heart attacks, it is a unique disorder that should be managed and monitored by specialists with expertise in the disease.

Karen shares how SCAD led her to the Mass General Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program.

How did you feel when you discovered that there was a program dedicated to the heart health of women?

I didn’t really think about it at first, as I was scared and distracted. I didn’t even notice that the word “Women” was in the phrase. (This is something I normally would have picked up on!) Once involved, I did know that I was getting excellent care, that my fears were taken seriously, that I was being treated as an individual and that all of me was being treated.

In your personal experience, what is the most valuable aspect of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program?

I felt supported every step of the way. I felt that all the bases were covered and that specialists were available for me to see or for answering my questions. Getting permission to attend cardiac rehab and to start exercising again was huge for me. I was worried that taking it easy while healing would affect my Parkinson’s symptoms. Dr. Malissa Wood even encouraged me to resume some of my regular activities, such as performing music.

What would you tell someone with the same condition about your experience with the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program?

I would say, "Get yourself there!" I am stronger than I was before the SCAD. I am so sorry that it mostly happens to younger women. It would be hard to live most of your life under that shadow. But the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program does provide the means for making the best of the situation. When we had a SCAD seminar in the fall, I was amazed at how far some of the women had traveled to be there. I feel so lucky to live where I can get the best treatment and support. And having Dr. Wood as my doctor—wow. She’s the most amazing combination of powerhouse and nurturer. I feel lucky.

Learn more about the Corrigan Women's Heart Health Program.