Name: Arne Sudlow
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Decending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 26 December 2009
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I was a healthy, thin 65 year old male with no medical hospitalizations or medical treatment. I had two CAT scans on my chest during the past two years, the last on only six weeks before my event.  The radiologists never even glanced at my heart, even though the aortic aneurysm “stuck out like a sore thumb”.  My mother died of aortic dissection fifteen years earlier; I was not aware that this could be inherited.  My ex wife was recovering from pancreatic surgery and wanted to see my youngest son.  I decided to drive him to surprise her for Christmas.  After driving all night through driving rain, sleet and snow, I also surprised my son and granddaughter. The next day, Saturday, December 26, 2009 I finished a BBQ lunch (Memphis, you know) and settled down to watch football.

At 1:47 I felt one sharp pain in the center of my chest (I also heard it “snap”) and nothing else.  My son offered to take my EKG (he is a medical equipment salesman) but I didn’t think we had enough time.  He drove me to the Memphis VA hospital (after my mother’s death, I heard they did aortic surgery).  When we arrived at the ER, I was unable to move my right leg and was lifted into a wheel chair.  The next thing I remember was February 3rd after I asked for the date (for three days I thought it was January 3rd, only one week after surgery!).  The rest of my journey is too long for prose, so follow the high points below:

December, 2009;

Aortic dissection surgery ~5% chance if survival.  I was an estimated 15 minutes from my aorta rupturing.

Aortic valve “pinched” at the 28 minute mark of the 30 minute time limit for heart stoppage resulting in ~40% blood backflow into the heart. 

I was deemed too weak to go on so repair was postponed for a second surgery.

January, 2010

Liver and both kidneys failed.  Given 24 hours to live.  Chance of survival ~5%.

Reverse osmosis was successful.

Family called to bedside.

Treated for pneumonia.

February, 2010;

Moved from ICU and began PT

Moved to PT ward (limited medical attention) where lasix treatment was discontinued.

Developed severe breathing problems and felt I was drowning.

Discovered on floor with 240 pulse; three shocks from the defibrillator steadied my pulse.

Awoke in CCU with congestive heart failure and pneumonia; family called to bedside. 

Chance of survival ~ 10%.

March, 2010

Swollen heart was approaching the size limit for valve replacement.  Scheduled for valve replacement surgery in two days, but was told the surgery was “extremely risky” and was postponed every day for ten days.  Heart stabilized.

Began PT.

Furloughed to friends home in Virgina for recuperation before necessary valve replacement.

30 hours later was admitted to the CCU in the VA hospital, Richmond for extreme breathing problems.

Had “umbrella” stint inserted to prevent blood clots from getting to the heart.

Had heart scoped for artery blockage; none found.

Scheduled for immediate valve replacement surgery.

April, 2010

Valve replacement surgery on April 7.  Chance of survival ~5%.  .Surgeon’s statements:

“Would not have operated if I knew it was this bad”

“I don’t think he will make it, but I’ll do the best I can”

“Worst looking liver I’ve seen outside of a cadaver”

I had three valves replaced.

Emergency aortic dissection had partially delaminated and was repaired.

May, 2010:

Continued recovery

June, 2010

Developed pneumonia.  Chance of survival ~10%.

Family called to bedside

July, 2010

Released on July 22 and returned to Ft Lauderdale.

August, 2010

Found unconscious on bed; EMT transferred to Lighthouse Point Hospital.

Fluid buildup addressed for the first time with drainage tube inserted into my chest.

Over 2500cc of fluid drained.

Released to PT conversant home,

September, 2009

Went blind in left eye twice (white background) during PT. No cause found and vision returned in minutes

Released to home.

Visiting nurse came twice

Admitted to VA hospital Miami (I have no recollection or treatment or procedures).

October, 2009

Went blind in right eye twice (black background); no cause found and vision returned in minutes.

Second drainage tube inserted into chest: over 3000cc drained.

300cc of a Talc solution (yes the powder) was injected through the new, larger tube to “inflame the chest wall “possibility sealing if from fluid intrusion,  IT WORKED!!!!!

November, 2009

Released on November 3. HORRAY

My recovery is steady.  My meds have gone from blood pressure lowering to blood pressure elevating.  I can walk for over a mile and drive in the interstates (bold move).  My full mental facilities came back three weeks ago…hence writing this post.  The only residuals left are lack of stamina and numbness in both legs.  My heart efficiency has gone from ~15% to its present ~35%. I am currently exploring experimental stem cell treatment for congestive heart failure at the University of Miami School of Medicine (all of my physicians at the Miami VA are faculty members there).

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God, my surgeons, my physicians, all the health care workers, and my friends and family who prayed for my recovery. But, it is only through Gods intervention that I am alive to compose this post.  Thank you for reading.

Arne Sudlow

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