Name: Jeffrey Randa
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 December 2011
Tell Us Your Story:
First, thank you Brian for your Herculean effort in putting up this wonderful site.
I will keep my story as short as possible, assuming that any reader either had, or is close to someone who had an AD.
December 6, 2011, in my Office, I felt a rather painless “pop” in my chest. At the time, I fixed it as my esophagus. Came home, and didn’t feel well through dinner, but made it through the night without incident. The next day, I awoke feeling like I was coming down with a rather bad respiratory infection. I told my wife I didn’t feel like going in to the Office, so I dropped my daughter at school, and spent the day on the couch, and took an anti-biotic, sure as I was that I was coming down with something. I felt no better, but not much worse through the day. Waking the next morning, I told my wife I felt unable to take out daughter to school, so she did, and came back and said “if you’re not feeling any better and are getting worse, we need to get you in” to the Doctor. This is huge. Had my wife said spend another day, or the weekend on the couch, I’d have said “sure.” Instead, we made it to the Doctor that afternoon. Then all hell broke loose….
Within minutes of my arrival, the wonderful PA who I credit with saving my life sent me to a room for an EKG. Next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance, being rushed to William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak (Suburban Detroit), MI. Fast forward about an hour, and I was told I need emergency open heart surgery NOW! Before I had time to take in the gravity of what I was about to undergo, I was “under.” The only thing I knew was that there was a 10% chance I might not be revived, and the cold comfort I took with me was that I’d simply never know…
I woke. Curiously, and although my faith has not been anything more than strengthened by this, when my heart was stopped, I never saw any light, never met any dead relatives, or had any kind of “near death” experience. I’m lucky to be able to ponder such things….
The next week was spent in the hospital. I know I had gone trough a lot, but without the ability to really learn anything, I just had to take the cues from my rather sore body. We all know about things like getting out of bed, and coughing and sneezing…..
Follow up a few weeks later was encouraging, all things considered. The ascending tear seems to be well, and I’m due soon for my first CT to look at the descending. I was also an avid weightlifter before the dissection. talk about a lifestyle change….
After discharge, I never took anything more than OTC Tylenol for chest pain, and am only on 50 mg. Lopressor 2x per day, plus one baby aspirin. I observe a better, low salt, low fat, more vegetable than anything else diet.
I am on the treadmill (not as much as I should be),walking and sprinting, but am limited, at least for now, to a heart rate of about 135 bpm. I feel like I can run well past this, but I back down when it spikes above 140I was back to work in about 4 weeks (I run my own Law practice, so necessity can sure spur one on…). I gained strength.
I have, like most of us, made inquiries via the web. I have been both encouraged and scared to death. I had no idea how lucky I was to have survived. I literally thank God every day when I wake up. Had I known, before the surgery, but a fraction of what I have since learned, I might have died of fright. At least I went from Doctor’s waiting room to ER to OR in a short period of time, and figured this all out later.
Like so many others, I sometimes feel my heartbeat in a most profound way, most often at night in bed. I’m learning to adjust.
Most days, I feel like none of this ever happened. I feel like I could go back into my weight room and life away, but I know that will never happen again, except that I may be allowed to use light weights for “toning.” My heavy lifting days are over, but that’s a small price to pay for a second chance. Yet I know that I am a different person now, and am reminded of that every time I sneeze!
I have found many encouraging words on this site. Before, I was planning on doing all I could to live well into my 90’s, as my grandfather had, and dad will late this year, when he turns 90. At first, I felt compromised, because I had asked my surgeon if this could affect my life expectancy, and he observed, rather correctly, that “it can.” I then asked my Cardiologist if I should invest for the future aggressively, or conservatively. He told me to stick with the slow growth, and seemed rather encouraged.
I plan on living past that 90 year mark. I understand that many things are out of my control, and there is a certain amount of luck involved. This is why I count every day as a gift. Yet I am committed to do those things that will enhance my health and maximize my life expectancy. Between what I am hoping for and what will be lies each new day, and I do need to realize that if any one of them is my last, I had better have made the best of each of those days for my family and myself.
Thus, I submit this with a healthy dose of optimism and a dash of fear – normal emotions, I think, for any AD patient. I wish all my fellow AD survivors the best. We are indeed a very elite and lucky group. Were it not for our wonderful Doctors, we would be but a memory right now. I am grateful to my Doctors, and my family, and also to anyone who stops by this site and shares their story.