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Laurie French Haas – 43

Name: Laurie French Haas
Email: lauriehaas1@me.com
Age at time of Dissection: 43
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 6 March 2010
Tell Us Your Story: Laurie French Haas – 43

March 2010 – DeBakey Type III dual descending aortic dissection

On the evening that my dissection occurred, I was sitting at my computer working on a project. A sudden pain hit me. The pain was like no pain I’ve ever felt before. It was a stabbing, tearing chest pain and it caused me to lose my breath. When I tried to stand up I fell down because my feet were numb. I called to my daughter and my husband. I thought it must be a heart attack. I could think of nothing else that it could be. The pain was mind numbing.

I was 43 years old, no history of heart disease, a non-smoker, I averaged a blood pressure of 110/70 and my cholesterol was normal. I was very healthy or so I thought.

My husband called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived I was still on the floor in a curled up, with my shoulders rolled over kind of position. I could not lay down because the pain intensified if I did.

At the Emergency Room (a University Trauma Center), the emergency doc said that the EKG ruled out a heart attack. He then took a chest x ray and asked me if I had pulled any muscles. I told him that I had not injured myself and that this pain did not feel like a pulled muscle at all. I was misdiagnosed and sent home with Tylenol 3 for a pulled muscle.

I knew that there was something else wrong with me because the pain did not go away. In fact, I didn’t sleep at all. I was convinced that I was dying. It was horrible.

I contacted my internal medicine doctor the next morning. She believed it might be some type of hernia. You know, I don’t think the ER doc or my internal medicine doc ever checked the pulses in my different extremities. Now that I’m a survivor, I know that could have pointed out the dissection. She told me she was sending me for a CT scan and left the room. The nurse came back in and said the CT was scheduled for the following week. I burst into tears and told her I couldn’t wait that long. She left the room, spoke with the doctor and they got me the CT appointment for the next morning. I guess she realized just how much pain I was in.

Next day, my husband took me to the same hospital that I had been to before. The CT scan was completed and they met me with a wheelchair at the CT machine. The radiologist said that they had found a problem.

They rushed me to the trauma bay and told me that my aorta had dissected in two places and that I must have emergency surgery. I remember them telling me that it was dangerous surgery, but that there was not an option. I would die without the surgery. The bad news was that the hospital didn’t have any of the necessary Dacron patches and they would have to wait for one to be brought in from a city an hour’s drive away. The good news was that the surgeon who would be operating had trained with Dr. DeBakey and he was one of the best. He would do a thoracic endovascular repair (TEVAR) of my aortic dissection.

I had no idea what any of this meant. I remember just saying to them, “Thank God you have figured out what is wrong with me!”

So we waited in the trauma room for the Dacron patch to arrive. By the time I was taken into surgery, my minister, my mom and dad, my best friend and my sister had all arrived. They must have given me tons of pain medicine. My minister tells me know that I gave her specific instructions about my funeral in case I died, up to and including the fact that I wanted rosemary for remembrance on my casket. I do remember telling my husband that I wanted to be an organ donor. I knew how bad this was. I knew that anything that caused this much pain must be horrible.

My husband says that after I was taken into surgery they told him how bad it really was. My friend tells me that my poor husband looked white as a sheet for the entire 6 or 7 hours the operation took.

The surgery was a success. I spent a week in CCU and that was an ordeal that I’d never want to repeat again.

I was out of work for about 8 weeks. I teach at the University level. I felt very, very weak for a long time. They kept my blood pressure very low, which contributed to the weakness I believe.

I only took thyroid medication before the dissection. I am now on blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medicine, anti depressant medicine, a reduced dose of thyroid medicine and a baby aspirin. I fight fatigue everyday. I have gained probably 35 lbs since the operation. Some days it’s just hard to get going. Before my dissection it never would have occurred to me to take a nap. I would now take a nap everyday if I could.

I am lucky to be alive. I do not feel like the same person I was before my aorta ruptured.

I have had continuing problems with restricted blood flow to my right carotid artery. My arm and hand goes numb when I do any repetitive activity. I feel weak and tired most days. I am terrified of the medical system because I was initially misdiagnosed.

I had a one year CT study to evaluate my graft. My surgeon says my aorta looks wonderful. I do have to have a carotid arterial bypass surgery to repair the arterial restriction to my arm. Of course I am not looking forward to this surgery at all. I have avoided this second surgery for the past year, but the surgeon told me today that my fingers look blue and the restriction has worsened. He said I am at risk of losing my fingers if I don’t have the surgery.

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!)

I thank God everyday for my life. I also harbor continued anger that I can’t seem to get back to normal. It’s a long slow journey.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Jeff Guenther June 9, 2011, 9:42 am

    HI Laurie:

    Glad to you are here (:-).
    (My story is Jeff Guenther 55 dissending.)

    Naps you bet I am all over those. I have been struggeling with fatigue also. I think it may be because of the antidepressian Celexia.

    Funny I lost weight during the recovery. (225-153) I am ok with weight now however I find again from the anti depression med has the tendency to make me eat just to eat.

    I am scheduled for the carotid arterial bypass surgery in August. I find it hard to sleep when my side goes numb. I have noticed that my muscle regrowth is not the same on the left side also.

    I will let you know how it goes. My fear here is that the recovery process. I am almost back to where I was and I do not want to start over again.

    Do you have a different perspective on life?
    Will you share?

    Jeff

  • Laurie June 10, 2011, 8:43 pm

    Hi Jeff,
    I fear the recovery process from the bypass surgery as well. I fear it so much, that when I had the surgery scheduled last year, I was up all night for three nights in a row and I finally just chickened out and cancelled the surgery. I think I had some post traumatic hospital stress going on. The CCU was not a fun place to be! I am terrified again this week about my upcoming surgery scheduled for Tuesday. The doc says it’s not a big deal. I don’t know about that, I think when they slice into your carotid artery it’s gotta be a big deal.

    I think it’s the medicines that make us so fatigued. They keep my blood pressure below normal and my thyroid slower than normal. Of course I’m tired. The docs say that is necessary to prevent problems with the aortic graft. Who knows? I used to be a barrel of energy and now I feel like a slug.

    Do I have a new perspective? I don’t know, maybe. I’m learning that life gives some people a raw deal and you have to live with that. Then I also know that even though I got a raw deal with having a dissection, there was a silver lining in that my husband didn’t have to bury me. I try to keep my thoughts balanced. Is it difficult? Yes, very, but so far so good.

    I’ll let you know how my carotid bypass goes!

  • Teresa Fivek May 10, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Hi Laurie and Jeff. I can’t believe how much your story mimics mine Laurie. I was 45 when it happened and I had smoked for many years but had quit by the time of my dissection. Other than that our stories are pretty much the same. I still do not feel like I have an explanation of what caused this to happen and probably never will. One day they will know what causes this. How did both of you do with your second surgeries? Hope they were both successful and you are feeling better every day. Laurie, I also gained about 40 lbs since this all started in 2007. I have recently started counting calories with an App called Livestrong calorie tracker and also working with a personal trainer. I have lost 18 pounds so far and am feeling much stronger. Almost back to my normal self now. I am on way too much medication but working to reduce it even more. I stopped taking the cholesterol medication and am trying to accomplish the same things with diet, exercize and flax seed. The blood pressure medications have gradually been reduced as my bp got more under control. I am still on thyroid meds, beta blocker, dieuretic, bp med, and now a hormone pill. I take that because last year the gods decided I had not gone through enough and I found I had breast cancer. I had chemotherapy and radiation as well as a lumpectomy and now waiting for my hair to grow back. I am doing great now though. Jeff, how is the depression? I am on an anti-depressant also but hope with the exercize I can get off that too. I hope you are feeling better. Thought of doing some charity work to help get you out? I hear it also helps to do things for others and that makes you think less of your own circumstances. If you guys lived close to Richmond Va I would say let’s get together and talk in person sometime. Best Wishes.

  • Laurie Haas May 10, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Teresa,
    Thanks for your kind words. Cancer…that’s my fear with all these CT scans. I’m with you on the “Gods decided I haven’t had enough.” My daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2007…she is stable, thank God, but then my dissection occurred in 2010. Enough is enough right?? I’m back at work full time and doing well with that. I also take Celexa…I got off of it once but the depression and anxiety and fear that I’m going to fall over dead any minute, was too much, so I got back on the meds. I am thankful everyday to be alive and also just royally pissed off that life has given me such lemons 🙂 Write again ok?

  • Jeff Guenther May 11, 2012, 11:12 am

    Hi Laurie/Teresa

    I am doing well. I had the bi Pass surgery in November and it was amazing. I have all the strength back in my left side and I think faster. I went in on a Thursday afternoon and was home the next day by 6PM. Back to work the following Monday.

    I am off the Celexa. It made me eat which was good after the dissection but not necessary now. I have made some changes in my life. I was a nice guy and some people took advantage of my kind nature. Now that I have changed some are having trouble with my new attitude. Negative people go away. If I say I don’t care, I mean it. lol

    I am going to see a heart Hypno Therapist next week. I struggle with the fact that when I had the dissection I went to a very nice place. I didn’t want to come back. When life gets stressful I wish I would have passed. I don’t think it is a big issue however my wife thinks I need help.

    I live in the Greater Chicago area. I do travel for a living so I am in the Virginia Area two to three times a year. Maybe the next time I am out I can spend an extra day and drive down to Richmond (I normal work out of Bowie MD). It may be a fun day.

    Jeff

  • Laurie French Haas March 9, 2014, 12:28 pm

    I’m off all my beta blockers and blood pressure medications. I’ve lost the excess weight that I gained during recovery. I had been feeling really great since my 2010 dissection. I went for my yearly follow up CT scan and heard the bad news. My abdominal aorta is now dissecting. My cardiac surgeon said that it is a slow process and we can just ‘watch’ it. He said if I have pain or the CT scans show much progression he will have to do surgery to repair it. He said that with this future surgery it will have to be an open abdominal surgery. He said he won’t be able to do it through the femoral artery this time. I wonder if anyone else has had to have a second dissection repair? I’m a bit stressed about it and terrified of yet another surgery related to this illness.

  • Teresa Fivek March 10, 2014, 10:08 am

    Hi you guys. I didn’t see that you had posted anything after my last post until today. Laurie I am so sorry that you are having issues again. It is all so unfair. I have not had any further issues after the breast cancer treatments ended in 2012 but I am always waiting for the next thing to hit. I know that sounds silly to be living my life waiting for a tragedy but I know you guys understand where I am coming from. I can’t help it. Laurie, I never heard where you had your surgery. I am thinking Houston becuase of the connection to Dr DeBakey. I had Dr Coselli who took DeBakeys place at the heart hospital in Houston when he retired. He did the same surgery I had here in Richmond but replaced a larger portion of my aorta with a dacron graft, about 18 inces of it. I think he wanted to go ahead and cover as much as possible since I had the two aneurysms in such a short time after my dissection. ANyway, he is the best. I was out of the hospital in less than a week that time and recovery was so much faster. I highly recommend going to him if you need further surgery just because they do so many of these surgeries, I heard they do 3-4 a day there. The recovery is so much easier! I am so happy to hear that you have come off the bp meds and lost weight! That is a huge achievement. I hope you celebrate the little victories! I gained my 20 pound back and am back at high bp, cholesterol, etc. I am just so tired all the time I can’t exercize. I could but I really don’t feel like it. I know I must force myself. I hope your abdominal dissection goes very very slowly and you don’t have to have any surgery. That would be the best possible diagnosis. I know what you mean about being angry about it. I am not so much angry as scared a lot. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but I am not so sure this made me stronger. Ha! I am thankful to still be here for a while longer. I don’t want to sound ungrateful becauae I am very grateful to have more time. I could have died in January 2007. I know how close I came. I have a good life. I would just love to be healthy like I was before all this. i guess that is all up to me though, huh? Jeff, I hope you are feeling happier these days?

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