Name: Stu Pessin
Age at time of Dissection: 61
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 March 2011
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My first mistake was very common: Ignoring health care. Especially at my age. And smoking. I had quit completely several times, but smoked whenever I wasn’t home. Not such a secret, my wife suspected but decided not to murder me, I’m sure she thought I would eventually quit for good. Anyhow, after moving in 1999, I never bothered to get another primary care doctor and stopped getting regular checkups as the procedures became more and more unpleasant. And of course, I felt fine…

In October 2010, I was forced to seeing a doctor at a walk-in for a dog bite. I startled my 100-lb yellow lab and he got me good on my hand. During my treatment, the doctor called in two other doctors, and they cautiously asked me if I knew what my blood pressure was. I faked ignorance, and they told me that it was 160/130, and that I needed to seek treatment immediately. Mentally I gave in and decided to get a regular doctor and get caught up. As a store manager at Toys R Us, busy season had just started, so I promised myself I would do it right after season.

Well, season was over, Spring had just sprung, and I was working on my day off (which was not unusual for me) as we were preparing for busy outdoor stuff sales. I was in front of a computer when I felt…. funny. Many AD survivors tell of intense pain. Not me. I just felt kinda funny. Numbness and tingly left arm and leg. Like a moron, my first thought was to go outside for a cigarette, but when I stood up I got dizzy, so I sat down. One of my associates, Jessica, asked me if I was okay. I said no, and when the dizziness persisted, I told her to call 911. Most of the next few days is still blurry.

Fortunately my store is less than a mile from Good Samaritan in Brockton MA, where the ER doc was smart enough to order a CT which showed the bleeding, and he was able to diagnose an acute Type A ascending aortic dissection. The ambulance picked me up at 9:30am, and by 1pm I was in a helicopter headed to St. Elizabeth’s in Boston for a graft done by one of the best, Dr. George Tolis.

On Friday, there were some complications with my kidneys and liver, and some bleeding, and I was on dialysis for five days. There was some concern that there would be permanent damage but I got lucky. After a week in ICU and a few days proving to the nurses that I could poop on my own without exploding my incision, I went home. I do distinctly remember Dr. Tolis showing me off to some colleagues, as the “guy who had about ten minutes to live when he got here….” Ironically, had I stayed home on my day off, I’m sure I would have croaked, as the treatment I received five minutes from the store would have been too far away.

Four months at home, then back to work. But not back to normal. Dizzy spells and tingly feeling, double vision, relation to the dissection unknown. On event monitor for a month, so we’ll see. But even though the doctors (I now have several….) say I am okay, I am not as physically capable as before. I get tired fast, no stamina. And every fart’s a fracture. I’m afraid to ignore anything. Good news is that I can still launch and operate my bass boat, and ride my Harley. And if I live through driving the Ariens 10-horse through another New England winter, I promise I will stop threatening a Daytona Bike Week trip and actually GO.

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