A Lorain County man suffers the same medical condition that killed comedian John Ritter, but a correct diagnosis and fast action by medical responders saved his life.
Ken Nieding of Oberlin knows how close he came to death.
The father of six awoke at about 4 a.m. on July 25 with severe chest pains.
His wife called for an ambulance.
Nieding thought he was having a heart attack, but emergency room doctors realized it was more serious.
Nieding had suffered an aortic dissection, which is a tear of the main blood vessel of the body.
University Hospitals cardiac surgeon Dr. Arie Blitz said this is a very lethal condition.
"The clock is ticking and any missed time or delay can result in the patient's death," he added.
The force of the blood causes the wall layers of the aorta to separate.
Dr. Blitz said the tear can rupture and one can't predict when that will happen.
Nieding was immediately flown by helicopter to University Hospitals and taken directly to the operating room. "I remember the pain. I remember the helicopter ride. And right after the helicopter ride, I blacked out. That's the last I remember," Nieding said.
That's when his aorta ruptured. "And he completely loses his blood pressure and goes into full blown cardiac arrest. He's about to die," Dr. Blitz said.
A ruptured aorta is what killed 'Three's Company' star John Ritter.
Ritter didn't get to the operating table in time. Nieding did.
Dr. Blitz said without surgery, Nieding would have died right there.
But, even with surgery, his chances were slim. Nieding was given a 5% chance of surviving the operation.
Dr. Blitz says the surgery is very meticulous.
"The tissue is what we like to refer to it as wet toilet paper. It falls apart in your hands. So, you have to be very precise, very delicate, and bring the layers together with re-enforced tissue," Dr. Blitz explained.
Ken Nieding knows he's a lucky man. "Oh, I am so blessed. I really am. I am blessed to have such a great family and just to be here," he said.