Kristen Patton, 41, is still coming to grips with what she has been through -- two heart attacks that nearly killed her and a heart transplant.
"I still have a hard time really reconciling because I don't feel like a person who died," said the Austin resident and mother of four.
It wasn't too long ago that doctors had no idea if she would live after Patton's heart stopped twice.
The second time was worse.
"It was horrifying. It was the scariest thing I have ever been through," Patton said through tears, "I felt like I was drowning and that was just a terrifying feeling."
Her journey started Christmas Eve in 2015 when she returned home after having her fourth child, a baby girl. The night went from sheer joy to a nightmare.
"All of a sudden I got a pain in my jaw. It started really about right here. And it just felt like a drill had just drilled in the side of my cheek," Patton described the pain.
Patton was having a heart attack. Her husband, Steve, found her unconscious.
"He said when he discovered me, I wasn't breathing. I was turning blue," said Patton.
She was rushed to the hospital where after several tests, doctors couldn't find what was wrong. Days later, she was getting ready to leave the hospital.
"As they're kind of going through the discharge instructions with me, I have another attack," Patton said.
It was so severe that Dr. Mary Beth Cishek said, "the tissue died, her heart died."
Dr. Cishek is the Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiologist for Seton Medical Center.
She said the mother of four suffered a sudden cardiac death, or Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD, which causes a tear between the layers of the artery.
"It's thought to have come about as a result of shifts in hormones that occur especially toward the end of pregnancy and delivery and in the postpartum period," Dr. Cishek explained.
For days, no one knew if Patton would survive.
"It was touch and go," said Patton.
Her kidneys failed. Her liver was next. But she recovered and was released from the hospital in February of 2016.
Patton now needed a new heart. She waited for months and finally got the call in November. Patton said she still doesn't know why she survived, but she knows this.
"I want people to go and get their hearts checked out. To be proactive about screening," said Patton.
While dissections are rare, other causes of heart attacks are detectable. She wants people to get checked out as soon as you see symptoms.
She's also raising awareness about organ donation and not giving up.
"I have four children who get to have a mother and that's pretty amazing," said Patton.
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