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Eidhammer has many reasons to take heart

Sheena Eidhammer and her children Raylan, Ruxin and Ryker. (Special to The Globe)

ADRIAN — Nothing about Sheena Eidhammer’s recent health crisis seems fair.

A 36-year-old mother of three, Eidhammer was going about her daily routine, pursuing a largely healthy lifestyle, supporting her husband, giving her all at work and taking care of her family.

Then — wham.

A somewhat rare and unusual illness that afflicted her heart threatened to end it all with little to no warning.

“They don’t really know what causes it,” said Eidhammer of the Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) she experienced on Sept. 27, 2017.

The Mayo Clinic website addressing SCAD confirms Eidhammer’s comment; despite ongoing research, SCAD remains something of a mystery to doctors, but when it occurs, it’s a health emergency that arrives with few warning signs.

Although SCAD can strike anyone, male or female, women are SCAD’s victims about 80 percent of the time, and SCAD is most commonly seen in post-partum women.

“They said that with people who get it, it usually happens within a month after a child is born, but my baby was six months old at the time,” said Eidhammer. “Still, they think it was somehow connected with that [pregnancy or labor/delivery].”

SCAD occurs when a coronary artery develops a tear, and blood then flows between the three layers of the artery’s walls. SCAD has a 70 percent mortality rate — a fact of which Eidhammer is now keenly aware.

“The doctor (David Jones) who met my ambulance at Sanford Worthington suspected I might have SCAD and he told my husband that if I had what he thought I had, I might not make it,” Eidhammer emotionally recounted.

Eidhammer and her husband, Ryan, have three young sons: Ryker, a 7 1/2 year old second-grader; Raylan, 3 1/2; and Ruxin, who will celebrate his first birthday on Thursday.

Although Eidhammer was born in Worthington, she lived with her mother in the Twin Cities for a period of her childhood before graduating from high school in Fairmont. She found her way back to the Worthington area when she attended Minnesota West Community and Technical College, where she earned her LPN certification. For over 15 years, Eidhammer was employed as a nurse with New Dawn. Ryan, a mechanic, recently bought Adrian Auto.

“Previously, I was healthy,” said Eidhammer. “I always went to the doctor for my annual physical.”

But roughly six months after bearing her third healthy son, things got a little fuzzier. In fact, Eidhammer really can’t remember much about the 24-hour time frame before her life changed dramatically.

“The day before, my kids’ daycare was closed so my mom came to watch the kids,” Eidhammer related. “She says I told her I wasn’t feeling the greatest, but I took a Tylenol, which seemed to help, and I went to work.”

Eidhammer doesn’t have a personal memory of her work performance that day, which involved patient care in Fulda, but her co-workers later reported Eidhammer said she wasn’t feeling well.

Eidhammer awoke sometime after 2 a.m. on Sept. 27, feeling very hot, disoriented and drenched in sweat. She told Ryan she didn’t feel right and needed to go to the hospital.

“He said he could drive me, but I told him to call the ambulance,” she mentioned.

Adrian medical professional Brenda Bullerman and her EMT husband, Ray, arrived on the scene, and Eidhammer has a faint memory of them loading her onto a gurney to transfer her out of the house.

“Then I was mostly unconscious or sedated for the next couple of weeks,” Eidhammer said.

In retrospect, Eidhammer’s symptoms — profuse sweating and dizziness — were typical of SCAD patients, with other indicators being similar to those of standard heart attack victims — shortness of breath and chest pain or pressure. Such symptoms, medical experts advise, should never be ignored by anyone, and especially not by young people with no previous signs of atherosclerosis or other significant medical issues.

Eidhammer’s situation was dire, and she wasn’t at Sanford Worthington Medical Center long before the astute doctor in charge suspected her true diagnosis and ordered her flown to Sioux Falls, S.D. En route, she went into cardiac arrest. Surgeons in Sioux Falls performed open heart surgery on Eidhammer, hastening to save her life.

By 10 p.m. that night, she was flown to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, where she remained until Nov. 6. Thereafter, she lived for about two weeks at the associated Argyle House before being allowed to return to Adrian by Thanksgiving.

Today, Eidhammer continues to recover at home, thankfully surrounded by a caring community

that coordinated a fundraiser in late November to help with the family’s medical expenses. Her mother and stepfather, also Adrian residents, assist her almost daily with childcare and household tasks.

Eidhammer has continued to improve as the weeks progress, but she won’t know until the six- month point whether she will need a heart transplant or if her heart is once again functioning well enough on its own.

“I still can’t lift more than 30 pounds, but I can lift my 1-year- old to change him,” she shared. “I’ve been to the grocery store twice by myself, too.”

With three little boys and a job to maintain prior to SCAD’s onset, Eidhammer laughs that “There are 100 things I haven’t done forever” in terms of personal hobbies or pastimes. Still, just being home with her family, every day, is satisfying for someone who is truly lucky to be alive.

The Eidhammers are beyond grateful to the Sanford doctor who quickly assessed her and knew what to do to enhance her chances of survival.

“He called me about a month later to check on me,” she said.

Needless to say, Eidhammer appreciates all the joyous “little things” that each new day brings.

“I knew my family needed me, and I think that’s maybe why I’m still here,” she said.

“Spending time with my family has always been the most important thing to me.”