Just days after giving birth to her third son last year, Bronnach Pemberton’s world was turned upside down when she suffered a severe heart attack and diagnosed with an extremely rare condition.
Bronnach, who has family links in the Trillick and Omagh areas, underwent emergency bypass surgery receiving six grafts.
The 35-year-old now suffers from congestive heart failure, a devastating condition that has left her unable to care for her three children, Jared (5), Conan (4) and Eoin (1) and she will need a heart transplant.
“I get very upset and frustrated. I used to be a very hands-on mum and someone who loved the outdoors life,” she says.
The reason for her heart attacks is due to a very rare heart condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD.
She told the UlsterHerald there are only approximately 35 known survivors in the UK and Ireland, as it is usually diagnosed post-mortem.
Bronnach, is meeting up with 11 other survivors of this rare disease on May 4 in Leicester for a sponsored walk to raise awareness of SCAD and vital funds for www.scadresearch.org as there is no known cause for these often fatal heart attacks.
Bronnach is the daughter of Clare Smyth (nee McAnespy) and granddaughter of Jim and Tilly McAnespy who would have been well known in the Trillick area. She is also the cousin of Omagh district councillor, Sorcha McAnespy.
Bronnach said, “Most of us were healthy, fit and had low cholesterol, no common risk factors of heart attacks. Most of us were initially turned away from medics as we are not the typical heart attack patients. It often strikes in the weeks after childbirth.
“I was breastfeeding Eoin and I started to feel very ill. I was clammy, I had pains in my jaw and had really bad shortness of breath, heavy arms and a heartburn feeling.”
Bronnach, a secondary school teacher, saw her GP immediately, who dismissed her symptoms as “panic attacks”. But when the symptoms returned three days later, she went to hospital.
“They put me on heart drugs and told me I had to stop breastfeeding Eoin. Then while I was giving Eoin a bottle the symptoms started again. They hooked me up to an ECG and that showed I was having a huge heart attack.
“I was rushed for an angiogram. They had never seen SCAD before and kept asking how much I drank, if I smoked and what my diet was like. They kept asking these questions and even asked if I had ever taken cocaine.
“I had just had a baby so it was a long time since I had drank alcohol and I have never smoked or taken drugs.”
As a result of the permanent damage caused to her heart, she is now living with heart failure.
It means that Bronnach struggles to walk even short distances and needs help on a daily basis to cope with her three boys.
Bronnach is waiting to be assessed for a heart transplant and has had to retire from teaching food technology at the age of 35 on medical grounds. But her biggest fears are about being around to see her three children grow up.
Meanwhile, Bronnach is also highlighting her story with the British Heart Foundation as part of their mending broken heart campaign, which is raising money to find a cure for heart failure.