Name: Bob McManus
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 4 April 2012
Tell Us Your Story:
My Descending Aortic Dissection / Aneurysm occurred on April 4, 2012.
Prior to the “episode” I had been experiencing moderate discomfort between my shoulder blades when I exerted myself. I chalked it up to a pulled muscle since we had just completed a move to a new house.
The week of I had traveled to our company’s manufacturing site in south central Georgia. For a couple of days my shoulder was bothering me, but on April 4th it was really uncomfortable. Around 1pm I told my co-worker that I was going to the hotel to take some aspirin and a hot shower to see if I could get some relief – which is exactly what happened – after the shower I was pain free. That evening we were visiting with co-workers when I was hit with the most excruciating pain that started in my lower back and soon had spread to my chest, upper back and abdomen. The pain in my chest was so severe that I could barely catch my breath let alone communicate.
As fate would have it, one of our co-worker’s wife was a cardiac nurse so after looking at me for about two seconds they loaded me in the truck and sped off to the ER.
The docs at the ER were great and got me out of pain and then informed me that I had a dissection and needed to be life-flighted. I could either go to Gainesville or Atlanta, I asked my co-workers wife where she would go and we choose Shands in Gainesville. The hospital informed my wife that I had a dissection and was being airlifted to Shands – oh and you need to get there because he will probably die – nice.
My last strong memory is of the helicopter taking off – everything from that point on is a blur. Apparently while en-route my BP was spiking up to 225/175 and the helicopter crew got permission to give me meds and some sedation. Once I arrived at Shands the “Team” got to work. I was given some meds for BP, the tear and pretty heavily sedated. Apparently on my second night there my oxygen levels had dropped due to pneumonia and the nurse asked me if it was OK to intibate – sure whatever you want must have been my answer because the tube went in and the battle to keep me from pulling it out began.
Eventually my oxygen levels came back up and they removed the tube. My lungs began to clear up and then one day a priest was at my bed to offer a blessing for my surgery the next day – news to me, I guess I should tell Jennifer when she comes back from lunch. She comes back and I tell her and she thinks I’ve been hallucinating again, like the time she sat down in the chair next to the bed and I told her she just sat on our dog. During this time I was pretty much sedated and whatever the drug was it gave me horrible nightmares. I mean just the craziest, scariest stuff. It was during one of the dreams that I tried to get out of bed, fell and cracked my head on a chair but thankfully no stitches.
The surgery Dr. Beaver and Dr. Beck did was a success, stent inserted into Aorta, no damage to the valve. Spent some additional time in ICU and the to a step-down ward where I had to kind of learn to walk again and then finally home. 30 days in the hospital and 90% of that in ICU. I couldn’t believe how weak I had become, walking from the bedroom to the family room was a workout. Slowly though things started to get better until Memorial Day weekend.
The weekend came upon us and my back was bothering me. I thought it was a pulled muscle and didn’t pay it any mind until the pain became sharp. Took a trip to the ER and the CT revealed that the stent was pushing against the Aorta wall. Back in the helicopter for another ride to Shands, arrived and was in surgery within the hour. They had to insert another stent to get it around a curvature of the Aorta. I guess the big concern was paralysis which didn’t occur but my right small toe is numb – I’ll take that trade.
This time when I got home recovery seemed to be a lot harder. It took a long time but after 18 months I feel pretty good. I walk a lot, even do some running. Doctor told me not lifting over 50 lbs for the rest of my life which isn’t that big of deal. It was a rough little haul but I think I’m going to come out of it OK.
Even though I was the one with the medical condition, I spent most of my time in limbo land while my wife had to deal life. She was the one that the doctors would say, “his kidneys are not performing very well, I hope we don’t have to do dialysis” or ” the sedatives are very strong and we are worried about ICU psychosis”, etc. She was also the one that had to handle all the details for follow-on doctors appointments and meds to take since my brain was scrambled for a good while after getting home.
The folks at Shands Gainesville, and Jax Beach Baptist were wonderful professionals. Their care and expertise is one of the reasons I’m here today.