Name: Lynn Erwin
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 July 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Lynn Erwin and I am 57 years old. On July 8, 2012 at approximately l:30 p.m. I had a Type 1 aortic dissection. It started after lunch with a sharp pain in the back of my head that lasted only seconds. I walked into the family room, sat down on the floor and told my wife that something in my chest did not feel right.

My wife called 911 immediately. The EMT’s got to our home quickly and decided to take me to the emergency room even though the EKG that they did looked good. I felt no pain at this time and I told them to just go on and help someone that really needed help, but they convinced me to go with them to the hospital. As I was riding in the ambulance my left leg began to feel like it was going to sleep and became very painful. The EMT’s began to check to see if I had any feeling in it and I did not. I knew they were concerned because they began whispering to each other and started driving much faster.

I got to our local hospital and they quickly confirmed diagnosis after doing a CT-scan. I only remember about 20 minutes of my emergency room visit, but I was there for 5 hours as they searched for a specialized thoracic surgeon in our area. I was told to lie as still as I could–which was hard to do because I started throwing up; this lasted for several hours. I do remember telling them to please cut off my leg because it hurt so badly. While I didn’t know anything about the aorta at this time, I did know that it was serious.

Finally they found a surgeon and I went by Care-flight to Plano Heart Hospital. I do remember the flight, but nothing after they pulled me out of the chopper. I was in surgery for about 8 hours and the doctor told my wife that my aorta was hard to repair because it was almost completely shredded and that it was like repairing wet tissue paper. They could not close me up until 2 days later because I was still bleeding.

They said there was a possibility that I had suffered a stroke, but that was never confirmed. They told my wife I would be in the hospital for weeks, which I was. They kept me pretty sedated that first few days by giving me Propofol (the nurses called it the Michael Jackson Drug). That first week was pretty stressful for my family. I had daily challenges such as blood pressure spikes, kidneys not working properly, fever, and now weighed about 40 pounds more than I did when I arrived at the hospital. The weight did come off as my kidneys started working properly.

After days in what I called “La La Land”, (man that Propofol is some good stuff), I remember hearing my wife and realized I was in a hospital, but I did not know why. It had to be explained to me several times over several days before I finally understood. I did end up staying at the hospital for 23 days and then went to a rehab hospital for 5 days. I went into the hospital taking 2 pills a day for cholesterol problem and now take 16 pills a day–most of those pills to keep my blood pressure low. I did go back to work 7 weeks after surgery, which amazed everyone. I still have dissections in my carotid arteries and I have one long dissection in my descending aorta, but the doctors say they are manageable. They remind me that I am a “Miracle” and I believe them.

Prior to this event I thought I was bulletproof. I would grapple with my sons doing Jiu-Jitsu and submission wrestling. I did MMA type workouts and feared nothing and no one. Now I have been told to not lift anything over 30 pounds and to keep my blood pressure less than 120/80. Most days I am able to keep that blood pressure or even lower. At first I felt like an old man, frail and weak, but now I realize while I will never be the man I was, I will be the best I can be with the limitations I have to live with. After my last check up my surgeon said that all dissections are bad, but mine was very, very bad. He said that I was blessed to be here and he stated that prayers must have been said on my behalf.

I am not sure why God spared me, but I now have a deeper love and appreciation for my wife and children. I am fortunate to be alive. I hope my story helps someone else who has gone through this–reading the stories of others has certainly helped me.

Update 8/15/2014:

this is just an update to my previous post. It has now been just over 2 years since my dissection and am wondering how others are doing years after their dissection. I am currently working but am planning to retire within the next couple months. I overall feel well except i am always tired, was told this is because of all the medicine i am on and that will be how it is the rest of my life. My left leg still has numb spots and the bottom of my foot feels like i am walking on rolled up socks. After i walk about 100 yards my hips and legs get heavy and hurt and i have to get off them. I am on work restrictions and am wondering if others are having issues. The mental part is still the hardest for me because i was very active before and now i spend most my time resting. Any responses would be appreciated.