Catherine O’Connor is 37 years old and lives in Kent in the United Kingdom with her seven year old daughter. She has been diagnosed with coronary microvascular dysfunction, non-sustained ventricular tachycardia and fears that her diagnosis will soon change into heart failure.
At age 14, which is extremely young, she uncovered extremely high blood pressure at school, a year later her heart was skipping beats and at age 19, she was experiencing chest pain for the first time. “My general practitioner mentioned it was impossible to have heart disease at my age, he said I was having stress and anxiety, I was referred to a psychologist ”.
After years of exercising, running marathons, the arrhythmias became really bad, and after experiencing chest pain, she called for an ambulance. The personnel told her she was having a panic attack, but agreed to take her to the hospital. She was told that her chest pain was of gastrological origin. After a couple of weeks she found out she was pregnant. “Throughout my pregnancy I experienced arrhythmias, swollen legs, chest pain and due to my breathlessness, I pushed for a C-section. At 37 weeks I gave birth to healthy daughter. However, since then I have never fully recovered”
Since then Catherine felt her breathlessness did not go away, and the color of her face changed. She found a cardiologist who found an explanation for her signs and symptoms. Professor Peter Collins, specialized in women’s heart disease diagnosed her with coronary microvascular dysfunction. At last, Catherine found a reason for all her complaints.
More female cardiologists
For her personally, she is relieved that she found the origin of the disease, but is upset as the medical community doesn’t have a good cure for this disease that mainly affects women. “I think that finding out the mechanism of this coronary microvascular disease is crucial, this affects many women, and we should do something about it. I think it would also help if there were more female cardiologists who would study this disease clinically”.
Catherine provides an example of how challenging the diagnosis of coronary microvascular disease is, and how little we know of this disease in the small vessels of the heart.