One morning in November 2012, Birte Hunter was out for a jog with her dogs. Halfway through her run, Birte felt a tightening in her back and a pain in her chest.

“I had a dog on each arm, and suddenly it felt like there was a knot in the middle of my back, and then that knot went right from the middle of my back into my heart,” says Birte. “I stopped running, thinking, Oh my gosh, I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Birte managed to walk back home and call an ambulance. She was taken to a hospital where she received an angiogram and was told her heart muscles were likely weakened from a virus she caught abroad. She was then sent home.

At this moment, Birte became another healthy woman with a misdiagnosed heart problem.

Answering questions of the heart

At VGH, Dr. Jacqueline Saw is researching Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) — a rare heart condition that primarily affects women under 50. Dr. Saw was studying case files of women who had experienced heart issues when she opened Birte’s file. After reading the report, she suspected Birte didn’t have a virus.

Dr. Saw performed additional tests with Birte and confirmed her suspicion: Birte had SCAD.

SCAD is not fully understood and this is what drives Dr. Saw to find answers.

Through her years of research, Dr. Saw’s expertise has grown, transforming her into a world leader in SCAD research, rehabilitation and treatment. Dr. Saw established the world’s first SCAD rehabilitation clinic at VGH, began a registry for SCAD patients and initiated a genetic study to collect invaluable, long-term data. Dr. Saw’s clinical research and knowledge transfer in the medical community is improving treatments and saving lives of women in BC.

SCAD rehabilitation is saving lives

Birte suffered from two more heart attacks after her first incident, each caused by a different artery in her heart. However, since she joined the SCAD rehabilitation clinic in February 2018, Birte has not experienced any recurrences.

“I’m so blessed that the SCAD head honcho in the world is here in Vancouver and is my doctor,” says Birte. “How lucky am I?

Support Dr. Jacqueline Saw’s vital research and world-leading clinic at VGH to directly impact care for women just like Birte. Please donate