Personal Stories: Bill Hancy-told by wife
Bill (age 65- no history of high BP) was relaxing at home New Year’s Eve 2007. Got up to shave (8:00 pm) and began to have pains in his back kidney area. They became so intense he almost went down to his knees. He kept thinking it was some severe muscle cramp. No position eased the pain. The pain then radiated up his back to the shoulder blade area and continued to worsen. He and I thought it was possibly gallbladder – called a friend so said “no way”. Pain in the back can also be heart related. After much coaxing Bill gave in to a trip to the ER.
We checked in, sat down, Bill got more uncomfortable and I thought he was going to pass out. You can imagine how full the ER was at 10:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve. I went to the nurse and said “I think he is going to pass out”. They immediately got him a bed and checked his BP. Action began. Then a CT scan of the abdomen/pelvis, much movement by the doctors and another CT scan of the chest area. Now that I’ve read the reports, both showed the Type B (Descending) Aortic Dissection. We live in a small town SE of Dallas. After several calls to area hospitals – everyone said “this is too big for us – send him to Dallas”. Parkland hospital in Dallas said “bring him on”. They have the top trauma/burn center in Texas. So they loaded him on the helicopter, I watched him take off wondering if I would make it to Dallas in time. I had never driven in Dallas and I couldn’t believe how adrenaline can help you do things you never thought you could. By the time they had stabilized him for takeoff – it was around 4:00 a.m. So God opened the roads for me, no traffic, and I made it straight to the ER in record time – never got lost. Felt like someone else was driving the whole way!! Bill was eventually moved from ER to SICU where he stayed for 5 days. Working to get the right set of BP meds to keep his BP below 120. They wanted him off all the drips and taking pills before they released him. He did suffer temporary renal failure but we learned it was from the dye in the CT scans. Before any future CT scans he has to be prepped with a Sodium Bicarb Dextrose drip. They did this before later CT scans with no problem to his kidneys. He suffered no organ damage via the AD. He is so lucky. The dissection is from his left subclavian artery into the bilateral common iliac artery. Pulse in legs, feet, etc are excellent. One doctor said thed issection is in the shape of a cone – narrowing as it continues down. He was released to a telemetry room for 4.5 days — he was released to go home January 9, 2008. That first week home was so uncomfortable. He had been told to do NOTHING for at least two weeks. And believe me he isn’t. We could hardly sleep – not being hooked up to the monitors and having a nurse at your beck and call was a bit unsettling. But today is Sunday, January 20 and we are relaxing. He is on a low fat, low cholesterol, and less than 2 gram sodium diet and it is really helping too.
In fact his blood pressure was so low the first week that we had to get with the lead cardiologist — he suggested we stop taking the last of the BP meds they added and see how he does. He has done great since. The light-headiness is gone and some of the weakness has lessened. The last two days he says he’s beginning to feel like a real person again. He stays in the recliner most of the time – his mind is totally on healing and doing NOTHING. The BP has stayed below 120 everyday. His diastolic and pulse are low but acceptable.
Our first doctor appointment is Tuesday, January 22. We’ve never been to this cardiologist in town (the only one) — if he hasn’t dealt with an AD before we will probably continue to look in another town. Thanks to all who answered questions for us during that first week home. You are life-savers for the caregiver. Now we want to know how long does it take for the dissection to heal (scar over). Some say it doesn’t, some say it does. To all AD members: please continue to provide input on your recovery — you give the rest of us hope. Bill and I wish you blessed days and look forward to giving you continued positive input on his recovery !! Pamela and Bill