‘I Thought I Had Heartburn. I Actually Was Having A Heart Attack.’

hana asano
‘I Had SCAD As A Healthy, Fit 36-Year-Old Woman’Hearst Owned

When I think about the day I had my heart attack, nothing stands out. (I was walking up a hill on my way to coach a youth soccer team when it happened.) But when I look at the amount of stress I was under at that time, it actually makes sense.

I was going through a divorce; I had five children, one with high needs; my dog had been diagnosed with cancer and geriatric vertigo; I had come out of retirement and was a 36-year-old playing semipro soccer against a bunch of 20somethings; and I was coaching several youth soccer teams. All of this was compounded by not having help or outlets for the stress.

everything we experience in life—good, bad, or ugly—can be used as a vehicle for triumph
Hearst Owned

While I may not have realized just how much this was affecting my heart, I kind of predicted my own heart attack. I remember several text exchanges with my therapist in which I stated, somewhat nonchalantly, that I was going to have one.

Then in 2019, on a September day, I felt as if someone had ripped something inside of me.

Like how you rip a piece of paper with your hands. There was a fire in my chest. I was sweating and super nauseous. It was the most pain I’ve ever felt, yet it never crossed my mind that it could be a heart attack.

I was healthy. I ate clean. I was in great shape. I thought it must be some really serious heartburn. Later, at the hospital, I learned I’d had a heart attack caused by a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a sudden tear in a heart-artery wall that can slow or block blood flow. I was shocked not only that I’d had one but that SCAD can cause cardiac events in fit women who do intense workouts and have extreme stress.

lindsey huie
Hana Asano

Afterward, at home, I wanted to be active and involved with my kids, but I felt so lethargic. It was like an out-of-body experience. I knew what needed to be done, but my body wouldn’t cooperate. It would take 25 to 30 minutes to recover from just getting up to go to the bathroom. The darkest part of this period was the realization that I could go from being a Division I national champion to lying on the couch and struggling to feed myself.

To keep my spirits up, I told myself this was temporary and at some point I was going to be functional again.

I also took a cue from my collegiate soccer coach about living with intention and purpose. They always said, “Everything that we experience in life—good, bad, or ugly—can be used as a vehicle for triumph.” There was no way I was going to let this destroy me. Yes, it stopped me from playing soccer at a high level, which sucks because I didn’t get to choose my ending in the sport, but it also helped me start my mental-strength training business, Gritness, in which I mentor female soccer players and teach them how to tap into their resilience.

I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent again, but I am 100 percent of where I need to be right now.

That means instead of playing soccer professionally, I play pickup games with my sister. I have to be very strategic and calculated with how I go about things, which means making a daily calendar organized by the hour to help me understand my bandwidth. I don’t want to overcommit and end up exhausted three days later.

Ultimately, I respect the fact that my heart attack happened. I went through a difficult thing, and though I can’t control whether it happens again, I have worked very hard to control the things that I can—and that’s enough for me.

Lindsey Huie, 41, is a former pro soccer player, youth soccer coach, and founder of Gritness.

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