Name: Vito Grimaldi
Age at time of Dissection: 66
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

It was 10:30 PM on April12, 2011 and I was just getting ready to leave work. I own an ice cream shop in the northern suburbs of Chicago. As I was headed to the door I had this severe pain in my chest. It felt like my chest was being ripped from the inside. The pain subsided almost as fast as it started. Up until that night I had been in very good health. I had no medical issues and was taking no medication. My first reaction was that I was having a heart attach. I called 911.

My wife met me at the hospital where they were treating me for a heart attach, but none of the test showed a heart attack. When I told them my left leg was completely numb the entire staff went into action. The CAT scan revealed a major upper and lower dissection. They were not equipped to do the surgery, but rushed me to their affiliate, Evanston Hospital, renown for their cardiac surgery. The surgeon, Dr. John C. Alexander, told my family it did not look good, but he would do everything possible.

After the approximately 6-hour surgery Dr. Alexander told my family I was in very critical condition. A few hours later I was back on the operating table. I was in a coma for 11 days, in intensive care for 17 days, in the hospital for a total of 20 day and in rehab for another 19 days. It was 39 day after the dissection before I returned home.

I was doing great and life was pretty much back to normal when I went in for a follow up visit about eight months after the surgery. The doctor was very pleased with the progress I had made but there was a problem. Due to the damage the dissection had done to the aorta I had developed an aneurysm. Just to make things a little more interesting the aneurysm was in the aortic arch. The aortic arch is where the right and left carotid arteries and the right and left subclavian arteries originate. The subclavian arteries are the arteries for the arms. It took four surgeries to repair the aneurysm. The first was relatively insignificant.

A stent had to be placed in one of the left renal (kidney) arteries because the artery might be blocked by the false lumen as an unintended result of one of the later surgeries. The next surgery involved putting a graph in the original Dacron patch in the aorta. The Innominate artery that feeds the left carotid and subclavian arteries was attached to the new graph. The incision for that surgery was on the left side of the neck. Next was to attach the right carotid and subclavian arteries to the new graph. For that they had to go in through my chest like open-heart surgery. This was just the preliminary work to prepare the aorta so the aneurysm could be repaired. It had been determined that the best way to repair the aneurysm, strengthen the aorta and minimize the false lumen was with stents. In the next surgery two 6-inch stents were inserted in the aorta starting at the point of the graph put in when I had the dissection going all the way to the diaphragm.

The last surgery was seven months ago. It took a few months, but I feel pretty much back to normal again. I recently visited the surgeons and everything looks great.

No one knows for sure what caused my dissection was it a genetic issue or it could have been caused by high blood pressure. No one knows for certain. As a precaution, several of my relatives had CAT scans just in case it was a genetic issue. It turns out one of my brothers had a very large aneurysm that, as is usually the case, had gone undetected. He had surgery to have it repaired. His surgeon said it would have most likely ruptured soon.