Central Indiana mom suffers rare heart condition after losing her son

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — With his rolled up bib overalls and cheek kisses, Zachary Christian very easily stole his parent’s hearts.

“I loved him,” his mom, Amy, said, “He was just so energetic and full of life.”

Their little boy eventually became a teen and not long after, a miracle.

“When he was 15, he had a very serious brain injury,” said his dad, Robert, “Doctors let us know in no uncertain terms that children just don’t survive that.”

Zachary did, but the injury impacted the part of his brain that allowed him to calculate.

“To be a 15-year-old and not know what 5 plus 5 is anymore or minus, it’s traumatic,” said Robert. “It was so traumatic that it kind of caused him to have low self esteem and make some bad choices.”

By the time he was 22, Zachary had struggled with drug use, gone to rehab in Florida and returned home.

“He was doing so good, he was in counseling,” Amy said.

But then on a December afternoon, around 2 p.m., Amy had a weird feeling go across her body.

“Then the police came to our home and what I find really interesting is on his death certificate was the time that he passed and that’s the time that I had that feeling go across my whole body,” she said.

Zachary had died of a drug overdose.

“I have okay days and then I have not good days, horrible days where I don’t even want to be here,” she said.

A painful desire that nearly came true last month.

“I started having a little pain in the center of my chest,” Amy said.

“I was like are we gonna call 911 or go to the emergency room right now and she’s like ‘Let’s go,'” Robert said.

Once there, doctors said she was having a heart attack.

“I was just praying at the time that I wouldn’t lose her, too,” Robert said.

Amy made it, but was then given a diagnosis for a very rare heart condition: Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection.

“Spontaneous coronary artery dissection is a tear in the inner lining of the coronary artery so that blood can go between the inner layer and the outer layer and then the pooling that can obstruct blood flow into the coronary artery and also it develops a hemoatoma and blood clots in this area. So when the blood clot is impaired, it can cause a heart attack or it leaves severe circulation problems in that artery,” said Dr. Elisabeth von der Lohe, a cardiologist at IU Health, who is treating Amy.

“The so called prevalence or the likelihood to get it is only 1 percent in the current population,” she said.

Dr. von der Lohe says there are several reasons why a person might get Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection.

“We don’t know all the reasons yet. Hormonal changes may play a huge role because 80 percent occur in women. They occur postpartum, so after delivery of the baby, frequently around menopause or around the menstrual cycle; a lot of women are between 40 and 50 years of age as well. But sometimes it can be emotional stress, it can be blood pressure, it can be some connective tissue disease. There are women who have a genetic disorder where the tissue is weaker and some have a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia and in this patient it occurs more often,” Dr. von der Lohe said.

For Amy, they are assuming stressed was the cause of hers.

“We really don’t know, we assume it was the stress, because we didn’t find any other risk factors so she wasn’t very menopausal yet, she didn’t have very high blood pressure, she didn’t have delivered a baby, so in her we assume it was stress related” Dr. von der Lohe said.

The stress of losing her son, nearly taking Amy, too.

“After this happened it was kind of an eye opener. It was like, my daughter’s getting married and I want to be here for her and you,” she said looking at her husband.

“I still have a lot to live for.”