Howard Hehrer-51

Name: Howard Hehrer
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 June 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My story begins at about 9:00 PM on the evening of June 8, 2011. I was visiting my mom and was just walking to the car to leave with my wife. I got a sudden pressure and “squishy” feeling in my chest with some discomfort. I can’t say it was extreme pain, more moderate. I knew immediately something was very wrong and I told my wife to call for help as I laid on the sidewalk. The paramedics showed up within ten minutes and took vitals. My blood pressure was variable but all in all I wasn’t feeling too bad. Once they loaded me in the ambulance they started IVs and proceeded to play “guess what’s wrong with the patient”. Since it didn’t appear I was having a heart attack and I was conscious they took the slow ride to the hospital, no lights or sirens. When we got to the hospital they told me to contact them when I found out what was wrong, they didn’t have a clue. Once we found out how serious it was we didn’t ever hear back from them.

Once I got in the ER Things were kind of at a stand still until one of the ER nurses noticed I wasn’t getting a blood pressure reading in one arm. She just said she liked the right one better than the left and tehn left to speak with the doctor. I truely believe she saved my life because the next thing you know they are wheeling me off to get a CT scan with that wonderful die that makes you feel like you peed your pants. As soon as I got back to the exam room a resident with the surgeons office came in to give me the diagnosis – she got so choked up she left the room and another surgeon had to come in to give me the news. I had a dissecting aortal aneurysm in the ascending aorta. It was serious, and they would have to perform open heart surgery immediately. I was scared and completely unprepared for what I was going through. I kissed my wife goodbye and they wheeled me away. My wife is a nurse and had a grasp of the gravity of the situation but kept up a good front. She was definitely my rock.

I am 6′, 185 pounds and reasonably fit. I run occasionally, walk a lot and the most serious health issue I ever had was getting wisdom teeth out. Low cholesterol, low blood pressure. There were absolutely no warning signs which is the most scarey part of the whole ordeal.

I woke up in ICU recovery after 5 hours of open heart surgery, 2 hours on bypass. I was fortunate that there was a cardiothoracic surgeon on call that specialized in the procedure. He told me the outcome was very good, they were able to save the aortic valve. God was at my side for sure. I don’t remember being on a respirator, they removed it when I came out of it. I had 4 IVs, all kinds of wires and a catheter. My family tells me I was joking around with them though I have no memory of it. They had me stand up that day to weigh me and I asked if I could sit in the chair for awhile.

They said sure so I sat for a short time. The next day they moved me up to the heart center where I recovered for 7 days before getting released. I started out just walking to the door of the room then a little more each day. My wife was an incredible advocate for me, getting all of the information we needed and making sure everyone followed up. I was surprised that even though I went through major surgery the pain I experienced was really intense only one time a day or two after the surgery when they reduced my meds. Other than that they said my recovery was remarkable and my case was a miracle for as well as it came out. I left the hospital and continued to recover at home, increasing my walking until I am now walking like I was before and even starting to run a little.

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I have developed a small aneurysm at the clavicle from where they attached to my artery for the bypass. I will most likely be getting a stent put in to block it off in a month or two. I am back at work and living a mostly normal life.I am very grateful to the skilled professionals at the Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center and especially the emergency room nurse who first recognized the condition. They saved my life with their skill and with God guiding their hands.

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


Descending aortic diameter of 5.5 cm or greater is not an accurate predictor of acute type B aortic dissection


September is Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm and Dissection Awareness Month


  1. Daniel Enriquez

    Hello Mr. Hehrer,
    My name is Dan Enriquez, I was 43 when I had my type I aortic dissection. I unfortunately felt an amazing ammount of chest pain that radiated down to my abdomen and intense nausea. I was also lucky in that the first ER correctly diagnosed my condition and shipped me off to Loma Linda University Medical Center. I went directly into surgery. Five hours later and approx 90 minutes on bypass, I survived. I spent five days in ICU then was released.

  2. Jim Sanquedolce

    Hello Howard, My Name’s Jim I was 51 on October 8th, 2009 when I suffered my Ascending Aortic Dissection, Sadly, I have no recollection at all of the incident, I do know I worked on the 7th and it was near 1 am.. when I made the call to 911 I only know what i have been told and summized and heard 2nd hand. I woke up post surgury and began my new life I am about 40 days from my 2nd anniversary. I have begun a few times to add my name here, but my story can’t be any more lame since i have no reccollection of the incident itself…

  3. Michael Moyer

    Howard: Glad you are with us. I had an ascending and decending 11 months ago. AND I have a stainless steel Aortic Valve. Like most, mine was an Emergency procedure: I was in surgery for 12 hours and the ICU for 11 days after. I am glad to be here.

    I am amazed that you are …starting to run a little. That is awesome. What type of drugs are you taking? I am at 2.5mg of Bisoproplol (Beta Blocker) and 10 mg of Cumodin. I have been told that the SCIENCE says after an aortic dissection we need to take Beta Blockers: ok. And the ART is attempting to determine which BB to take that will quell the peaks of the Heart Beat and maintain blood pressure at a reasonable level, without sapping all ones energy.

    Running sounds great BUT I AM NOT THERE……..thoughts???

  4. Howard Hehrer

    Michael, amazingly all I am on is 12.5 mg of Toprol a day plus (1) 83 mg aspirin. I was on 25 mg of the Toprol a day but was experiencing extreme dizzyness everytime I stood up. They lowered the dose and it seems to be working well.
    Also, I just found out my procedure to implant the stent in my subclavian artery will be September 22. I am not scheduled to see my cardiothoracic surgeon again until December. He told me that I am cleared to do anything I could before except heavy listing which exherts great pressure on the aorta.
    Not sure if I answered your question – let me know.

  5. Jim Sanquedolce

    I’ll pop back in to say Howard, I also take topril started at 1x25mg into 1/2 (12.5) and he has me back up to 25mg again, as we speak I am sitting here I just got up to get a drink and am dizzy… I take Lisinopril 40 mg ( recently up from 20mg ) clonidine hcl 0.1mg x1
    since the increased dosages seems my pressure is wacked out again.. they also have me on 3 81 mg aspririn…. I was also told I would be fine, .. do Anything… as long as the heavy lifting waited
    long term… the one big differance you need to keep in mind (Michael) is with a mechanical valve everything Becomes differant, Coumiden Has to be used to thin and keep the valve from getting clogged, while like me even 2 years Post I am still “maintaining” taking the 3- 81mg baby aspirin.. Howard as far as the stent goes, will this be done orthoscopically? or old school surgically? I have some aussie Freinds one a 82 year old female abdominal aorta > femoral stent secondary to her anuerysm repair she was in for 4 days. either case good luck with that you’ll be in our thoughts during your surgury ..Jim

  6. Lloyd Jones

    I have reservationa about Topral used as a Bp aid. Another person I cautioned to get off of this med and within a year they encounted a need for a heart replacement. We held a home going service for his person this past February. She never took my advise.

  7. Howard Hehrer

    Lloyd, what are your qualifications to advise people to not take the medication their doctor has prescribed for them? I don’t want to be rude but if you are going to make statements like that you should provide background & backup. If you are aware of studies that substantiate this claim please include a link to them so I can share with my doctor. Thanks.

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