Personal Stories: Dan Strohmenger

My story of an ascending aortic dissection begins on Sunday November 9th 2008 @ 8:45. I was driving home and had 2 of my children with me ages 10 & 7 when I had the most intense pain in my chest in my life. I thought about going to the ER but I was closer to home and just wanted to get home and out of the truck. I also didn’t want to take the kids to the hospital at that time of the night because they had school in the morning. When I got home I laid down to get a little more comfortable. I woke up every hour and the pain was slowly going away until I finally was able to go outside to milk and do chores @ 3am. After I was done with that I got the kids up and took them to school. After I dropped them off I called the hospital to see what I should do about the pain in my chest.After being transferred 3 times someone finally asked me if I could come in to the ER. While I was there I had an X-ray,EKG and blood work done. After 3 hours I was given an appt. with a family Dr. for Tue. am and said I could leave. Later that day the Dr. that I was to see in the morning call me and said the blood work showed a possibility for blood clots and asked if I could come in for a CT scan. I had that done @ 4 pm on Mon. The nurse came out afterward and said that I was negative for clots and could go to work. I work 2nd shift at a farm equipment manufacturer as well as my dairy farm. My job is very physical and I stayed there for a little more than an hour until I felt too tired to stay any longer.I went to see the Dr. on Tuesday morning and told me the results of the CT showed no blood clot, abnormal for pericardial effusion, abnormal for a mediastinitis and abnormal for a Aortas. None of this was said to me the night before and the Dr. couldn’t figure out what the cause of the pain was. At this point the only symptoms were mild but constant chest pain and I had a headache since Sunday night that would not go away. He left a message with the Cardiology dept. for a consult and sent me home. I did not hear anything all day, so I called the Cardiology dept. to see about seeing someone.I was told they thought they could see me on Friday, but would call me right back. When they called back they said they wanted me to have an echo done on Wednesday morning with a Friday consult. After the echo was done the cardiologist came in and thought I had an AD and was sending me to another hospital 45 miles away to see someone else. At that point I had to make arrangements for someone to take care of the farm because I didn’t know how long I would be gone.

I was at the new hospital at 11 am and no one came in to see me until 1:30 when the surgeon told me I was a walking miracle to be alive yet on top of working the farm these last 3 days as well.They started the surgery at 4 pm and finished at 9 pm. My oldest daughter (17) stayed at the hospital that night. I remember waking up and she came in to see me at 1 am because I tried to ask her what time it was so I could tell how long I had been out. The ventilator was terrible, but I figured that if I would was conscious with breathing to keep that machine from beeping they would take that thing out of my throat. I was able to do that by 7am very thirst and very happy. The first 2+ days I was having cold sweats from the meds. to lower my blood pressure. On Friday morning one of the Drs. said I would be going home on Monday I thought “yeah right”, but by Sunday I was ready to get out of there and get back home. When I had the follow up 3 weeks later I had asked the surgeon how long it usually takes from when the aorta tears and someone figures out what is wrong. His response was that he has never had anyone last as long as I had. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends and family to take care of the farm while I was laid up. I sold the cows 3 weeks after the surgery because I finally realized that from working so much I lost many things in my life as well as almost my life that I needed to change things and slow down a bit. I will be going back to work on Jan. 7th, 8 weeks post surgery without the 10# weight restriction that I have been good about most of the time. One more thing that I am very happy about is that through this whole process is that I never had a “what did I do to have this happen to me.Thanks for reading my story, Dan