Name: Denise Mannino
Email: manninoarts@frontier.com
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas in good shape, bicycle commuting to work regularly, doing yoga four times a week, and eating very conscientiously. (I’ve been a vegan for almost a decade, a vegetarian most of my life.) I almost went for a recreational bike ride on Saturday, April 9th, but I surely would have died. I felt slightly under-the-weather, kind of lacking energy – but nothing unusual.

After dinner, I was brushing my teeth when I had a sudden, intense pain across my upper chest. I also felt like I would black out if I didn’t get my head down because my blood pressure drop dramatically. I called out to my husband to call 9-1-1 because I thought I was having a heart attack. We live an exit away from a hospital, and the ambulance was here almost immediately. They took vitals, and got me over to Evergreen ER quickly.

Once I was at the hospital, they did an enzyme test which determined I was NOT having a heart attack. I had no sense of time passing, but my husband said it took awhile before they finally put me into the CAT scan, but once they did it, their whole MO stepped up dramatically. They start calling the area hospitals to find a team that could do the surgery, and they let me know I was in critical condition and would die without open heart surgery that night.

Fortunately, they found a cardiothoracic surgeon in the next community and he was available. They quickly transported me to Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA, where I was met by Dr. Bobby Binford and his team. I signed papers, said good-bye to one of my kids and husband, and I was whisked away to surgery.

I didn’t come out of my medically-induced coma till Tuesday, and it was easy to forget that I had gone through open heart surgery. Hearing someone tell me that just sounded like a bad dream, but I’d stir and feel the tubes and all the associated discomforts. My whole family, sister and husband from California where there, so I quickly remembered what had happened. Dr. Binford said it was the worst tear he’d ever repaired, about 5″ long, 2cm into the carotid artery. I was given transfusions after woke up, because of much blood lost. Finally, toward the end of Tuesday, I was moved out of ICU to the cardiac floor.

I was hospitalized for a week, out for a week, then Easter evening – April 24th, I had a TIA (transient ischemic attack) causing me to lose sight in my right eye. We ended up back in the ER, and then I was readmitted to Overlake as tests were done. They did an echocardiogram, ultrasound, xrays, and another CT scan. A vascular surgeon looked at the results and declared my vessels and arteries to be ‘pristine’. She couldn’t understand why I had an aortic dissection, though Dr. Binford said the walls of my aorta were ‘like butter’ – so I hoped to find out why this whole thing happened to me.

The vascular surgeon recommended blood thinners while my heart was healing, so I was brought up to a therapeutic dose of Heparin while I was on IVs. I’m on Coumadin for six months and have to have my INR monitored at the local anticoagulation clinic.

I’ve had lots of time to read articles on the web, and I have many Marfan features – but so far, no conclusive tests. I’m trying to strengthen my connective tissues with high doses of Vitamin C, l-lysine and l-proline – but will be interested to find some place to find out why my connective tissue has issues. Meantime, I’m on a three month break from work, basically trying to reclaim some normalcy by getting out and walking, doing lots of writing, painting, and generally reflecting on why I survived (and what I should be doing.)

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