A Careful Diagnosis Identifies Heart Condition

Emergency Department Helps Save Christy’s Life

Christy Orr

When Christy Orr started experiencing intense pain between her shoulder blades, she was not quite sure what was causing it. The pain was not consistent, but it concerned her enough to call 911.

“I had never felt that type of extreme pain before,” she said. “It kept coming and going, and then it stopped just after the ambulance arrived. But the pain returned and I called them again, and they took me to Northern Nevada Medical Center (NNMC).”

Christy’s vitals were stable and her pain had subsided while enroute to NNMC. By the time she arrived, her pain had decreased so significantly that she began to doubt the pain she had initially felt. “I thought I would be sent home because I wasn’t in pain anymore,” she said. “Initial tests came back negative, and the team could not find anything of major concern.”

Christy was wearing a heart monitor while the team was working on a diagnosis, and suddenly, her pain returned. “My nurse was with me when this happened, and they captured the episode on the monitors. The team prepared me to go to the catheterization lab so they could get a better look at my heart,” she said. “I was scared and nervous, but the nurses did a wonderful job in putting me at ease and making me feel safe. I cannot say how important that was for me.”

Successful Surgery and Additional Monitoring

During the catheterization procedure, doctors were quickly able to identify the cause of her pain – a blockage in her heart, caused by a tear. Christy’s surgeon recommended she be tested for spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). However, the only test to definitively diagnose SCAD could pose life-threatening implications for Christy, so she was transferred to NNMC’s sister hospital, Sierra Medical Center’s (SMC) cardiac intensive care unit (CICU), for additional monitoring and support.

On the Road to Recovery

After a short inpatient stay in the CICU, Christy is back home and on the road to recovery. “Though my energy levels are still low as I recover, I am able to take walks every day and recently went out for my first short post-surgery hike,” she said.

Christy believes she would have had a very different outcome if not for the care she received at both hospitals. “I could have died if they had not taken my pain seriously when I first arrived at NNMC’s emergency department,” she said. “I am truly grateful for the teams at both hospitals and the care they showed me. They saved my life!”

Emergency Services at Northern Nevada Health System →