Deborah Daw Heffernan

A passionate advocate for women with heart disease and heart disease prevention, Deborah Daw Heffernan is the survivor of two devastating SCAD-induced heart attacks and a heart transplant, as well as the acclaimed author of An Arrow Through the Heart:One Woman’s Story of Life, Love, and Surviving a Near-fatal Heart Attack. This compelling story of the first year of recovery from a SCAD—when she was 45, thin, fit, and with no cardiac risk factors—was featured on the ground-breaking 2002 Oprah Winfrey Show on young women and heart attacks. Library Journal named the book a “most outstanding consumer health title of 2002.”


One of the very few books about women and heart disease at the time, An Arrow Through the Heart was the first and remains the only nationally recognized literary memoir about a SCAD. In 1997, certainly, and even by 2002 when Arrow was first published by Simon & Schuster, most clinicians had never heard of a spontaneous coronary artery dissection. In 2015 Deborah’s pioneering book was revised, updated to include SCAD by name, and reissued by Open Road Media. All her book-related earnings are donated to cardiac causes.


In addition to The Oprah Winfrey Show, Deborah has been featured in articles, television, and radio programs (including the Australian equivalent of PBS) to help bring awareness to heart disease as the leading killer of women, even young women. She is a requested keynote speaker and panelist at events ranging from American Heart Association Heart Balls to a Federal Drug Administration’s special meeting on organ transplantation to Grand Rounds at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Many of her presentations earn Continuing Education Credits.


Following a second SCAD-induced heart attack, Deborah received a heart transplant in 2006. She is at work on a second memoir, Perfect Stranger, about life with a heart that is not her own. Deborah is also the author of a website and blog, with practical tips and tools for cardiac patients, families, and clinicians. She is on the Advisory Committee of the SCAD Alliance in Washington, DC, and is joined by her husband in actively supporting the American Heart Association.


Deborah Daw Heffernan holds degrees from Georgetown and Harvard. Having worked as a teacher and a dean, she became a principal in a national, Boston-based corporate training and consulting firm—until May 12, 1997, when a heart attack in her gentle yoga class changed her life forever. She lives quietly, happily, and gratefully with her husband, Jack, on a lake in western Maine.