Emily Lau, MD, is a member of the class of 2021 in the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Lau shares what drew her to Mass General, the culture of the program and her experience as a trainee during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maja Milosavljevic was just 25 years old when she experienced 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
Maja shares how SCAD led her to the Mass General Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program.
Can you tell us about your medical event and subsequent recovery?
One year ago I had a heart attack caused by SCAD. At the time, I was working for Microsoft in Seattle and the only thing I knew about heart attacks was what I saw on TV. I went to a bakery with a friend on a quiet Sunday evening and while we were driving there I started sweating out of nowhere and felt short of breath with some chest pain. We decided to go to the ER and after a few hours of tests, I was told I had a heart attack.
Having a heart attack in my twenties was one of the most confusing and terrifying things I’ve ever gone through. To make matters even more confusing, the doctors explained to me that no one knows exactly why SCADs happen or what triggers them. The road to recovery after my SCAD was slow and difficult, mostly due to the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know how to prevent another SCAD from occurring and that took a while to come to peace with.
What brought you to the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program?
I knew that I wanted to come home to Boston to recover, and when I saw that Mass General had doctors like Dr. Malissa Wood who specialize in SCAD, I was amazed. I knew I was in the right place to get the best care.
How did you feel when you discovered that there was a program dedicated to the heart health of women?
I felt a sense of relief and reassurance that I was going to get the best care possible, tailored to my specific case. I remember when I was in the hospital and found out I had a heart attack, my first response was “but my left arm didn’t hurt!” I quickly learned just how different women’s heart attack symptoms are from men’s and that what I saw on TV and in the media wasn’t representative of women’s experiences. I’m so thankful to have found a program like Mass General’s that is focused on women’s heart health.
In your personal experience, what is the most valuable aspect of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program?
The community! The program does a great job of making you feel like you’re not in this alone.
What would you tell someone with the same condition about your experience with the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program?
The program does an amazing job of recognizing the fact that a heart attack turns your entire world completely upside down. I loved that I got tips on mindfulness and reducing stress, nutritional classes and a lasting community that I can turn to for questions and support, all in addition to the great medical care.
Learn more about the Corrigan Women's Heart Health Program.
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