South Jersey Mother Credits Cardiac Support Group With Helping Emotional Recovery From Heart Procedure

CAMDEN COUNTY, (CBS) — A growing number of younger women are being diagnosed with heart disease. Like with any serious medical event, recovery isn’t just physical, there are all kinds of complicated feelings.

For a young South Jersey mother, a cardiac support group for women has been a big help.

She can laugh while playing cards with her family now but three years ago Susan Campbell thought she might never see them again.

“I hope the last thing I said to them was something nice,” Campbell remembered thinking.

At the age of 39 and the picture of health, Campbell had a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, which is rare and often strikes younger women.

“I was embarrassed that is was maybe a panic attack. Then when they determined it was something bigger, I was then I was praying it was a panic attack,” she said.

She was quickly and successfully treated at Virtua Lourdes Hospital.

She physically healed, but not emotionally.

“I still think about where it would have left my family,” Campbell said. “It takes a long time to move forward.”

But she’s starting to feel better being part of a Virtua support group for female heart patients

“If they see someone who’s been through it moving on with their lives and living that gives a lot of hope,” Rehab Psychologist Dr. Kathleen MacFarlane said.

Dr. MacFarlane says depression and anxiety are normal after heart events. Support groups help people confront and deal with those feelings, to find perspective.

“Our mortality is kind of coming up in our face and we have to somewhat deal with that,” she said.

Campbell says she’s learning to live with fear and uncertainty.

“I think it’s helpful just to know it’s not abnormal to feel that upset and scared and that there are other people that feel that way,” she said.

Campbell says she’s especially grateful that she got quick help with an ambulance and at the hospital where she was in and out of the cath lab in just two hours.

She wanted to share her story to let other women know it’s important not to ignore strange symptoms.

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