Greg Nobriga-59

I am 6′ tall 200 lbs 59 years old and was in good general health when I had my Dissection

I have a history of high blood pressure over the last 10 years but with close monitoring by my General care physician and blood pressure meds I had it under control or so I thought….I was involved in a car accident a few years back that caused a whiplash condition in my neck….the other driver t-boned my car while running a red light and by the Grace of God I survived…but I was left with trying to find a solution for my chronic neck pain …I accelerated my alcohol consumption along with pain meds in order to self medicate to the point where I could continue to work during the day and sleep at night…my drinking habits would start around 5 PM each day and end about 11PM each night …although never drunk I would be pleasantly numb most every night.

I finally was able to find a clinic where a doctor found a solution for the sharp pains and chronic condition…It was called a nerve block procedure…after this procedure my life was almost back to normal except for my drinking habits had become the norm……Most people didn’t even know I was stoned at night because I was home most of the time and in social situations I fit right in with the cocktail set….My lifestyle during the last 3 years definitely contributed to my Dissection condition…The doctors say it didn’t cause it but there is a part of the following story that may be interesting to those of us who like to consume.

I was a mid-level manager in the Contract Manufacturing field for over 30 years,after much of the work in the Silicon valley was shipped over seas my company closed it’s doors in 2002…since then I continued to work in the same field at another electronic company for 2 more years then decided to start my own full time Handyman and Home Improvement Contractor business in 2006…I was working in my new career at the time of my car accident and have done well ever since and find it to be a career that is very rewarding.

On Sept. 30th,2009 I dropped my wife off at the San Jose,Ca International airport for her Business trip to Chicago at 6:30 AM. After kissing her goodbye I got back in the car and began my exit from the terminal C area toward the Terminal A section of the airport after traveling approx 800 Ft from where I had left my wife off it hit me…first as a sharp stabbing pain in my upper back between my shoulder blades and then it became a full upper body seizure lifting me literally off the seat of the car and arching my back completely into an excruciating spasm of pain.

I fought to keep my vision on the road and control my leg and arms for control of the car My eyes quickly scanned for a place to pull over …I saw many baggage clerks and security people to the right of me near the old terminal C area and a passenger pick-up point just beyond them…I was able to pull over shove the gear handle into park turn-off the ignition open the door and fall out of the car. My body by then had seized up into a semi-fetal position as I slumped against the rear wheel of the car for a time.

I was able to get into a position on all fours with my head turned down toward the pavement…groping for control sweating profusely now and trying desperately to control the pain as wave after wave of warm sharp pain stabbed through my back….the cramp like throbbing pain continued as feet began to assemble around me…the voices from the feet asked if I was alright and if I required any assistance..was I having a heart attack one of the pair of feet asked. I was in much pain and was struggling to keep from passing out I replied…do you want us to call an ambulance and paramedics…give me a few more minutes please…do you want us to call someone for you?…I don’t want to bother my wife ..I just left her off at terminal C and I should be fine in a minute as soon as this f—–g back spasm passes…minutes passed as I continued to struggle to remain conscious ,I again fell to the pavement near the rear wheel of the car and by then realized that whatever this was was it was not a back spasm…please call the paramedics I pleaded with the guards.

Another 10 minutes went by …fortunately for me there was a paramedic station with an ambulance about a block away in the airport…when they arrived my Body was….you know those scenes in the movies where a man is holding his mortally wounded friend and the wounded friend looks up at him and describes his feeling ….harry I’m cold harry I’m sooooooo cold! …..well my body was cold and my memory banks were immediately going into overdrive thoughts turned to ones of expiring right there in that airport on this little piece of pavement…the paramedics quickly called the local hospital and were relaying details of my vitals and with returned info …they got me into the ambulance and administered something…they told me it was an IV to lower my blood pressure in case I was having a hearty attack…I was in a cold and sweat and still fighting to stay conscious… they asked which hospital I wanted to go to…I replied O’Connor Hospital.

It was the closest but I knew that the staff there were preferable …on the ride over after reviewing my heavenly qualifications to God my body seemed to start to come under control ….whatever they were giving me in that IV was definitely helping…I arrived at the O’Connor Hospital emergency entrance on a day when the staff shift for the morning was just coming on …there was little happening so I received immediate attention…after a series of questions and tests doctor Savadra conferred with me…during this time …although still in some discomfort the main pain of the attack had subsided…the doctor and I continued to discuss what might have caused the attack…the EKG they had just performed had been fairly normal and did not seem to indicate any kind of heart problem…The doctor was concerned enough to order that I be taken to another dept for a CT scan….things went pretty smoothly with the scan …I had never had one before …when they hook up the IV and inject the die into your veins it is definitely a unique feeling unlike I’ve felt before…all the way to your groin area there is the wave of

By the time I had been returned to the room and been hooked up to the IV’s again the doctor had returned and offered the following info…He had reviewed the CT scan results and had suspected a possible aortic Dissection …he said that the area behind my heart …. being the descending part of the aortic artery looked enlarged …he had sent the results to his cardiac counterpart at Stanford hospital in Palo Alto (25 miles away) and the cardiac specialist there had concurred that I probably had suffered a dissection and that I should be transported immediately…O’Connor hospital does not have helipad capability so an ambulance from Stanford was dispatched to transport me…during the hour or so before my transport I spent time contacting my son’s ( I have 3 son’s in the area) and kicking myself for not wanting to notify my wife while she was still on the ground at the airport.

Oh well I wasn’t seeing a white tunnel of light yet so all was good as my kids would say….By the time I reached Stanford my whole family had been notified as well as my wife’s 2 boys …(we have a blended family of 6 boys …..I have always been the “tough guy” of the family …even though I have played sports when I was young and have what I believe to be a high pain threshold…I have never felt pain like that day…it is humbling …very humbling…the care I received at Stanford Cardiac ICU was outstanding …The doctors there Malledi and Cafferelli were excellent,professional and super competent….they saved my life…well actually it was a whole series of events that saved my life…starting with the paramedics at the airport, the caring and probing doctor at O’Connor hospital,the transport staff and the surgeons that performed that all important 7 1/2 hours of surgery to save this “tough guys” life.

The damaged portion of my Descending aorta was about 8 to 10 inches long and had been enlarged to 5 times it’s normal size …they said it was like a bubble on a bike tire that was ready to pop!…a little time bomb right there in my chest one of the Surgeons joked…the surgeons seem to concur that in my case it looked like I had probably had some traumatic physical trauma in my teens or early 20’s and that created the original aneurysm the remaining 3o years+ took care of getting it to it’s current condition…it scares me to even think about what life events I have been through and the way I sometimes have mistreated my body while this little time bomb was ticking away in there…for it to have picked that particular day when all the stars were in alignment for my event…well what can you say except ..thank you God for giving me a second chance….this “tough Guy” has changed his perspective on life …I felt blessed before but now I know that every day will be treasured …

The staff of the recovery room was great also…My family was strong for me when I most needed it…my wife finally made it back from Chicago by 11 PM and I was wheeled into surgery at midnight on Sept 30th/Oct 1st,2009…I had just enough time to apologize for not stopping her flight from San Jose…she had spent the flight back in absolute fear they I might pass on before she got back….so there you have it my story…

There was a part of the story that I want to share with those of you who like your cocktail hours…on the 3rd day after surgery my doctor (Cafferelli) had a discussion with me about my drinking habits…he somehow had figured out that I was a pretty heavy drinker (Vodka is my drink of choice) on the 3rd day after my surgery he assigned a special male nurse to guide me through my alcohol withdrawal (after 72 hours of no alcohol a heavy drinker will go into strong alcohol withdrawal)…I had a bad case of what they call the DT’s that night I had a special drip of a cocoction only the doctors know ….that night was filled with night sweats,hallucinations galore and several thoughts of having passed into the afterlife…..I survived that nite and every glorious nite since.

My recovery is ongoing…It is now Jan 21st 2010 and I actually have returned to a light work schedule for some selected customers… is good…and a glass of wine once in awhile for dinner is good also.

God Bless to Everyone…stay well…..

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1 Comment

  1. Tony Penland

    Hey Greg, It was great to read your story, well not great that it happened to you but a great read. I myself had an aortic dissection, but it was in the asscending part of my aorta and I also had to have a aortic heart valve replacement done as well, due to a bicuspid aortc valve. I know what youmean by the tuff guy statement. I was a pretty decent high school football and baseball player, but my biggest love was powerlifting. I competed in competitions all over the United States, nad usually won the mojority of the ones i entered. One of the questions all my doctors had for me was what kind of steroids did you use, and my response was always none of them. Every competiotion I entered was 100% drug free and we were tested everytime. It is truly a helpless feeling durning the dissection, because i had no control of what was going on. And now I live everyday with restrictions of the weight i can lift, my docs say no more than 50 to 75 lbs for the rest of my life. I had a friend tell me one day man that must really suck not being able to work out like that anymore and I told him no it’s fine with me. What would really suck is not being able to see my two little girls who are 13 and 9 now, and not seeing my beautifull wife. I donmt know about you, but my relationship whth my wife was always great, but after the surgery seeing her there everyday and all that she went through during this just made me love her even more. Well I’ve took up enough of your time, have a great day and God bless,

    Tony Penland

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