Woman runs Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K to raise awareness of rare heart condition

A mum-of-two completed the Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K on Sunday to raise awareness of a rare heart condition.

Kathryn Seaward from Caerphilly was emotional as she crossed the finish line after her months of training to rebuild her cardiovascular health came to a head following a heart attack last year.

The 37-year-old was taking part in the event to raise funds for Beat SCAD, a charity which supports SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) survivors and their families and funds research into the condition, after she was diagnosed with it in May 2023.

She said: “After everything that’s happened in the last year, it was so emotional crossing the finish line on Sunday. While I went into the race feeling well prepared, it was still an incredible challenge to take on 12 months after experiencing a heart attack – something I never thought would happen to me, especially at such a young age.”

Kathryn, who works as an Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, was on holiday in Tenby in May last year with her husband, John, and children Freya, then three, and Arlo, 18 months, when she first noticed something wasn’t quite right.

She said: “I started to get a weird sensation, like something really heavy was sat right in the middle of my chest. Then my left arm started to feel odd as if it didn’t really belong to me. I had no history of cardiac issues and was fit and healthy so felt like an idiot calling 999, but knew it was better to be safe than sorry.

“In the ambulance heading to the hospital I felt like I was wasting everyone’s time, but the paramedics advised I should get my bloods checked just in case and I’d likely be able to leave in a couple of hours.”

At the hospital Kathryn’s blood tests came back as abnormal, indicating something had happened with her heart. She was then told she needed to stay in for further tests, including an angiogram.

Kathryn said: “I was in hospital for 10 days and it was really stressful being away from the children for such a long period of time, but thankfully my mum, Mo, was by my side while John looked after them. I didn’t think there would be anything seriously wrong, but then the consultant told me I had something called a SCAD, or Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. I was shocked and burst into tears.”

Back on the ward, Kathryn and her mum started researching SCAD and came across a charity called Beat SCAD. They learned that SCAD is a very rare condition which occurs when a bruise or tear within the inner wall of the coronary artery causes an interruption to the blood flow to the heart leading to a heart attack.

It is something that happens without warning and can’t be predicted or prevented. It also can’t be repaired. Kathryn had several tears, including one that was extensive, in her arteries. All she could do was take medication to help give her heart a rest and wait for it to heal on its own while doctors kept a close eye on her.

She said: “When I was finally discharged from hospital, I was so thankful to be back home with my family, but I was so exhausted I couldn’t do much except get out of bed and sit with them to read or eat before crawling back to bed when the children went to school or childcare.”

It was a further 14 weeks until Kathryn was able to return to work. Meanwhile she was also undertaking cardiac rehab classes to build up her stamina and confidence in getting active again, including taking part in her local parkrun.

“Everything felt scary and unknown. I felt incredibly anxious exercising on my own,” said Kathryn. “But slowly I started to build up my strength and get used to my ‘new normal’. My doctors were happy for me to exercise within my own limits and use my judgement as to what I could and couldn’t do.”

As she started to build up her strength, Kathryn decided to turn her sights to fundraising for Beat SCAD which had offered her so much support throughout her diagnosis, signing up for the Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K.

She said: “I’d run the race twice before and really enjoyed the experience and knew with some more training I’d be able to take on the flat course.

 “I’m still due to have an MRI to assess if any permanent damage has been caused to my heart muscle and will need to have annual checkups, but thankfully doctors have said the tears in my coronary arteries have healed.”

She added: “It’s so important that people know the impact SCAD can have on patients and their families. I was lucky that I was able to recognise the signs and pushed aside my feelings about wasting NHS time. Some people brush off their symptoms as tiredness or general illness but it’s vital to get seen.”

Kathryn was one of over 5,000 people who signed up to take part in the Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K on Sunday 19 May. She crossed the finish line alongside two of her friends with her mum cheering them on. And so far, she has smashed her £500 target by raising over £800 for the charity.

Matt Newman, Chief Executive at event organiser Run 4 Wales, added: “We never fail to be amazed by the inspirational stories of runners like Kathryn taking part in our events. We’re so pleased she took part in the Brecon Carreg Cardiff Bay 10K to raise awareness and vital funds for such a worthwhile cause.”