Name: Teresa Fivek
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 21 January 2007
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas a healthy, active 45 year old woman who went to the gym 5 times a week doing a little of everything (cardio, spinning, Pilates, Zumba, etc) I had quit smoking two weeks earlier. I had friends in town so had a few beers the night before and was at a spa waiting for a facial when I suddenly got chest pains that felt like little rubber bands snapping inside my chest.

I knew immediately something was very wrong. Someone called my husband and he came and picked me up. He took me home even though I knew I should be going to the hospital. Soon he looked up my symptoms online and we headed to the hospital. I was diagnosed pretty quickly, which is rare I hear. They transported me to another hospital which is better equipped to deal with cardiovascular events. They knew it was a descending thoracic aortic dissection. I think I got that name correct. It was my first ride in an ambulance. I don’t remember much of it or of any of the next three weeks. My husband tells me they drove very slowly all the way to the other hospital and that scared him. They also had the paddles laying on my gurney as they wheeled me out to the ambulance.

They put me in CICU and were trying to get my blood pressure under control and watching my progress which is what they do for descending dissections. About four days into that I had another CT scan and when they got the results back my husband said they called him and the family and told them to get to the hospital immediately. Another scare. This is one of the few memories I have because the surgeon came to talk to me and said I had developed an aneurysm which was about to burst and they needed to do surgery to repair my aorta with a graft.

He said there was a 50-50 chance I would live through the surgery and less than that of surviving without brain damage, paraplegia, and many more horrible outcomes. So I said I don’t like those odds, what if we just do nothing. He said you will not live through the night. So I had surgery.

They cooled my body, put me on a heart lung machine so I was on life support for the 5.5 hour surgery and a few days after that I think. It was an agonizing few days until my family found out that I had all my skills. I was in the CICU for three weeks total, about three months in rehab and then a year of recovery before I felt myself again.

You would think that was the end of my story but it was not. Exactly two years later I was on my way to Houston to see the top doctor in the world where the aorta is concerned Joseph Coselli. I had developed another aneurysm just below the graft about a year after my initial surgery and we were watching it until it got large enough to worry us. I was to meet with Dr Coselli and see if I needed surgery and then schedule it if I did. When I met with him it turns out he had scheduled the surgery and said I should have it right away. So a day later I was back in surgery and they replaced 18 inches of my aorta and hooked onto the 4 inches replaced earlier. He made some comment about not being sure if there was enough there to anchor to but apparently there was. One week later I was on my way back home to Virginia and another year long recovery. I include the time to feel normal again and not just to where I can move and work again. My blood pressure is never really under control. It can go from 120/70 to 190/120 and back again all in one day and frequently does. I am not sure why that is and plan to visit Duke soon to see if they can find out.

We continued monitoring my aorta with CT scans and so far I have had 14 of them in less than 4 years now. So that brings us to September 2011 and my latest challenge. Did you guess it? Breast Cancer, I am convinced from all the CT scans. So I am about to undergo chemotherapy (start Nov 10, 2011) and then radiation in January to see if we can cure stage II breast cancer. I found the lump and it still does not show up on a mammogram so keep doing those self exams ladies! They may save your life.

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