Lisa Cardillo: 2020 Heart Hero

Lisa Cardillo, an Epic Heart Hero, shares her story:

My name is Lisa Cardillo and at the age of 36 I survived the unimaginable. My husband Dominic and I planned a fun getaway in Grand Rapids, MI, to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. Dominic had recently completed treatment for brain cancer, so we booked a stay at a bed & breakfast, bought tickets to see one of our favorite bands, and planned to visit breweries along the Lake Michigan coastline.

Shortly after we arrived, I felt a burning sensation in my chest and a hot pain sear through to my back. I immediately knew something was wrong and that I needed help. Dominic quickly got me to the car as I googled nearby hospitals. We headed straight for Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids which was 12 minutes from our bed and breakfast. I didn’t know this at the time, but getting into the car would be my last memory for the next 96 hours.

I walked myself into the emergency department and collapsed at the registration desk, hitting my head on the counter as I fell. The medical staff realized I was in cardiac arrest and began CPR immediately. They were able to administer two defibrillator shocks which brought me back.
A cardiologist evaluated my heart and identified the cause of my heart attack, and subsequent cardiac arrest, as a tear in the lining of an artery that supplies the heart—an event known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). SCAD often affects young, otherwise healthy women. There was no family history or underlying causes that predisposed me to having a SCAD. It completely blindsided me and nearly ended my life.

I was sedated and remained in the ICU. From there I developed cardiogenic shock and heart failure. My ejection fraction dropped to only 10% (55-70% is normal). I had a heart pump implanted for 48 hours to support my weak heart and allow it to rest. After spending 96 hours in a medically induced coma and on life support, I awoke to learn what had happened to me. I spent nine days in the hospital and was eventually discharged to my home in Macomb Township. Reuniting with my three young children was one of the best moments of my life.

Today, my ejection fraction is back to normal. I continue to homeschool my children and we’re always on the go. We stay active by participating in 5K’s to support SCAD and brain cancer research. I also teach hands-only CPR with the American Heart Association and share my story with the community.

I try to cherish every moment with my husband and children because I came so close to losing out on that opportunity.