July 7, 2023

‘I am not the face of a heart attack’

Linda Tapia lives a healthy, active life, so she was stunned to be diagnosed with a rare emergency heart condition with symptoms resembling a heart attack.

When a fit, active woman began having chest pains, her care team acted quickly to determine the cause. This video was filmed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am not the face of a heart attack,” said Linda Tapia, a Kaiser Permanente member in Colorado. “I’m healthy. I’m active. I hike. I ski. I love to be outdoors.”

But one Sunday morning when she was emptying her dishwasher, Tapia felt a sharp pain her chest, which quickly started radiating down her left arm. She went to the emergency room, where she learned she’d experienced a trauma to her heart and needed to be admitted immediately.

“Then things got real,” she recalled.

Like a heart attack — but not exactly

Although Tapia’s symptoms were very similar to a heart attack, cardiologist DeeAnn Rivera, MD, suspected she may have experienced a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD, an uncommon condition that primarily affects women in their 40s and 50s.

SCAD occurs when a tear forms in the coronary artery, the main vessel that brings blood to the heart. This tear allows blood to pool in the vessel, restricting flow to the heart.

While SCAD can damage the heart in ways similar to a heart attack, it isn’t linked to the same risk factors, which include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or family history of heart disease.

“I am not the face of a heart attack. I’m healthy. I’m active. I hike. I ski. I love to be outdoors.”

Connected cardiac care makes the difference

Tapia was in good hands thanks to Kaiser Permanente’s unique model of connected care.

“What is helpful here is that I have an interventionalist, someone who is even more of an expert in the coronary arteries, to take a look if I have concerns,” Dr. Rivera explained. “Everyone comes together as a team, including our nurses, our lab follow-up, our clinical specialists and pharmacists, our mental health care — all of that is available without having to have a referral outside the system.”

Tapia received the right care at the right time, and is back home with her family, fully recovered from her procedure.

“My experience with Kaiser Permanente’s cardiac care was phenomenal,” Tapia said. “Now that I’ve recovered, I think every day about loving the people who mean the most to me and making sure they know I’m going to be around for a long time.”

Learn more about cardiac care at Kaiser Permanente.