Age at time of Dissection: 62
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2011
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This actually a 2 part drama which began on March 7 while I was at home alone. The moment I awakened I had pain between my shoulders but had to drive our 17YO to school. We left early and I drove frantically the 6 miles to his school . As I dropped him off the pain briefly subsided and I raced home. My wife Julie is a Pharmacy professor and was in Savannah attending a conference. When I arrived home I tried to reach her on her cell several times to alert her that I might be having a heart attack.

After the 2nd or 3rd try she responded and I told her to get back to Arkansas as soon as she could as I was calling 911-probable heart attack. The ambulance came, they gave me a nitro pill and the pain stopped, which told me all I needed to know. In the hospital all day after balloon catheter and I came to as a cardiologist was telling me that I needed a 4 way bypass and that an ambulance would transport me 45 miles to Baptist Hospital in Little Rock. There the bypass was done by Dr F Michael Bauer.

I was released after 5 days and went home. Part 2 began a week later when I noticed that my vertical incision was weeping, back to Little Rock to Dr Bauer who tested the ooze and suspected MSRP or the hospital bug thats unique to hospitals. Readmitted to ST Vincents Hospital-also in Little Rock..where I had the pleasure of watching another doctor open my incision after just 2 side by side shots of a topical painkiller..then the real pain began. After a week of antibiotics I was released for home health care of more antibiotics administered by home health care nurses who taught me how to do it myself after a few introductory visits made easier by a port line that had been inserted in my shoulder at St Vincents..

This brings us around to April 11th and part 3 a day Ill never ever forget. After a leisurely day and evening , I arose from the chair after a few hrs of TV to experience another episode of between the shoulder blades pain this time searing and tearing. I awoke my Julie and we hurried to the local ER as the pain intensified. The cardiologist Dr Evahns-from round 1 was summoned as was my family DR who injected me w morphine at around 11:45PM.. this covered the pain for maybe 15 minutes and he indicated Id need something stronger. They prepped me for a CT scan w contrast..which seemed to take forever as nothing but nothing was covering this intensifying pain. In 2005 I had had a 3 level spinal fusion after 15 months of sit & spinal pain but this was in a different league. I’m a senior softball player and had played over 400 games in 15 yrs and had returned to the ball field in 2006 a yr after the spinal fusion but this pain was an entirely new dimension as Julie & I struggled for 6 hrs in the ER trying for me to get the pain covered. The time dragged but sometime in the early am before dawn Dr Evans told me that I had an aortic dissection and that I would have to be life flighted back to ST Vincents in Little Rock and shortly after dawn the pilot co-pilot arrived and I was morphined again then packed in the LOH type hello_I think it was as Im also ex military then it was off to Little Rock , a 20 minute flight.

Upon arriving, once again Dr Bauers staff prepped me and I tried to joke while I mumbled the 23rd Psalm. Im told that Dr Bauer came to see me before I went under and told me I had only a 30% chance of waking up or surviving, but I forgot all about that as the anesthesia finally kicked in. That was Tue April 12th…..

I THINK I came to several days before Easter Sunday..time became meaningless but my first recollection was my daughter talking with me and explaining what had happened and what hell Julie had gone through. I was groggy but soon learned that I had been kept in a managed coma for at least 5 or 6 days and had barely survived. Our eldest son had arrived from Florida so that he could transport our 17 YO to and from school while I was in the hospital.

I remained in cardiac intensive care for the remainder of April. The care was top shelf but I absolutely loathed being stuck in the arm nearly every day for bloodwork. This process became more difficult as it seemed as if my veins either disappeared or collapsed making the ordeal more difficult. That time in recovery seems like a blur now as Ive forgotten the day to day details. Julie drove every day during visting hours, a 100 mile roundtrip and the stress and horror of what had happened was etched on her face. The thought of her was all that kept me going as the days rolled on. After nearly 3 weeks I was eager to go home but it was apparent that I couldn’t walk. I also had some nightmares, and believed that Julie had deserted me and that other people were living in our home and called friends around the nation on my cell. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and the nightmares were straightened out before I could call police or 911.

I was released to a private room in late April, and Julie came to stay with me while we determined where I would go for physical therapy rehab.During this time tornado’s and storms raged throughout Arkansas to Alabama. Our daughters city of Huntsville was without power for a week and some of her husbands relatives lost their homes to the storms. It was surreal as flood waters raged outside throughout Arkansas I was trying to begin recovery.

On May 2, we were released after a battery of tests determined that somewhere during the operation, I had also had 2 small strokes. Julie and I headed back to the hospital in our town, where Id begin PT rehab. The i hour trip took nearly 3 hrs as we had to detour far to the east of Little Rock to circumvent the flooded freeway.

The care in PT rehab was amazing as the staff began immediately to teach me to walk again , along with occupational therapy. Soon after I was able to finally shower on my own and use the toilet unassisted. ON May 15 I left to go home, the first time I had been there in more than a month. I cannot say enough for the PT rehab staff in their efforts to get me literally back on my feet.

On June 1st we met with Dr Bauer in Little Rock for a CT scan w contrast media. He was pleased as my aorta was “doing fine”. He was really somber as he recapitulated the operation and what a close call I had had. I was on the table for nearly 11 hrs and at one point he had to tell my wife that I might not wake up. I had bled profusely and it had taken herculean efforts to stop it and to close my aorta. He mentioned that finally Divine Intervention had finally stopped the bleeding and closed the aorta. He noted that my operation was one of the top 5 out of 20,000 he had done in terms of degree of difficulty and that my survival was miraculous.

In June, I began 3 months of cardiac rehab and worked up to going nearly 1 mile walking a treadmill in 30 minutes. In September, as cardiac rehab ended I joined a health club to continue my treadmill work. Dr Bauer had told me that Id be back on the ballfield in 2012.

More recently, Ive had issues with my BP as its been difficult to keep it constantly in the 120/80 range and thats a work in process. Thanks to God, Ive been blessed in my ordeal and recovery. I see no other explanation as to why I’m still here or able to do the many things I can do.

I recently drove alone on a 700 mile roundtrip to my daughters home in Huntsville to see her and our grandchildren. Im one of the lucky ones and my time in recovery & rehab allowed me to view far younger folks in far more dire straits that I was. Julie has been my ROCK throughout this ordeal along with the prayers of several church congregations round the nation.

I never saw the post trauma depression coming until it hit me in Mid August. I was able to see a therapist and talk through the process and emerge far better in December. My mother, who is 85 and in good health has told me that I’m a good genetic match for her older brother who had had a heart attack at 58, then a stroke. My dad passed away in 2001 from Alzheimer’s and had no apparent heart issues, although he was a lifelong smoker. In August my 51 YO cousin in NY state was discovered to have an 80% blockage in the widow maker artery requiring stents. We discussed our family heart history , but came up with no conclusions

Each new day is a gift..I remain very very LUCKY Whenever something I cant do-like softball-arises, I am mindful of all I CAN DO.

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