Glasgow mother-of-two Nicola McMeekin is supporting a campaign to raise awareness of the rare life-threatening condition – aortic dissection – after suffering from it herself.
Aortic dissection is where the main artery from the heart ruptures and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Nicola, 48, had no warning signs and was fit and healthy when the attack happened five years ago.
Now she is joining national charity Heart Research UK in highlighting the condition so there is greater recognition of the symptoms by frontline health staff.
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The research assistant at the University of Glasgow says her aortic dissection came completely out of the blue, adding: “I was very fit and healthy with no family history of aortic disease and no other illnesses. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of aortic dissection until I had one and didn’t know how serious it was.”
Nicola’s symptoms were numbness in her thighs and upper arms, pains up her neck and into her jaw along with tightness around her chest and back. She said: “My symptoms were acute and sudden but improved over time to the point when I went into surgery I felt fine. Women often have less severe symptoms than men with AD.”
She now wants to highlight the symptoms and raise awareness so that more lives could be saved by rapid diagnosis, adding: “The symptoms can be difficult to detect. My advice would be that if a heart attack is ruled out – think aorta.”
Deborah Harrington, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, who leads a Heart Research UK masterclass, said most aortic dissection patients will die without emergency surgery, adding: “Our key message is awareness both within the medical profession and the public. If they think of it, then people have a much higher chance of having an accurate diagnosis made.”