Name: Michael Burt
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:
Iwas planting shrubs in my front yard three days before my 53rd birthday. I was just about to wrap things up, and I picked up a very heavy pot of clay that I had removed to dump it over my back yard fence. I felt a sharp pain in the middle of my back and knew immediately something had gone terribly wrong. I dropped the pot of clay and walked the short distance to my front door. I sat down in my living room and told my wife to call an ambulance. Instead, she decided she could get me to the hospital faster herself and drove me to the ER. I instinctively knew that whatever was wrong with me, I needed to sit as still as possible.
I was not in any pain and walked into the ER under my own power. I was placed in a wheelchair and told to wait for an intake nurse. My wife wasn’t going to wait and let them know that my condition was serious and that I needed attention ASAP. I don’t remember anything after that, but my wife said I was wheeled in for a CT scan with contrast, and the technician confirmed that I had a descending abdominal aortic aneurysm dissection. Apparently I remained conscious and supplied them with personal details for the intake, even asking if I would be well enough in time to drive to my stepdaughter’s out-of-state college graduation in a month.
A team of surgeons was assembled, and I had a graft inserted to repair the dissection. The surgery went well, but I developed several serious complications that made the surgical team suspect that I might not survive the surgery. Specifically, I developed pneumonia which led to fluid-filled lungs and 100% respiratory collapse. I developed a GI bleed, and my kidneys shut down as well.
For several days after the surgery, I was kept in a state of limbo with a cocktail of drugs including Propofol and Fentanyl in order to keep me conscious enough to follow orders but not enough to realize the dire state I was in. I was having numerous unpleasant hallucinations throughout this period and did not know I was in the hospital. I was intubated and kept restrained to prevent me from removing the tube or becoming agitated and doing further damage to myself. The respiratory physician decided not to treat the pneumonia unless my fever spiked. It didn’t, and I eventually began to recover from the infection on my own, but I was kept in the ICU for two weeks while my body tried to deal with the complications I was experiencing.
After two weeks, the ICU staff were able to remove the tube from my throat, and I was able to breathe on my own. My mind and memory were still pretty foggy from the sedatives I had received, and although I knew now that I was in a hospital, I did not understand why. My wife was allowed to stay with me during this time, and she was eventually able to supply me with all the details.
Because of the respiratory complications and the fact that I was a taking coumadin and my INR wasn’t stable yet, the surgeons were very cautious about discharging me. After two weeks in recovery, I pressed the doctors to let me go home where I could monitor my INR myself, and the chief surgeon signed the discharge papers on 12 May. I agreed to work with a home health nurse to assist me in rehabilitating my ability to stand, walk, and talk. I remained off work until 3 July.
15 years previously, I had suffered about of bacterial endocarditis that damaged my aortic valve. I received a six-week regimen of antibiotics for the infection, and a year later, I had the valve replaced. During the triple-A surgery, the surgeon removed my artificial valve, cleaned it up, and re-implanted it.
It took a bout 9 months for me to return to what I would call 85-90% normal. I returned to a more or less normal lifestyle although I have to monitor my BP, and have become somewhat more sedentary than I was before the surgery. I continued on my coumadin regimen and metoprolol tartrate (to control my BP). The only other meds I take are unrelated to my condition: thyroid hormone (high TSH/low hormone) and cymbalta (to prevent anxiety attacks). I still do not feel 100% and try to maintain a low-key lifestyle now with regular checkups.