In the summer of 2017, Katie Adams was enjoying a well-earned, full life with a successful career in Human Resources, her architect husband Jeremy, and four children: twins Max and Elliott, daughter Emma, and two-week-old newborn Abigail. They were all in the car with her husband driving, when Katie suddenly began to feel very uncomfortable. As a cascade of symptoms intensified, Katie at first attributed them to possible complications from her very recent C-section. Alarmed, she told her husband to call 911; and they headed for the ER. Her husband also alerted the 911 dispatcher that nearly a decade before, Katie had experienced a carotid dissection and two “ministrokes” or Transient Ischemic Attacks.

Katie’s father had passed away at only thirty years of age from an aneurism. So Katie was, by this point, well aware of the fragility of life. This awareness, along with that of the symptoms of various circulatory issues, certainly contributed to her sense of urgency and to saving her life on that summer day just two and a half years ago. Katie’s symptoms were sudden warmth, intense chest pressure, an aching jaw, and tingling in and around the mouth. Following emergency medication, an EKG, and angioplasty with two stents, Katie discovered she had suffered Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD), a rare type of heart attack that disproportionately affects young women. Over 90% of SCAD patients are female and 5-10% occur around childbirth. In Katie’s case it was an often fatal “widowmaker” with 100% blockage. She later learned that the cause was a previously undiagnosed condition, fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), which affects arterial wall structure.

Although SCAD does not result from more common risk factors such as arterial plaque or hypertension, Katie realized that she needed to take control of her health and make some lifestyle changes. After three months of intense cardiac rehabilitation, Katie continued to fight for her life with a healthier diet and daily workouts, losing 115 pounds in the process. She also scaled back at work for balance and to reduce her stress levels. Katie is still Executive Director of the Kentucky Society for Human Resource Management (KYSHRM) and works on special projects for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. For the sake of her own future health and wellness, and that of her four children and ten nieces and nephews, Katie takes time to be actively involved with the American Heart Association and the SCAD Alliance. She also started Healthy Hens, a wellness Facebook page for women to provide personalized, no-cost information and support.

In addition to her volunteer work, Katie has set her own February American Heart Month goals to reach out to others in the community, including TOPS Louisville readers:

  • Spread awareness of the signs of a heart attack: chest pain or pressure, arm/back/neck/jaw/stomach pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness.
  • In recognition of her 40th birthday, Katie aims to have at least 40 people trained in CPR.
  • Help people find time to take better care of themselves, get up and move more, and be more active, even if that means just incorporating more movement into the workday.

Katie Adams continues to experience occasional chest pain and headaches, sees a specialist at Vanderbilt, and will be on several medications for the rest of her life. She must remain vigilant about her stress level, drinking water, eating healthy, and doing moderate but consistent exercise. But she is also grateful to be continuing to make a difference in her profession, providing for her family, and having more fun with her husband and her kids. Kids have “a wonderful ability to be in the moment and find the fun in things,” Katie says. And she is thrilled to be active with them - dancing, playing with hula hoops, running up and down slides, among other activities. Her healthy lifestyle has also resulted in clearer thinking, a calmer demeanor, and better sleep. “Changing my career up…and incorporating wellness into my life has made me a happier, healthier mom. My kids are truly my WHY and what motivates me to stay on my path. They hold my heart and I’m doing everything possible to be here and healthy for them.”


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Posted on 2020-02-11 by By Dawn Anderson | Photos by Dick Arnspiger