Hello my name is Gerald A. and at the age of 52 I had an Aortic Dissection. At 6’ 1” and 185 lbs., non-smoker, I thought I was in great health. It has been 4 years since my surgery and I am still trying to grasp the magnitude of the event.  April 23, 1996 was a beautiful April Sunday and a long time friend had come over to help me build a shed, while planning our next move a family member called and asked for help moving a lady into a Senior Assisted Living facility.  I thought no problem we could pick up a tuck load of furniture for her and be back working on the shed in 2 hours.  Well… that was the plan but it did not work out as planned.

The unit the lady was moving into was on the 5th floor and a summer storm had knocked out the elevator.  Not wanting to waste the trip we thought we would walk the furniture up the five flights.  Five trips and we were done the only problem was that I started feeling sick to my stomach on the last trip down the stairs.  My friend jokingly has if I was having a heart attack, I said no just sick to my stomach and my legs felt like they each weighted 200 lbs.

After sitting a few minutes I felt better so I moved the truck off the sidewalk and into a parking place.  That is when I noticed I could not see out of my right eye, my right leg did not feel right and that I was feeling sick on my stomach again.  I told my friend he had better drive.  As luck would have it, I called my wife to tell her my symptoms and she told us to turn around and head to the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Trauma Center, she would meet us there.  My wife was studying for her finals in a RN program, another bit of good luck.

This is where I remember very little. I do remember being removed from my truck passenger seat and my right leg not working, on noon Sunday. My wife and friend tell me that I was talking to the doctors and in a lot of pain. The next think I remember is waking up on a Tuesday evening on a post surgery floor of the hospital. What had occurred was an Aortic Ascending Descending Dissection with a piece of the Aortic Valve torn away. While I was wonderfully unaware my wife had conveyed enough of my family history to the ER staff to lead them to suspect a dissection. A great ER Trauma Team and Dr. Scott Arnold had replaced my Ascending Aorta and sewn back on a piece of the Aortic Valve. After eight days in the hospital I went home and after 12 weeks at home I went back to my desk job.

The only symptoms I had prior to the dissection were pre-hypertensive blood pressure (138/84) and a few times I had a pressure in the center of my back and chest that felt like someone pushing one finger against my body.   I had also noticed that I could walk miles as long as I was not carrying anything. If I were to carry anything over 20 lbs I would get winded quickly. There is a history of heart problems on my father’s side of the family.

Yes, you do change what you consider “normal”.  Life has changed a bit, but the slowing down is a good thing.

I thank God for all of my good luck.

Brian thanks for a great website.

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at Amazon.com-It’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of AorticDissection.com (please book mark the link once you get to Amazon.com for future purchases!)