The first time Morvenn Stewart passed out she’d just stepped out of a swimming pool while abroad on holiday.
She was visiting family in Saudi Arabia, where the average temperature can reach 45C, and thought she’d fainted because it was so hot.
Morvenn, of Ellon in Aberdeenshire, was shocked when she found out the real reason she’d lost consciousness.
‘The adrenalin kicked in and I was flustered’
“I was over visiting my mum and dad, they live abroad, and was in a swimming pool when it happened.
“When I came out of the pool I felt dizzy and the lifeguard just looked at me and I think he could see something wasn’t right.”
The lifeguard fetched a seat for the 22-year-old to sit on and she passed out when she sat down.
“It was just for a couple of seconds and then I woke up,” she says. “I got in a golf buggy and drove straight back down to the house.
“My mum asked why I did that but it’s like adrenalin kicked in and I was flustered and didn’t think about what I was doing.”
Mum Lorna Stewart took her daughter to the closest John Hopkins hospital to her home in Jubail to get advice from a doctor following the incident in June 2021.
She was hooked up to a heart monitor then diagnosed with tachycardia – a condition where your heart beats over 100 times a minute.
“After that, I decided that it was best that I just came home and just got on with things and I felt much better when I got back,” she says.
But her health then deteriorated…
At first, Morvenn thought she could finish studying hairdressing at college while continuing to run her mobile beautician business.
But before long she started to struggle with her health.
“It didn’t happen suddenly, but gradually happened over time,” she explains.
“I had shortness of breath and it was getting harder to even just go up the stairs or get about in the house.”
She was also passing out more often.
“Some weeks I would pass out two to three times and the next week it’d be like nearly every day,” she said. “It just depended on how my body was – or even how tired I was.
“Things got too much and from July until February it got worse and worse.
“And that’s when I started seeing other signs.”
‘My life just stopped all of a sudden’
Morvenn had to stop driving because of her health condition which had a huge impact on her life.
This meant she could no longer carry out her mobile business as a beautician.
And she also had to make the difficult decision to give up her college course because she didn’t feel safe using scissors in case she passed out.
“I was really struggling to keep up with everything,” she says.
“I had no job and I didn’t have my college any more. My life just stopped all of a sudden – for six months I had nothing.
“My mum came over from abroad to look after me because I couldn’t do my shopping.
“Even cleaning my house or just getting up to use the bathroom was really difficult.
“I had to rely on a wheelchair if I wanted to go out so I didn’t injure myself.”
It was time to see a doctor…
A doctor had previously advised Morvenn to wear an Apple Watch so she could keep a track of her heart rate.
Most people’s hearts beat between 60 and 100 times in a minute but Morvenn often experienced large spikes despite doing very little at home.
“My heart was going up to 170 (beats per minute) just standing up and going into the kitchen,” she explains.
By February last year, she was also suffering with pains in her neck as well as the back of her legs.
She booked an appointment with her GP and was referred to hospital to meet with a cardiologist.
Silent heart attack: ‘You’d be surprised how many young people go through this’
Further tests were carried out including a chest X-ray and an ultrasound scan and she wore a Holter monitor, a device that recorded her heart rhythm for two weeks.
She was then shocked to be told she had suffered a silent heart attack.
It’s a heart attack that has either no symptoms, or unrecognisable signs rather than the obvious pains you would think you’d have in your chest.
Patients often go to see their doctor complaining of fatigue when they’ve actually suffered a heart attack weeks or months before without even realising it.
“They said we can see you’ve had a heart attack but we can’t pinpoint when it was,” she said.
“It was scary – it was a shock more than anything.
“It was hard to take in; I was also just thinking what will happen now – how do I get on with life? Will it get better, and will it happen again?
“They were very honest and good at telling me information.”
Heart attacks are often thought of as medical conditions experienced by people over the age of 60.
“I didn’t think this could happen to somebody so young; you really don’t,” Morvenn says.
“But the cardiologist told me you’d be surprised about how many young people do go through this.”
‘I felt a bit lonely’
Morvenn spent six months at home with very little going on in her life before her diagnosis.
She didn’t want to leave her home to avoid putting pressure on other people and spent much of her time reading books at home.
“It did take a toll on me after a few months because your days are just the same and you’re waiting for your friends to contact you, for someone to talk to because you’re just a bit lonely.
“It takes a toll on your mental health. I wouldn’t say I was depressed, but I was sad.”
But she went on to fulfil her lifelong dream
But thankfully she was able to start living her life again after she was prescribed Beta-blockers to slow her heart down.
The medication works by blocking the actions of hormones such as adrenalin.
And while she was recovering from the silent heart attack at home it gave her time to think about what she really wanted to do with her life.
“I’ve always wanted to be a beautician with my own shop but I thought it would never happen,” she said.
“I got the time to gather the information I needed and look for places. Obviously, I didn’t know when I would be better.
“But I could focus on where I wanted the shop to be and so when the time came I had everything ready for what I needed to do.”
When Morvenn got the keys to her dream shop on December 3 she was determined to open up her business before Christmas.
And with the help of her boyfriend Scott McKenzie, 27, it took just two weeks to get her new Beauty by M salon on Bridge Street in Ellon ready.
She was still taking in furniture on the morning of the opening and was in the salon blowing up balloons for the launch at 5am.
Her 26-year-old sister Eirinn Stewart also travelled up from her home in Brechin to help the couple prepare for the opening.
“She’s very creative and arty and made all my signs and logos which took a lot of the pressure off me,” Morvenn, now 24, says.
‘I feel like a new person’
Morvenn has just started gentle exercise again and is looking forward to a bright future now that the medication has worked.
“The Beta-blockers have helped bring my heart rate down and that stops me passing out because my heart is now controlled,” she explains.
“I feel like a new person. It’s just totally changed everything; I’m living in the moment now and I’m a much happier person.
“I’ve got the shop now so I’ve got a more positive outlook on life. It didn’t all feel real for so long.
“It took me about a month to actually realise that it was mine and that I didn’t work for anyone. Taking it all in has been amazing.”
Morvenn will be holding a charity event on June 4 in support of the British Heart Foundation.
There will be a glass of prosecco on arrival, talks about the charity, free brow waxing, nibbles and raffles from 2.30pm – 7pm.
If you have an inspiring health story you would like to share please get in touch with us at email@example.com