Karen Glugla, of Macomb Township, second from right, was diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection in 2018 and has survived two heart attacks since 2014. Pictured with her is her family, Carson, Alexis, Chris, Avery and Carley.

Karen Glugla, of Macomb Township, second from right, was diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection in 2018 and has survived two heart attacks since 2014. Pictured with her is her family, Carson, Alexis, Chris, Avery and Carley.

Photo provided by Karen Glugla


Macomb Township woman wants to spread awareness of rare condition

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 23, 2019

 After the events of the past five years, Karen Glugla has a different outlook on life, saying, “I don’t take one breath for granted and look forward to every day. I can’t focus on the fact that it could happen again.”

After the events of the past five years, Karen Glugla has a different outlook on life, saying, “I don’t take one breath for granted and look forward to every day. I can’t focus on the fact that it could happen again.”

Photo provided by Karen Glugla

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Karen Glugla chooses not to focus on the negatives associated with her condition.

The 46-year-old mother of four from Macomb Township was diagnosed with spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD, in 2018.

SCAD is a rare form of heart disease that transpires when a sudden tear occurs within the layers of one or more arteries to the heart. This tear blocks blood flow and causes a heart attack.

According to scadresearch.com, SCAD may also lead to cardiac arrest and sometimes death.

“It is the number one cause of a heart attack in women under age 50 as well as the number one cause of a heart attack in women who are pregnant and new mothers,” the website states.

Glugla suffered her first heart attack in July 2014. She had no prior diagnosis of the condition, which is quite common.

“They thought it was due to spasms of the coronary artery, but after my second one, (they) found it was a dissection of the artery,” she said.

She had a second heart attack in July 2018.

“Had I not had that one, I wouldn’t have known I had SCAD, which is why I’m trying to spread the word on this,” Glugla said. “I’m sure there’s others like me that have had a heart attack and not knowing what happened.”   

The website also indicates that the exact cause of SCAD is unknown. Up to 80% of individuals who experience SCAD are women.

Her second heart attack was different from the first in respect that it was spontaneous, thus the “S” in SCAD.

“I had been recovering from neck surgery and I think I did too much that day,” Glugla said. “The first time, I was in denial and thought it was an anxiety attack.”

She said the second heart attack almost felt worse in that the severe pain combined with the fact that her worst nightmare was repeated was scary beyond explanation.

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it,” Glugla said. “I didn’t know how much more my heart could take.”

Glugla has worked at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, part of the Detroit Medical Center,  for 17 years. She serves as a clinical occupational therapy specialist, working with children who have a broad range of diagnoses.

“I was a nurse’s aid before I was an occupational therapist, so it’s been almost 30 years of working in health care,” she said.

She also volunteers at the Ann Parsley School of Dance in Clinton Township, teaching various forms of dance and working with children who have cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other conditions. Glugla teaches dance classes to help kids forget their ailments and enjoy dance and life.

After the events of the past five years, Glugla has a different outlook on life.

“I don’t take one breath for granted and look forward to every day. Not that I didn’t before, but believe me, the grass is greener and the sun is brighter,” she said. “I can’t focus on the fact that it could happen again.”

In the year after her first heart attack, Glugla said her family became a stronger unit.

“SCAD hasn’t just affected me,” she said. “I feel like it has made all of us more anxious, but also stronger as a family. My biggest fear is leaving them all too soon. I want more than anything to grow old with my husband and see my kids reach every milestone.”

When it comes to what women can do to protect their heart, Glugla recommends going for an annual checkup, having a heart-healthy diet and exercising.

Understanding the importance of educating the public on SCAD, Glugla is part of research studies at the Mayo Clinic and Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan.

To learn more about SCAD, visit scadresearch.org.

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