Real Woman 2021 Lindsey Huie

Competitive soccer player Lindsey Huie was juggling it all as a busy mom until an uncommon heart condition took her by surprise.

Lindsey, of Orange, Calif., never expected the diagnosis because of her active, healthy lifestyle. Her recovery was made easier by remembering her favorite saying: “Every obstacle is an opportunity.”

After more than a decade of retirement, Lindsey Huie decided in 2019 that she wanted back in competitive soccer.

She had about two weeks to prepare for the semi-pro season with teammates who were almost half her age. At the time, she was 36 and didn’t want her age to hold her back.

“Instead of being the fastest, I tried to be the smartest,” said the Orange, Calif., resident. The former U.S. Women’s National Team member and four-time All American joined the LA Galaxy OC as a midfielder.

She finished the team’s 2019 season and spent her break working as a youth soccer coach. Then one September day, after walking up a hill to the practice field, she felt a burning pain in her chest. Lindsey thought it was strange, but not so unusual. Within hours, however, the discomfort was too much to ignore.

“You know when you tear a piece of paper in half?” Lindsey said. “That’s what it felt like in the middle of my chest.”

Despite the pain that day, she kept thinking it was just heartburn. Plus, she didn’t want to “make a big deal out of nothing” — a common way of thinking for many women.

“If I could do it over again, I would have gotten in an ambulance to the hospital that night,” she said. “I wouldn’t have waited. I wouldn’t have worried about bothering people.”

She opted to go to an urgent-care facility that referred her to an emergency room. She recognizes now that valuable time was lost. When experiencing heart distress, every second counts.

At the hospital, she learned she was suffering from spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD. The emergency condition is a tear in an artery wall of the heart, which can slow or block blood flow. Patients are often women who are otherwise healthy, with few or no risk factors, according to the American Heart Association.

Lindsey said she never expected the diagnosis because she stayed active and ate a healthy diet. She also led a homeopathic lifestyle, opting for natural remedies instead of medications.

But her mom, grandfather and grandmother all had heart attacks. Another thing working against her was stress. She juggled multiple work and life commitments, including raising four kids.

“I think I represent a majority of American women who feel so inclined to be everything for everyone,” she said.

Looking back, Lindsey said, she was overworked. Now, the 37-year-old takes steps to reduce stress and prioritize what’s important in her life.

Her heart condition means she can no longer play soccer competitively. But she stays close to the sport by coaching youth leagues, including her youngest daughter’s team, which recently won a state title.

When Lindsey needs encouragement, she remembers the quote that, coincidentally, was written on her LA Galaxy OC soccer shin guards before her health emergency: “Every obstacle is an opportunity.”

“When I picked that,” she said. “I had no idea how true it was and how much it was going to mean to my life.”