Name: Terry Stiles
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection:9 September 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Stacy (Terry is my husband). On September 9th, 2011, I called the ambulance for Terry after noticeable signs of what seemed to be a heart attack. Terry was suffering from shortness of breath, excruciating chest and back pain, chest discomfort, cold/sweaty/clammy skin, as well as an onset of leg cramping and weakness. After the ER in our small town examined him, took blood tests and performed an EKG, they ruled out a heart attack, however had stated that they compared a couple of older EKG’s and believed Terry had suffered a heart attack some time back in 2008. He was admitted to the hospital and monitored overnight, and released in the morning. I was still very apprehensive to take him home, but did so after further persuasion from my husband AND from the hospital. They told me that since my husband was a retired Army Veteran that he needed to be seen by the Veterans Administration, who was his primary provider.

That weekend I watched my husband’s health deteriorate and immediately on Monday morning (3 days after Terry was taken by ambulance to the ER) I took him to the VA Urgent Care. AFTER 5 hours of waiting time, a brief exam AND one test, which was an EKG, he was again released into my care again. All the while I had to push him around in a wheel chair because he had no strength to walk. He told the VA Doctor that his heart didn’t feel like it was pumping blood correctly through his body, his chest still hurt and he was experiencing “heaviness” on it. He also was short of breath, very pale, almost ash in color and cold and clammy. But nonetheless, the VA sent him home. I was furious! I knew I was literally watching my husband die! I immediately picked up the phone and called a hospital in one of our bigger cities in WI, which was about an hour away from us, and set up an appointment with a Cardiologist. The soonest they could get Terry in was Thursday; another 3 days
of waiting.

I took Terry to his appointment on that Thursday and the Cardiologist admitted Terry into the hospital for “further testing and observation”. The Doctor wanted to do an MRI immediately on Terry, but because of an allergy to Shellfish, they would have to wait a day for medicine to prevent a reaction to the dye used. Instead the Dr. did an ultrasound on his heart and saw a tear. She then did an ultrasound by going down Terry’s throat and confirmed her suspicions that Terry had suffered from a large Aortic Dissection. Emergency surgery was performed and Terry pulled through it and is getting stronger and healthier with each passing day.

The Doctors told me that he shouldn’t even been able to walk through the door for help. His dissection was vast, and that 80% of people die immediately…..Terry’s dissection happened a week before they found it. It took someone who cared enough and who had the medical experience to recognize the signs and symptoms needed to diagnose my husband and save his life. I am forever grateful for the Dr. who diagnosed him and the surgeon who masterfully worked on him for over six hours. Had I left my husband’s fate in the hands of the VA, he probably wouldn’t be here with me today. The VA failed him miserably.

This has been the scariest thing I have ever been faced with in my entire life, and I can only imagine just how scared my husband must have been. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful site. I find myself coming to it more and more and reading all the stories, and my heart, as well as my prayers goes out all of you and your family members! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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