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Elaine McGowan-67

Personal Stories: Elaine McGowan

Brian – I have been wanting to send my story to you for a long time. First off, I want to thank you (as we all do) for providing us with this site. It has helped me so very much. I guess, as they say, “misery loves company”; your site has helped me in my misery. You have given me great hope. I actually appreciate each day since this all happened. My health history includes high blood pressure and a heart arrhythmia for 30 years.

On January 5, 2005, I sustained a descending aortic dissection during a cardiac catheterization in a Boston, MA hospital. I was kept overnight after I insisted on being kept there the night of the procedure. That night I got worse, severe “labor type” ripping pains in the abdomen increasing and I was throwing. I was given a shot of demerol which made me sleep but the pains still increased and I blamed the demerol for their severity. I was sent home on the second day, only to continue feeling worse and worse.

My son brought me back to the ER two days later and after much debate and examining, I was given a cat scan which showed a tear high in the aorta behind the heart descending 14 inches to the groin. I was quickly sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital that deals with this type of heart complications. If this had been an ascending dissection, I am sure it would have been “curtains” for me as it was four days later that I was seen. I was kept in cardiac ICU for three weeks.


I have been in Cardiac Rehab at a local hospital for three months now and feel much better, but tire easily and cannot do as much as I wish I could. When I was sent to the hospital near my home, the staff had not heard of this problem. They checked it out on the internet to make sure I could qualify for Cardiac Rehab. This rehab has helped me so much; the nurses have been the best I have ever run into. I would suggest it for all aortic dissection patients – it builds up your confidence and endurance while being monitored.

Brian, I feel that all the symptoms I exhibited after a cardiac catheterization should be known by hospital, and especially emergency room staff. Even my son, who is an EMT on a local fire department has only been taught to feel (and has felt these) for a pulsating mass in the back of the patient.

I have tried to put my story into the right words. I wish we could get the general public to understand this condition. You are a godsend and I commend you for all the knowledge and hope you extend to us all; thank you so very much!!!

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