My first episode was while I was at work. I had been rushing around as we were very busy and short staffed but I had been sitting for half an hour when the chest pain started. So I was carted off to A&E and subsequently admitted, but not onto the cardiology ward as there were no beds. Fortunately my troponins were negative showing there had been no damage to my heart. I was sent home after being told it was indigestion and that young women who don’t drink or smoke don’t have heart conditions. I was discharged. I knew full well it wasn’t indigestion, having had oesophagitis previously. My dad has coronary artery spasm and my episode was exactly like his.

2 months later I woke up with central chest pain that started off as mild but within 5 minutes was excruciating. It was much worse than the last time. I was sweating, nauseous and incapable of moving to get to my phone to ring for an ambulance. When it stopped approximately 30 minutes later, I drove myself to A&E. When I was asked to describe it, I asked the Dr if he had ever watched the film alien. I told him I wouldn’t have been surprised if an alien burst out of my chest just like it did to John Hurt’s in the film.

I’m now under a new cardiologist who has done a stress echo and demonstrated my arteries are clear. As I have had chest pain relieved by GTN I have a presumptive diagnosis of coronary artery spasm. Initially I was started on amlodopine alone but for me, this made little difference. I’m now also on isosorbide mononitrate which has helped both me and my dad enormously. My dad went from having episodes every 2 to 3 weeks to 2 to 3 per year. The episodes I’ve recently had are much shorter at around 5 minutes, less intense and respond quickly to GTN.

I belong to a Facebook support group for coronary artery spasm. Many people in the group have become expert patients and I’ve learnt an awful lot from them. We post journal articles and editorials. We love review articles. We discuss side effects of meds, what doses people are on, what triggers episodes etc. My triggers are the cold, relaxing after a period of stress and being very tired.

Since my diagnosis, 2 of my sister’s and a cousin have had very similar episodes of chest pain. None of us smoke, drink or take cocaine which are known triggers. All of us have been told at some point its all in our head and its just indigestion. Interestingly, we all have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and joint hypermobility syndrome/EDS.