Year: 2014 Page 1 of 3

Joyce Olaves-59

Name: Joyce Olaves
Age at time of Dissection: 59
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 4 January 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

It was January 4, 2014, and a pretty normal Saturday in Tallahassee for me. I worked around the house and ran a few errands. I didn’t really feel any different than I did any other Saturday. In the afternoon, my husband was gone to work on one of our rental properties that we own and I did laundry, etc. Around 4:30 he got home and we decided to go out to dinner. I had lost a bet with him and I was buying dinner. The restaurant was only about a mile and a half from where we live so we were there before 5:00. During dinner, I mentioned that my stomach hurt a little bit—an unusual type of pain. That pain passed and we finished dinner, paid, and walked to the car. I was not in pain at the time but I felt explainabley different.

Once in the car, I suggested to my husband that we drive the couple of miles to the grocery store to get groceries for the week. We drove less than a half mile down the road when a pain rolled through my chest and all the way down into my legs. This happened twice and my legs felt really weak. I also cannot explain the feeling of doom that I had but I did not express that to my husband. My husband teaches some first aid classes and a class about responding to emergencies so he felt something was unusually wrong and decided then that we would go to the doctor. He quickly turned the car around and took me to a walk-in clinic which happened to be right next to the restaurant where we had eaten. We both got out of the car and walked to the clinic door. Fortunately, the walk-in clinic was closed because they likely would not have been able to diagnose me or would have sent me home.

My husband then said we were going to the new emergency room that is about three miles back in the other direction into the city. Before we got there (approximately 3-4 minute drive as my husband was speeding) the vision in my right eye was blotchy. It was like I was having a migraine aura, but it was only one eye. When we got to the emergency room and walked in I was not in any pain that I remember and really thought they would be sending me home later. This emergency center is much newer and had not been open for long—maybe a year or less.

It is not attached to the hospital either so it had not yet reached the volume seen at the other emergency room at the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. They tended to me almost immediately. This was around 6 PM and the timing of the rest was kind of a blur. I don’t remember much except I remember talking to the doctor and he told me that my EKG was normal and probably told me more than that but that because of my visual disturbances they may want to do a CT scan. A nurse gave me a couple of baby aspirins, too.

I remember going in for the CT scan and a while later the same doctor (who was their head of emergency medicine for Tallahassee Memorial Hospital) told me that it was a good thing I came into the emergency room and that they had determined the problem and that it was very serious. He told me I had an aortic dissection and tried to explain to me what that was. He said I would need immediate surgery. He continued to tell me the ambulance was pulling into the bay to take me to the hospital and that the surgical team had already been contacted and were on their way to the hospital for my surgery.

Earlier I would not allow my husband (Jorge) to call my two grown children until we knew what was wrong. I figured I would be going home. When we got the news about my problem, I could see the panic in his face. He got on the phone immediately and reached my son, Jamey. Even though Jamey is a police officer and it is rare that he has a Saturday evening off because of either his regular job or his extra duty jobs, he was home and Jorge got him on the phone. Jorge told him what was going on.

Jorge followed the ambulance to the hospital, and by the time the ambulance and Jorge got there, Jamey was there, too. Jamey had called my daughter (Laura) during his drive across town to the hospital. She was out of town in Orlando and I guess I spoke to her on the phone at some point before my surgery but I don’t remember that. I remember meeting the anesthesiologist when I got to the hospital and the last thing I remember was Jamey telling me, “Mom, everything is going to be alright.” I also have a memory of both Jorge and Jamey at my side but I thought I was sitting on a bench with one of them on each side of me. They told me later that I was being prepared for surgery and that the doctors had to kick them out so they could get started with the surgery.

At that time, I didn’t know that Jamey and Jorge had been told that 50% of those who have this problem never make it to surgery and then 50% of those who have surgery don’t survive. This was way more serious than I knew at the time. I guess that, too, was a blessing. Jamey later told me that my surgeon, Dr. Mohamed said I had a 70% chance of surviving the surgery.

Dr. Mohamed said the surgery was 5 hours long and that they were very pleased with that. I had an aneurysm near my heart which had ruptured by the time they opened me up and he had to replace the piece of my aorta from the heart to the arch and repair my aortic valve as well. It was a very long night for my family because I went into surgery around 10:00 PM and with the surgery and the time Dr. Mohamed spent observing me he came out at 5 AM. I had a leaking valve and he wanted to make sure it functioned alright so in addition to the surgery, he spent a good bit of time observing me. I guess Laura had arrived from Orlando around 2:30 AM from Orlando while I was in surgery.

I spent 9 days in the hospital with the first two in ICU. I do not remember much in ICU during those two days other than some bits and pieces. I became fully alert the morning that they were moving me from the ICU to the cardiac care unit. I had all the IVs, the oxygen tubes, and the chest tubes. The chest tubes were what bothered me the most. I was expected to get up and walk several times a day and, while I didn’t mind that, it was such a hassle with all the equipment attached. At one point, the chest tubes were not draining as the doctor had hoped so I was given some steroids which then kept me awake and jittery. I was getting no sleep and that made me very crabby so my cardiologist prescribed Ambien. I had adverse reaction and tried to remove my chest tubes myself during that night. Someone had spent the night with me every night and Jorge was spending the night with me so he stopped me but apparently he had to hold me down while he yelled for the nurse who the
n handcuffed me to the bed. No more Ambien for me.

During one of my CT scans, it was also found that I had a nodule on my thyroid. It was biopsied while I was in the hospital and was benign. A subsequent ultrasound was done on it but my regular doctor said it had grown slightly. I did another test where I swallowed the iodine and they measure the radioactivity and found the nodule was “cold” which means there is still a chance it could be cancer, but all indications are that is not. I have had another follow-up ultrasound but have not yet heard the results. If it has continued to grow, we will decide what to do from there. Thyroid cancer is usually very slow growing and so to wait is not all that serious. The last time I saw the doctor for it, he said all indications were that it was not cancer, but we still aren’t sure.

Other than that, my stay in the hospital was pretty calm. I hated being in bed because I have back problems so I had back pain from having to stay in bed so much. I tried to walk several times a day, but with the chest tubes and the heart monitor I had to haul around, that was no fun and I was pretty weak so it wore me out quickly. You know that you are getting better when you start bugging the doctor to let you go home. They wouldn’t let me go until I had the chest tubes removed for 24 hours so, of course, then the milestone became when I could get the tubes out.

The tubes came out on January 12 and I was released from the hospital on January 13, 2014. I had to take two 100 mg of metoprolol tartarate (AM and PM), 325 Ecotrin aspirin, 25 mg of losartan, and 20 mg of simvastatin daily. My one year anniversary is coming in a few days and I have gotten back most of my strength. Walks are now pleasurable again and not a chore. My medicine has been reduced to two 50 mg of metoprolol tartarate (AM and PM), two low dose (81mg) of aspirin, the losartan increased to 50 mg, and 20 mg of simvastatin daily. My cardiologist tried to reduce my metoprolol to 25 mg twice a day but my bp got out of whack immediately so he bumped it back to two 50 mg pills again and increased my losartan.

I did have one bump in the road. January 28, 2014, I woke with pain in my left leg and then I got some numbness in my foot. Jorge drove me to the emergency room at the hospital this time because I told him I didn’t want to have another ambulance ride and, just in case I had to stay in the hospital, I would already be there. The numbness was later determined by the neurologist not to be related but was likely due to a pinched nerve. However, the doctors found that my pulse in the left leg was not very strong and not the same as my right leg so I was admitted to the hospital for a couple of days for observation. Unfortunately, the hospital had no rooms available so I spent most of the first day in the emergency room area. Eventually that evening I was moved to a transitional room where I stayed for a couple of days before being sent home again. No real cause was determined except that it may have been a small blood clot that the body was trying to absorb. Since the pulse was back to normal a couple of weeks later when I had a follow-up with Dr. Mohamed (my surgeon), it was no longer an issue.

One problem that has gotten better but not resolved is my migraine auras. Before having to go on all these medicines, I only took a probiotic daily and no other medicines and my migraine auras were about one every three months or so. When I got out of the hospital, they were daily and sometimes more than once daily. They decreased after the blood pressure was reduced to about 4 times a week. Now they are sporadic. Sometimes I don’t have one for 10 days or more but then they come back and I might have 2-3 in a week. My cardiologist thinks I need to see a neurologist, but I wanted to see if the migraines decreased after the reduced dosage of metoprolol, even though I read that it is sometimes used to prevent migraines. The good thing is I don’t actually get the headache except on rare occasions but the auras interrupt my work and my life.

I have been told by a number of doctors and nurses how fortunate I was to have survived this and that because I was in good physical shape that certainly helped me to survive it. I am about 5’9 1/2” tall with a BM in the normal range. I eat and live a pretty healthy lifestyle (lots of fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains, not much red meat, etc.). Because Dr. Mohamed’s report revealed that the aneurysm had actually burst by the time my chest was cracked, I really dodged a bullet.

Now that nearly a year has passed, I am feeling more normal but I still wouldn’t say that I am 100%. I am not able to be as active as I was before this all happened because I tire more easily.

Man alive by ‘miracle of modern medicine and prayer

B9315599680Z.1_20141224163952_000_GJE9GFTA3.1-0A Natchitoches man is thanking God and local doctors that he is alive to see this Christmas.

Billy Smith, 47, underwent emergency heart surgery in November to repair an aortic dissection — a tear in the aorta that often is fatal. Instead of flowing through the artery, his blood was leaking into the walls of his artery.

“He had what I consider a true life-threatening event,” said Dr. R. Chance DeWitt, heart surgeon at Louisiana Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute LLC in Alexandria. “Fifty or 60 years ago, nothing could have been done.”

The condition often is misdiagnosed as a heart attack or other issue because patients present with chest and back pain, which is how it started for Smith. He started experiencing pains while stacking boxes at Christian Outreach Center, a Natchitoches church where he’s served as music minister for the last 24 years.

After a CT scan at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center confirmed the diagnosis, Smith was rushed to Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria for the first of two surgeries.

“It’s a blessing that the right people were in the right place,” Smith said.

Smith’s first surgery was to drain blood that had accumulated around the heart.

“The aorta tears coming out of the heart,” DeWitt said, explaining an aortic dissection. “The blood begins to leak around the heart and accumulate and cause problems with blood pressure.”

The second surgery was an emergency heart bypass, which DeWitt said is different from a common bypass surgery. In this case, Smith’s body was cooled down to 18 degrees Celsius — about 64 degrees Fahrenheit or 34 degrees lower than a human’s average body temperature.

Next, more of Smith’s blood was drained to allow the surgeon to repair his aorta without further complications.

DeWitt replaced the tear with an artificial graft in the surgery that takes about three to six hours. He described the process as connecting wet toilet paper to wet toilet paper, which can be ruined if pulled too tightly or held too loosely.

“The surgery is one where every step is critical,” DeWitt said. “Putting the graft together is technically difficult. If you pull too tight, it tears … not tight enough, it leaks.”

Smith’s body had to be warmed again, which was another technically difficult process. Warming too quickly can harm the body, and warming too slowly can cause brain damage.

Smith’s chest was left open overnight to ensure bleeding had stopped. Then they put Smith “back together” and took him off the bypass machine.

“The big thing then is to wait to see if they wake up,” DeWitt said. “Some are brain dead.”

Smith also experienced a collapsed lung and is working on rebuilding his lung capacity.

“It’s like everything was trying to go wrong all at once,” he said.

DeWitt said Smith had a 50 percent chance of dying. But Smith said he never thought about that.

“Death didn’t even cross my mind,” he said. “I was just thinking about getting better. … The first person I thought about was my wife. I prayed she would be strong.””

Technically, Smith did die. His heart stopped and had to be shocked right after surgery.

“It’s an experience that has totally changed my life,” he said.

His eating habits are just one of the serious changes he’s made. He’s lost 52 pounds in the month since his surgeries. He also is implementing a walking regimen and spending time with family and friends.

“When you go through a situation like this, you have to have a strong support group,” Smith said, pointing to his wife and several members of his church, including his pastor. “And I had it. … They visited me. They prayed for me. They were there for me.”

When Smith was in the hospital the Rev. Carl Means notified his congregation and called for prayer for Smith and his family, reminding God of his faithfulness, Means said.

DeWitt is one of the first to admit that the prayers worked.

“I think people wonder nowadays ‘Where’s the miracle?'” DeWitt said. “This is a miracle of modern medical care and prayer.”

As a young and healthy person without pre-existing heart issues, Smith did not expect anything like this. That’s the way of an aortic dissection, which is hard to prepare for or catch.

Some contributing factors are uncontrolled hypertension or the genetic disorder Marfan Syndrome, a condition that weakens connective tissue. It is more common in older patients.

DeWitt said the aortic dissection condition is becoming more common, which could be a result of more awareness and ability diagnosis in emergency rooms. He said, between the three local cardiac surgeons, the previous average of about three cases a year has increased to about one or two a month over the last few years.

Cheryl Devine-41

Name: Cheryl Devine
Age at time of Dissection: 41
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 November 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

After my daily gym workout, I returned home to prepare for bed & work the next day to feel a burning sensation in my chest, rapidly creeping up my neck. I assumed it was acid reflux which I had never experienced before so I wasn’t sure exactly. I phone a friend.

She decided to call 911 and I was transported by EMT to the local ER. The ER Doctor ran a CT Scan and immediately ordered a life flight helicopter ride to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to have open surgery for Type A dissection. Survival was 10% and rapidly declining and had just minutes to get started. After 13 hours of surgery I’m here to tell about it.

In my 5th week of recovery i experienced Type B dissection, a 2nd life flight and ICU since surgery was out of the question. Now after 5 years they are still managing the Type B dissection with meds but the dissection is growing larger. They are closely watching it. I have found little support for how to cope, exercise, and live normally without difficulties.

Fay N-31

Name: Fay N
Age at time of Dissection: 31
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 April 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I‘m 32 years old, and i just found out a month ago that i have a descending aortic dissection, 5.8 cm in size. Here’s my story:

I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl on March 29, 2013. 4 days after i gave birth, i was home sitting down on the couch having lunch, when i suddenly felt the most agonizing, worst pain i have ever felt. It was as if i was stabbed in the back, or as if i was having a heart attack. i couldn’t speak out for a few seconds to let my mom know what was going on, then i started screaming that i was dying, and i couldn’t breath.

I was curled up on the floor because i couldn’t lie down on my back because the pain got so much worse. By the time the ambulance arrived, i had been screaming for about 30 minutes. They had to take me to the hospital sitting down because it was impossible for me to lie on my back. They gave me the oxygen mask so i could breath better.

We got to the hospital, everyone was clueless, they gave me some pain meds, and decided it was a severe muscle spasm. i went back home, and i was still in very bad pain; i woke my husband up in the middle of the night and told him that i needed to go to the hospital, so we went to a different ER, they refused to admit me because they didn’t know what was wrong. Then we decided to go to another ER, they gave me a shot of pain killers and sent me home.
I was still in pain for days, i couldn’t sleep at night, and couldn’t lie down on my back because of the shortness of breath, on my side because of the C-section. It was hell!

A doctor came home to check on me, and decided to give me Valium because he also thought it was a muscle spasm, but it was the only medication that made me feel a bit better.

I lived with this pain for about a month, back, chest, lower back , etc.. During this year and a half, i always felt tired, anxious, a little bit depressed. I felt that there was something wrong, but i never thought to look further.

I used to wake up in the middle of the night to the stabbing pain between my shoulder blades, sometimes in my upper abdomen, but i always thought it was stress. Until last month, i went for my yearly check up, and my gyno told me to get an abdominal echo to make sure that i didn’t have gallbladder stones (which it turns out i have 2), and this is when we found out!

I’m still trying to accept this fact. I thank God that I’m still alive, because a lot of things could’ve gone wrong during this year and a half, especially that the first 2 years after a dissection are the most critical.
My doctor tells me I’m lucky, specially that i was already on beta blockers all this time because of my tachycardia.

He also told me that i shouldn’t get pregnant again, anyways, even if he did allow me, i wouldn’t take the risk, because I’m almost sure that pregnancy was one of the risk factors. It makes me sad that i won’t have another child, but then again, i thank God i have a beautiful girl.

Now i can say that my level of anxiety went up a little bit, i worry that something might happen to me. A doctor in the US told me that i should have an operation soon, while my doctors back home say that i should wait because the risk of an operation is higher than medical management. i want to get another medical opinion from Europe to make up my mind.

This is my story, i would like to end by saying that definitely my family’s help and support, specially my husband and my sister, are giving me strength and positively to overcome this. I need to stay healthy and do whatever i can to be here for them and for my baby girl.

Stephanie DeHart-55

Name: Stephanie DeHart
Age at time of Dissection: 55
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 26 April 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

I actually had an SMA dissection 16 days after a bad fall.

I slipped and fell hard – 4 days later I felt myself prolapse- unreal
I had a3rd degree rectocele and urogyn posted me for posterior vaginal repair Then

16 days after I fell (and 10 days before my scheduled pelvic surgery) I felt a fullness like maybe I prolapsed further so I saw the urogyn who said everything was fine.

The next morning I was awakened at 5am in a pool of sweat and had the most searing stabbing horrible upper abdominal pain which radiated around to my back. I could only walk doubled over. I was also massively nauseated.
I went to my primary care doc who thought it was a kidney stone but CT showed SMA dissection.

I was taken by ACLS ambulance and admitted and given pain meds around the clock to relieve my agony. I was also placed NPO (for 3days)

On day 3 CT showed dissection worse.
So I was taken to OR -before I went the priest gave me last rites.
They went through my groin & 2 overlapping stents were placed in a 4 hour emergency surgery.

It took longer than usual I was told because I have a “replaced right hepatic artery” which is why they put 2 stents in the SMA. It also means if that thing blew then my liver would have been annihilated along with my small intestine. OMG

Anyway I went home the next day! And then one week later had my posterior vaginal repair.
I’m alive! And glad to be here as I have 3 children to raise by myself.
I feel good and am being followed every 6 months with an ultrasound to check stent flow.

So far so good and dr is saying 5 year out is pretty good but I’ll need some ballooning probably
I am 56 years old and wish I knew of someone else who has been through this. From what I hear this is so rare that there aren’t a whole lot of documented cases.

High hospital admissions for acute aortic dissection coincide with peak flu season

article source:
Hospital admissions for acute aortic dissection were highest during peak flu season November-March, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

Acute aortic dissection (AAD) is a life-threatening condition in which blood leaks from the aorta, the major artery that carries blood from the heart to the body. The leak is often caused by a tear in the inside wall of the aorta. The most common symptom of aortic dissection is sudden and severe chest or upper back pain.

Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston compared national flu activity from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to monthly admissions for AAD at their center for 2001-13. They found:
Doctors treated 869 AAD patients at UT-Houston during the period.

Admissions for AAD were highest in November-March (3.1 per month during this period compared to 2.1 per month for the remaining months).

Flu activity (percent of office visits for flu-like illness) averaged 2.6 percent during the peak AAD period (November-March) compared to 1.1 percent in the remaining months.

A mathematical model showed statistically significant seasonality and showed type A dissection and flu activity moving cyclically and generally in synchrony throughout the period.
Type A dissection was significantly linked with peak flu activity.

Type A dissection, the most devastating type of AAD dissection, involves the ascending aorta and/or aortic arch and possibly the descending aorta. Type A generally requires surgery.

“We suspect that flu creates an inflammatory reaction that could theoretically increase chances of dissection in susceptible individuals,” said Harleen K. Sandhu, M.D., M.P.H., study senior researcher. “While more research is needed to further explore this association, we suggest at-risk patients, such as older Americans, should get seasonal flu shots.”

Could Flu Raise Risk of Fatal Artery Tear?

Article source:

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Nov. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Influenza is a nasty virus in its own right. But, it might also increase a person’s risk of suffering a life-threatening tear in the body’s most important artery, a new study suggests.

During flu season, an increased number of people land in the hospital with a potentially fatal leak in their aorta, the major artery that carries blood from the heart to the body, report researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

This condition, known as acute aortic dissection, can be fatal if not treated promptly. Actor John Ritter died unexpectedly from aortic dissection in 2003 during rehearsals for his television show.

“Admissions for acute aortic dissection are higher in our center during flu season than at other times of year,” said lead author Dr. Harleen Sandhu, a senior researcher at the university’s department of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery. “People with a family history of aortic dissection should discuss flu shots with their physicians,” she suggested.

The study findings are to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, in Chicago.

The leak in the aorta often is caused by a tear in the inside wall of the aorta. The most common symptom is sudden and severe chest or upper back pain.

Previous research has revealed that there are seasonal variations in cases of aortic dissection, with more occurring in the winter, said Dr. Eric Roselli, a heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved with the study.

Such ruptures of the aorta caused nearly 10,600 deaths and contributed to over 17,000 deaths in the United States in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But the condition remains mysterious. “We don’t know why people have dissections,” Roselli said, noting that high blood pressure and genetics are two known risk factors.

The University of Texas researchers wondered if the winter increase had anything to do with seasonal flu activity, Sandhu said. They decided to compare CDC national flu data against admissions at their hospital for aortic dissection, examining the period between 2001 and 2013.

Doctors treated 869 patients for ruptures of the aorta during that period. Hospital admissions for the condition were highest in November through March — an average 3.1 patients per month, compared with 2.1 per month the rest of the year.

The investigators found that flu activity more than doubled during those same months. Office visits for flu symptoms averaged 2.6 percent during the peak period for aortic dissection, compared to 1.1 percent the rest of the year.

“Our results confirmed the seasonal variation in acute aortic dissection as well as demonstrated a positive correlation with seasonal flu activity,” Sandhu said.

Sandhu and her colleagues can’t say why the flu might increase a person’s risk for rupture of the aorta. “At this stage, we can only speculate that the flu creates an inflammatory reaction that could theoretically increase chances of dissection in susceptible individuals,” she said.

Roselli said it’s too early to conclude that the flu causes aortic dissections, noting that the new study only showed an association between the two conditions.

“To make the leap that people should get their flu vaccination because of this association is really making a big assumption,” he said. “I like the fact they’re exploring this idea of whether there’s some sort of factor in our environment that explains dissection, but I think it’s a pretty big leap to say you should get your flu shot to prevent dissection.”

The association might have been stronger if the researchers could have said whether people who came to the hospital with an aortic dissection also were experiencing flu symptoms, Roselli said, suggesting that as an area of future research.

Danielle Haines-32

Name: Danielle Haines
Age at time of Dissection: 32
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 5 May 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

When I went to my local ER at the end of April, I thought I was having a panic attack. It had happened before, my chest would start to ache and hurt, and I would go in and they would give me a shot to help me relax, then send me home.

This time was different, because when Dr. Turner realized that I have Marfan’s Syndrome, he asked me to get x-rays. When those came back, he was worried, and asked me to get a CT scan. I was worried at that point, because I know doctors don’t just send patients out for extra tests “just because.”

Come to find out, I had two major dissections in my descending aorta–one that was almost the size of a soda can. He immediately told me that I had to have emergency surgery, but there simply wasn’t anyone qualified in my state (Kansas) who could perform the operation. It took them a long time to get things in order, because none of the surgeons locally wanted to take my case, because everybody was certain I was going to die.

Eventually I had a consulting surgeon who signed on, as well as a cardiologist locally, and the next thing I knew my mom and I were on a private jet on our way to Houston.

After taking all the tests to make sure that my body was healthy enough to take the surgery, Dr. Safi (the amazing doctor who performed my surgeries) decided that everything was fine and we were ready to go. Some time after my first surgery, they told me that I had to have a second surgery, because I had so many issues with my descending aorta that they simply couldn’t do it all in one surgery.

I spent 39 days in the hospital. Two people got fired because of the way they treated me, as well as their other patients. It wasn’t until after my second surgery that I realized how close I was to dying. I was only 32! Surgeries like this are supposed to be for older people, not people my age. I still cry about it sometimes.

It’s been five months since my first surgery, and on the 22nd it will be 5 months since my second surgery, and I’m still in major pain on a regular basis. My PCP is at a residency clinic, and every time he has a new student working with him, they always timidly ask me if they can see my scar. Sometimes I feel like a freak. I don’t have anyone to talk to that understands what I’ve gone through, or what I’m still going through. This is the single worst thing I’ve ever gone through in my life, and if I was religious, I’d pray every single day that I never have to go through anything like this ever again.

Mortality associated with aortic dissection improved in recent years

Mortality associated with aortic dissection improved in recent years
Mody PS. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2014;doi:10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.114.001140.
October 21, 2014
Article Source:

From 2000 to 2011, mortality rates improved for patients with aortic dissection while hospitalization rates remained stable during the same period.

Researchers analyzed Medicare data from 2000 to 2011 to determine trends in hospitalization, mortality and interventions for patients with aortic dissection. During that time, they documented 32,057 hospitalizations for aortic dissection among Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries.

Comorbidities in patients hospitalized for aortic dissection that increased over time included hypertension (2000, 65%; 2011, 71.5%), diabetes (2000, 8.9%; 2011, 13.9%), dementia (2000, 3.8%; 2011, 7.3%), renal failure (2000, 3%; 2011, 9.2%), pneumonia (2000, 8.5%; 2011, 12.6%), respiratory failure (2000, 2.1%; 2011, 5.1%) and depression (2000, 3.3%; 2011, 6.5%).

“Prior literature demonstrates that the profile of patients with chronic [CV] conditions, such as [HF], has become sicker with significant increase in the age and proportion of chronic comorbidities over the last decade,” Purav S. Mody, MD, from the department of internal medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and colleagues wrote. “Hence, the aforementioned temporal changes in comorbidities are most likely real vs. more intense coding practice patterns.”

Hospitalization rates stable

The rate of hospitalization for aortic dissection remained stable throughout the study period at 10 per 100,000 person-years. Rates were also stable for all age, race and sex subgroups, and remained highest for older, male and black adults.

In all patients, the observed rate of 30-day mortality decreased from 31.8% in 2000 to 25.4% in 2011 (difference, 6.4%; 95% CI, 6.2-6.5; difference after adjustment for age, sex, race and comorbidities, 6.4%; 95% CI, 5.7-6.9) and the observed rate of 1-year mortality decreased from 42.6% in 2000 to 37.4% in 2011 (difference, 5.2%; 95% CI, 5.1-5.2; adjusted difference, 6.2%; 95% CI, 5.3-6.7), according to the researchers.

Breakdown by intervention

Mortality rates for patient subgroups by intervention were as follows:

•Patients undergoing surgical repair for type A dissections: 2000 30-day mortality, 30.7%; 2011 30-day mortality, 21.4%; difference, 9.3%; 95% CI, 8.3-10.2; adjusted difference, 7.3%; 95% CI, 5.8-7.8; 2000 1-year mortality, 39.9%; 2011 1-year mortality, 31.6%; difference, 8.3%; 95% CI, 7.5-9.1; adjusted difference, 8.2%; 95% CI, 6.7-9.1.
•Patients undergoing surgical repair for type B dissections: 2000 30-day mortality, 24.9%; 2011 30-day mortality, 21%; difference, 3.9%; 95% CI, 3.5-4.2; adjusted difference, 2.9%; 95% CI, 0.7-4.4; 2000 1-year mortality, 36.4%; 2011 1-year mortality, 32.5%; difference, 3.9%; 95% CI, 3.3-4.3; adjusted difference, 3.9%; 95% CI, 2.5-6.3.
•Patients treated with medical management only: decline from 2000 to 2011 in 30-day mortality, 3.9%; 95% CI, 3.8-4.1; adjusted difference, 4.5%; 95% CI, 3.4-5.2; decline between 2000 and 2011 in 1-year mortality, 2.4%; 95% CI, 2.3-2.7; adjusted difference, 4%; 95% CI, 2.6-4.9.

•Patients undergoing thoracic endovascular aortic repair, which was introduced in 2005: 2005 30-day mortality, 9.5%; 2011 30-day mortality, 13.9%; P=.4; 2005 1-year mortality, 16.7%; 2011 30-day mortality, 25.8%; P=.3; the sample sizes were too small to calculate adjusted mortality rates.
Disclosure: The study was supported by the NHLBI.

Exercise after an Aortic Dissection

Cardiology Patient Page
Activity Recommendations for Postaortic Dissection Patients
Ashish Chaddha, BS; Eva Kline-Rogers, MS, RN, NP; Elise M. Woznicki, BS; Robert Brook, MD; Susan Housholder-Hughes, MSN, RN, ANP-BC; Alan C. Braverman, MD; Linda Pitler, RN, MS, CCRC; Alan T. Hirsch, MD; Kim A. Eagle, MD
+ Author Affiliations

From the Cardiovascular Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI (A.C., E.K.-R., E.M.W., R.B., S.H-H., K.A.E); the Cardiovascular Division, Washington University, St. Louis, MO (A.C.B.); the Thoracic Aortic Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA (L.P.); and the Cardiovascular Division, University of Minnesota Physicians Heart Practice, Minneapolis, MN (A.T.H.).
Correspondence to Ashish Chaddha, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, 6665 Crabapple Court, Troy, MI 48098. E-mail

Individuals who have survived an aortic dissection are often faced with the question of how life can be maximally and safely lived, with functional independence preserved. Routine exercise is important for both physical and emotional health. During exercise, blood pressure and heart rate increase in part related to the intensity, duration, and specific type of activity performed. The goal of this Cardiology Patient Page is to provide the postaortic dissection patient with an understanding of how blood pressure changes with different activities. We will provide information to patients and families that leads to a greater sense of comfort during physical activity, while possibly decreasing the risk of future aortic complications, thus improving overall quality of life. It is our goal that patients will continue to engage in consistent exercise, given its beneficial effects on mental, physical, and emotional health.

Handgrip Exercise

When a handgrip (Figure) is squeezed maximally for 1 minute, the systolic blood pressure (SBP) increases by approximately 50 mm Hg. The diastolic pressure increases by about 30 mm Hg.1 When a handgrip is squeezed at 30% of maximal effort, the SBP increases by about 20 to 30 mm Hg, and the diastolic pressure increases by about 10 to 20 mm Hg. Although these studies are limited by small sample size, they do suggest that blood pressure may increase more than is appreciated during everyday activities requiring significant effort, such as carrying a heavy bag. The degree of increase in BP depends on how hard the handgrip is squeezed, with the increase being greater for maximal versus submaximal effort. Thus, for aortic dissection survivors, it is prudent to minimize carrying objects that are so heavy as to require a maximal or near maximal effort.

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Illustration of various exercises. A, Handgrip exercise. B, Bicep curl.

Aerobic Exercise

The increase in BP during aerobic activity depends on the level of exertion. Metabolic equivalents (METs) refer to the intensity of the exercise. A more intense activity has a higher MET value (Table). For individuals with and without high BP, the SBP may increase by 8 to 12 mm Hg per MET of aerobic activity, with only a minimal effect on diastolic pressure. For example, SBP while running at 8 mph (13.5 METs) may increase by 108 to 162 mm Hg over resting levels whereas SBP may only increase by 26 to 40 mm Hg during brisk walking at 3 mph (3 METs). Thus, it is thought that a higher pressure may lead to a higher wall stress on the aorta, increasing the chance of a complication. It may be beneficial to take a cautious approach and limit activities that require extreme or maximal exertion (eg, running, sprinting), as well as activities such as chopping wood, shoveling snow, and mowing the lawn with a nonriding or non–self-propelled mower. The Table lists various activities and their corresponding MET value.

MET Values For Various Exercise and Daily Activities2


BP increased to about 230/165 mm Hg (from 130/80 mm Hg) when a biceps curl was performed with heavy weights for the maximum amount of repetitions possible (meaning failure was reached as even 1 more repetition could not be performed without rest), with heavy referring to a weight that is 90% of the 1-repetition maximum (a weight with which only 1 repetition can be performed). Using lighter weights (40% of the 1-repetition maximum) led to an even greater increase in BP if the maximum number of repetitions possible was performed.3 Thus, when weightlifting, it seems that the greatest increase in blood pressure occurs when performing repetitions to the point that even 1 more cannot be performed, regardless of how light or heavy the weight is. Given this, it is important for the postaortic dissection patient to use a low amount of weight and to stop several repetitions before failure. These data may also suggest using caution and minimizing lifting heavy objects, with heavy being defined as objects that require a lot of effort and straining (such as a Valsalva maneuver) to lift.

Daily Exercise Suggestions

Regular aerobic exercise may lower resting BP by a greater amount compared with weight lifting (3–8 mm Hg versus 2–3 mm Hg).4 Lowering resting BP may reduce the chance of future aortic complications. High intensity exercise may not be necessary to receive these benefits.4 The general health recommendation is to engage in aerobic activity at an intensity of 3 to 5 METs (moderate exertion), for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, for a total of 150 minutes/week or more. Thus, walking, slow jogging, and recreational cycling at a casual pace may be sufficient if the goal is a reduction in resting blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health, while possibly minimizing the risk of aortic complications. We also recommend weightlifting using a very low amount of weights, given its positive effect on strength and bone mineral density, but encourage patients to avoid straining and to stop well before fatigue.

Sexual Activity

Sexual activity has only a moderate effect on BP and HR among healthy individuals. The greatest increase in blood pressure during sexual activity occurs at orgasm, with an increase in SBP of 40 mm Hg. The BP normalizes within 2 minutes. A common sense approach to sexual activity, avoiding straining or maximal exertion, may be safe for the postdissection patient.


Routine physical exercise performed at a safe level is important for all individuals, including the patient after aortic dissection. It is prudent for postaortic dissection patients to minimize carrying objects that are so heavy that one has to strain or squeeze. It may also be important to avoid maximal exertion during aerobic activity (eg, running, sprinting). We recommend aerobic exercise at mild to moderate exertion (3–5 METs), for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week, for a total of 150 minutes/week, if the goal is a reduction in resting blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health, while possibly minimizing the risk of aortic dissection. If weightlifting is performed, we recommend using small amounts of weight and stopping several repetitions before failure, which will avoid straining. We suggest a common sense approach to sexual activity by avoiding straining, intense physical activity, or performance leading to shortness of breath. Because the response of BP and HR to exercise may vary widely among different individuals, one may consider low-level exercise testing or monitoring BP and HR during activity to ensure safety. Lastly, we encourage patients to discuss their activity concerns with the clinicians monitoring their cardiovascular health.

Amy Gonzales-90

Name: Amy Gonzales
Age at time of Dissection: 90
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 October 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

This is my story, but I am not the one with an aortic dissection. I am looking for answers because my grandmother has one. She is 90 years old and has lived a good life. She has a DNR, and is sure that is what she wants. I live 6 hours away, and I just feel helpless. My mom, aunt, and uncle are with her, but I am not getting much information.

I do not know exactly where her dissection is or what type, but I do know they said the scar tissue from a bypass surgery was holding things together at the moment. They are sounding as though she is not going to make it through, but she has made it to almost 48 hours.

Can you give me any insight to what to expect? They are telling me it could be fast or slow, but not really defining what that means. She is heavily medicated, but conscious and aware. I am just trying to grasp best and worse case scenarios.

My grandfather is 92 and still alive. I am just so sad for everyone, and it seems as though she is in a lot of pain. Any insight would be appreciated.
Thank you!

Thank you so much for your prompt response, but I got the answers tonight. My grandmother passed. I am relieved she is not suffering but very concerned what this will do to my grandfather. He is 92 and they have been married for 68 years. He is already having circulation problems and he is diabetic. So we are moving on to best ways to care for him. I am grateful it went relatively quickly for her, and hope she is in a better place.
Amy Gonzales

Vangeline Perry-45

Name: Vangeline Perry
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 31 July 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

On this beautiful July day I enjoyed my day with family and co workers. I had planned a evening of fun as well with family. I arrived at my home to prepare to go out. As I arrived to my home I started to feel funny. A feeling unknown, I had not felt this feeling before.

I continued on to bathroom where my husband stated I fell to the floor and he picked me up and hurried me to the near by hospital. Where they air lifted me to a hospital that was equipped to handle my condition. I had no clue what had happen to me after arriving home. 5 or 6 days later I awakened to tubes and machines every where. The doctor responsible for my survival is Dr.Anderson and his team at heart institute of Greenville NC.

I am grateful for their quick response and positive words and constant intervention of my medical needs. I suffered a aortic dissection with a thyroid mass caused by graves disease. I had to have a incision to the right leg do to pressure that caused drop foot.

I pray that one day I can repay these awesome professionals for their loyal dedication to ensure my recovery.I had no idea what was happening nor what did happen to me. There was no early signs. It is very important to get regular check ups and pay attention to what your body say to you.

Something worth watching and making a decision on your faith

I know that GOD spared me a second chance at life, I also know that I am not perfect and that I am a sinner. I know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins and rose again on the third day and is seated at the right hand of the father. I also know for a fact that he’s coming back soon to remove the church and then the tribulation will begin -a time of Jacob’s trouble it’s called. You can say, “oh Brian………… you are crazy, the Bible isn’t true, there’s no Jesus, no GOD, everything is just going to work out”. However, what if you are wrong? What if these signs (in the video) of these prophetic events are true? What if there is a HELL? It’s just my hope to not pass judgement, rather to offer you another chance to perhaps reconsider your external future?

Aortic dissection leads to man’s death in the ED: His wife’s perspective

Article Source:

A woman wrote to me about the day her husband died. I have edited her email for length and clarity and changed some insignificant details to protect her anonymity as she requested.

Joe passed away outside in the parking lot while they were getting on a helicopter for transport to a hospital equipped to do his surgery.

He had presented to the ED in terrible pain with lots of thrashing and writhing. His right hand was very cold. His right arm tingled to the point of hurting bad. The vision in his right eye was cloudy, and his hearing was muffled on the right. This was in addition to being very pale and diaphoretic upon admission. This is when I felt a dissecting aorta should have been suspected.

I don’t recall the vitals in the beginning, but they were changing and his blood pressure was dropping very fast. As soon as they finished the EKG-in the first 5 minutes of the visit, I asked the doctor about John Ritter’s death [the actor died of a dissecting thoracic aneurysm in 2003]. First I asked if he could check for the condition that caused John Ritter’s death. I called it an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The doc corrected me and said that it wasn’t an AAA it was a dissected aorta. I said OK, then check for that. This was 1 hour before the CT scan that led to his diagnosis.

After the conversation about the dissected aorta the doctor said they are going to check for a lot of things. I am getting pretty anxious at this point because Joe was in so much pain. I have never seen anything like it. The nurse walked in really slowly with a syringe and a paper cup. She went to the keyboard and starting asking him questions. Again…really slowly. I kept looking at that syringe wanting her to give him that shot. It turns out the shot was for nausea.

Then she gave him the cup with Maalox and lidocaine and said that would let us know if it was heartburn or not. She said we had to wait about 5 minutes. Joe assured her that it was not heartburn. After about 15 minutes, I went to the nurses’ station to ask for help. I said that I hated to be one of those kind of people that go to the nurses’ station to ask for help, but we really needed it. I said please do something for his pain. The response was “The doctor is putting in an order now”. Then she told me that first they are going to take him for a chest x-ray. After x-ray he got his first dose of morphine. That was the end of the casual part of the visit.

When the CXR came back there was a noticeable “flare” of the ascending aorta. Then we had to wait for the radiologist to call back and confirm. That ate up about another 20 minutes. Confirmation was made and CT scan was ordered and another dose of morphine was given because Joe couldn’t be still for the CT. Things went into full tilt at this point. Life flight was called; surgeons were contacted. We had to go to another hospital because they couldn’t crack a chest at the hospital where we were. I did not realize hospitals had these kind of limitations. Had I known, I would have taken him straight to our medical center.

He went into cardiac arrest as they put him in the helicopter. The doctor came out and started doing chest compressions. Common sense told me that chest compressions were not going to restart a heart with a tear in the aorta. I knew it was over at that point. The doc came to me and said they were going to take him back in and put a tube in to get him breathing. I knew he had bled to death and the tube was not going to do anything.

When he was recapping after Joe died, the doctor said to me that he had wanted to make sure this was not a lot of drama. I could tell that was his attitude from the get-go. Joe had every symptom of an aortic dissection. He may have had about a 30% chance of surviving the surgery, but they let the clock run out.

My husband was 54. We had two children late in life—my husband’s only children.

I do blame misuse of the ED. As doctors, you have to sort out the motivations of every patient, not just the symptoms. Not to mention the people that use the ED as a regular doctor’s office. I get irritated when patients complain that the ED doc wasn’t nice and compassionate when they went to the ER for pink eye. They don’t know if this doctor just had to tell a man’s wife that her husband died of an aortic dissection. That can affect a doctor’s mood.

I feel like I am doing something good for my husband by creating awareness for ED misuse and overuse. I think the doc was skeptical about Joe’s pain. ED docs see all kind of crazy stuff. They see the good, the bad, and the ugly. I believe a kind of “burn out” contributed to Joe’s death. There were 2 pink eye patients the night we were at the hospital. How can an ED doc not be burned out?

Marie Fishwick-56

Name: Marie Fishwick
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 31 October 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Marie Fishwick and I was very busy 56 year old working upto 42 hours per week caring for others. I have a back ground of high blood pressure for around 20 years and although I always took my medication I didn’t always keep my checks ups (stupid I know) due to fear of knowing what my blood pressure was. I wish I had now.

On Wednesday 31st October 2012 I woke up at 7am to get ready for work then ten minutes later while still in bed I had sudden severe pain in my lower abdomen at the front, within minutes it went round the back the upwards to my chest. I knew it seemed serious but thought I would try painkillers and indigestion remedies first, after an hour I got myself to the hospital and explained what was happening. I was immediately taken through to a&e and checked for heart problems but nothing was found.

I have never been in as much pain, nothing they gave me stopped it and I couldn’t keep still. After xrays, blood tests and different pain relief I was eventually sent for a ct scan more than 6 hour’s after arriving at hospital. I had moved to the assessment ward by this stage where a sister in charge and a training specialist came to me and pulled the curtains round the bed. They told me I had a descending aortic dissection and it was serious, I knew quite a lot about the body and knew immediately what I had, I was alone and scarred as I had sent my family home to return later at visiting time. My daughter was pregnant with her first child and I hadn’t told her I was in hospital- how could I tell her. I rang a good friend to come immediately and explained I couldn’t tell my family but knew I had to.

At visiting I told my husband and mum and was taken on to coronary care unit, I was put complete bed rest with oxygen, monitors, catheter, drip and various other things and was told it could mean an operation. I could hear them on the phone all through the night talking to other hospitals about me and putting them on standby. The hospital I was in didn’t see many people with an aortic dissection. I survived the night and was told the first 72 hours were critical. I knew I had to try and keep calm due to my blood pressure going up, I survived the critical time limit and was given morphine all the time I was in but it was never enough to get rid of the pain.

After 16 days in hospital I went home with lots and lots of medication and I was petrified of dying, the amount of fear is unbearable and you feel so alone. I knew no one with the condition and knew of no backup on the Internet. I had the worst time over the next few months, couldn’t eat, sleep and lack of interest. I should have had a hospital appointment after six weeks but it turn into 16 weeks, I though I was losing the plot and went to the doctors for an increase in my antidepressants, he was very supportive. I cried and cried for months. Now I am nearing my second year a things have changed so much in my attitude towards my condition, yes I’ve got it but I need to live my life without fear and I do. I have found groups on Facebook with similar and much much worse, I consider myself lucky. Please try to let your fear go or it will eat you away

First comprehensive ESC Guidelines on aortic diseases published

Barcelona, Spain – Saturday 30 August 2014: The first comprehensive ESC Guidelines on aortic diseases are published today. They are presented at ESC Congress 2014 by Task Force Chairpersons Professor Raimund Erbel (Germany) and Professor Victor Aboyans (France).

The “2014 ESC Guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of aortic diseases” are published today online in European Heart Journal (1) and on the ESC Website.

Professor Erbel said: “Previous ESC recommendations were published in 2001 but they were restricted to the diagnosis and management of aortic dissection. The current document also covers aneurysms, calcifications, congenital diseases leading to aneurysms, aortic inflammation (aortitis) and aortic tumors. In addition, the 2001 paper focused on diseases in the thoracic aorta but now we also include diseases in the abdominal aorta.”

He added: “In the last 13 years considerable progress has been made in imaging with computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and we can examine the aorta in much more detail. We now have software which provides 3D reconstructions and enables us to look at the total structure of the aorta. Taken together, these advances have improved the evidence base for the diagnosis and treatment of the entire aorta.”

The guidelines provide the first flow chart to aid decision making in acute aortic syndrome. In the emergency room, a medical history, clinical examination and electrocardiogram (ECG) are used to determine whether the patient is stable or unstable. This decision differentiates the further diagnostic and treatment steps to be used.

Professor Erbel said: “This is a parallel situation to chest pain units for the diagnosis of acute coronary syndromes (ACS), which include myocardial infarction, unstable angina and sudden cardiac death. Acute aortic syndrome is a very severe disease of the aorta and an urgent situation. Similar to ACS, we need to make sure that we do not miss the diagnosis but also that we do not over diagnose. Our strategy should improve the accuracy of diagnosis in the emergency room and ensure that patients get appropriate treatment quickly.”

The document recommends opportunistic screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) when patients attend a cardiology clinic. Professor Aboyans said: “Ruptured AAA leads to death in more than 60% of cases but more than 95% of patients survive if they have a planned operation before it ruptures. AAAs often have no symptoms and may not be picked up. But screening using echocardiography takes just two minutes and could make a big difference to patients who are found to have the disease.”

New hybrid treatments have emerged in the last decade with cardiologists and surgeons working together. Surgery has been combined with percutaneous catheter based interventions and implantation of aortic graft stents. The guidelines recommend when to use these hybrid approaches such as the ‘frozen elephant trunk’ in which a graft stent from the heart goes to the descending aorta and is fixed in the aorta with a stent.

Professor Aboyans said: “Beyond prompt interventional management of aortic aneurysms, elderly patients affected by these conditions are at very high risk of cardiovascular events. Most of them would die from MI or stroke rather than the aortic lesion, so general preventive measures are also of outmost importance.”

The guidelines recommend that aortic teams be established in hospitals, particularly for acute aortic syndromes. These include cardiology, radiology, cardiac and vascular surgery, paediatric cardiology, and genetics. Professor Erbel said: “The concept is similar to the heart team because aortic diseases require a multidisciplinary approach for deciding the best way forward for each individual patient. Some centres in Europe have already shown that aortic teams are a success but they need to be rolled out more widely.”

He added: “Aortic diseases are to a great extent a disease of the elderly and are becoming more common as the population ages. We now have better diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities and the guidelines provide a comprehensive overview of best practice with clear recommendations on all diseases of the aorta.”

Professor Erbel concluded: “Diseases of the aorta are usually an emergency situation with a high mortality rate and there is a limited time window to restore blood flow and save organs and limbs. We hope that the flow chart for acute aortic syndrome will lead to earlier diagnosis and rapid treatment with improved patient outcomes.”

12 Years Anniversary!!!! 8/22/2014

Well, they said I had a 50/50 chance of living after my initial open heart surgery. Then they said I had 50% chance of making it past 10 years, so here I am! I made it and continue to live each day very thankful. I am feeling pretty darn good, my tennis game is in a bit of a pickle as I have a bad case of Osteoarthritis in my left hip. I have seen 3 surgeons and they all agree. I got a cortisone shot and it feels a bit better and I am making due with it, it’s not that painful, just hard to put on my left shoe and sock. I have a special sock tool and my wife or kids help me tie my left shoe.

I just got taken to the cleaners on a bad Craigslist deal while buying a gift for my wife. I was going to surprise her, and drove 150 miles, rented a car, and when I got there to purchase what I was told was an excellent condition interior and a car “my wife would drive” I found out that it was missing the back seat and roof rack (which I didn’t know) till my wife told me. After I put a new muffler on it (my choice) I had the oil changed and was told the front left tie-rod was shot, so $500.00 later, $300 for the muffler and then $1200.00 for both front and back brakes plus the left front air ride shock was shot and had to get new ones up front. Lesson learned, don’t by on emotions even though I was trying to do a good thing for my wife. Now, the title will be here tomorrow and I have to spend another $500.00 to license it.

Financially, I have been pretty good, haven’t received any donations, but this site isn’t about me, it’s about giving back to others -that was the main goal of the site. I am glad that it’s been 12 years, I have not had a chance to get back to the ER and my thoracic surgeon, Dr. James Brevig to thank them.

All in all, I am thankful to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am not perfect my any means and struggle daily with depression, been on Lexapro for 12 years and top that off with 200 mgs of Toporol XL, I am struggling in other areas as well 🙂

I wish you all the best and will continue to count my blessing and give thanks to the Good Lord for allowing me extra time on this stage.

Kind Regards,
Brian 🙂

Darrell Adkins-52

Name: Darrell Adkins
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 January 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I was a high school basketball referee, played weekly and underwent regular checkups, stress tests, etc as I was a Security Police Officer. I was in the top 10 in all the health tests. I had no warning whatsoever and no one in my family had anything like this happen to them. One morning I was at home and my wife had put on a pot of vegetable soup.

We sat down and drafted our will which we had put off forever, It had snowed and I had my truck at the top of the hill. It was clearing so I went to get the truck. As I pulled in front of the house I felt this horrendous pain in my chest and back, I laid on the horn and started screaming to my wife heart attack 911, heart attack 911. The ambulance couldn’t get to me so they came in a 4 wheel drive truck. They were trying to figure how to get me to the truck and the pain was so bad I said get out of my way I’ll get to the truck. The driver had to put my head in his lap as I was bent over in pain. They got me to the ambulance and told me to lie on the bed. I said I couldn’t and they said the ambulance would not move until I did.

When I laid down I lost all feeling in my left leg. By the time I got to the hospital I had no feeling in either leg. They rushed me to do a CT scan. Next thing I remember I was in a room and just hoping my son got there before I died. A doctor came into the room and said It is not a heart attack it is an aortic dissection and the worst I have ever seen. I was given my last rights as I had a 2% chance of survival. My family got there as well as my son and I was ok with dying. I told each of them what I wanted them to do and I was sorry they couldn’t go with me. We started praying and then this guy walked into the room and said hello I am Dr George Pleagus and I am going to save this mans life. 9 1/2 hours of surgery later I am being pushed down a corridor and I asked the guy is this heaven he said no its the hospital.

I said are we going to surgery and he said you are going to recovery. I said you mean I lived? he said yes so I said pinch me. I was in the hospital for a week the first time but kept losing weight I couldn’t keep anything down. I had lost the use of one kidney and one of my stints blocks the blood flow to my left arm. After several months and the loss of about 50 lbs, I was 175 when it happened, I changed my kidney doctor because I was told the one I had over medicated (I was on 16 pills) My new doctor checked on me in the hospital, I had been there a week she immediately said I had thrush and began the treatment. (changed my med to 4 pills) I started gaining my weight and eating almost immediately.

I was off work for 6 months, it has been four years now and I play am back playing basketball, my left arm still gets weak if I use it too much but I can play golf, fish (No cranking) etc. I have memory problems since the surgery and was recently diagnosed with Cerebral Amaloid Angopathy (brain bleeds). I don’t think I will be able to work much longer as it affects my work. I am truly blessed to be here. I have not changed my diet (I know I should) I now weigh 175 most of it in front of me. I recently had a beautiful granddaughter named Kyliana who just started crawling. I thank God for allowing me the time I have had here and although I hope to live many more years I am ready when it is my time. Remember only God knows when you will get the opportunity to meet his son so keep your head up and enjoy life.

William Vickers -53

Name: William Vickers
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 October 2008
Tell Us Your Story:

I had my ascending aortic dissection in Oct ’08. I had surgery, with a hemashield graft placed in the ascending aorta. I never went back for any post ops (denial) until I had abdominal pains Jan ’14. I had two CT’s at the #1 heart hospital in GA with contrast performed. A doc told me that I was a rock star, that the X-ray viewing room was filled with docs standing in silence with their mouths open when my CT’s were put up.

I pulled up my records yesterday, and now I see why. My aorta is dissected from my neck down to my thighs ( could be higher and lower, but the CT didn’t go there). My graft is leaking, and has an inch thick clot around it. Usually the dissection cuts off blood supply to the branches it passes. But my lungs, liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines are performing fine.

It’s the worst dissection I’ve ever read about. Go figure. Pray, as I do daily. I carry my bible in my car, me and God are buddies. Still working. Going for my brisk walk now. There’s hope for all, is the point of this post.

UPDATE: 2/25/2015:

I have posted in the age 50’s forum as William Vickers previously.

I had a type A aortic dissection 6 yrs ago. Repaired with a graft, but was ‘just too sick’ in the medical report to replace the aortic valve. I was not expected to survive.

This past Thanksgiving eve, I felt pain in my right chest, came home from work, and that’s about all I remember. I live 60 miles from the #1 ranked heart surgery hospital in GA, so I was helicoptered there. My aorta was leaking when I got to the hospital at dark, Dr Clifford Hastings is suppose to be a top heart surgeon. He immediately put me in surgery, opened my chest, and when he did, my aorta burst. I lost 2 L of blood. Dr Hasting didn’t think he could do much for me, but he worked on me for 6 1/2 hrs. He put did a graft, and also replaced the aortic valve.

I was treated in the Ronnie Green Heart Center at NGMC in Gainesville, GA. Ronnie died of a dissection in 2001. He donated the money to build the new heart center. He was my cousin, related through both his mother and father.

I stayed in the ICU there for almost a month. I was on a ventilator for 3 weeks. I would start gagging everytime they tried to take me off it, so they did a trach tube and a feeding tube to my stomach. Then I got some kind of severe infection in my right arm, and was put on Vancomycin IV drip. I don’t remember any of that.

I was moved to a nursing home wing with about 50 very disabled patients in wheel chairs. Most were obviously fixing to die. Most had dementia and sat with their mouths open. I stayed there for over a month. I volunteered for occupational, physical, and speech therapy. I was pretty disabled for about 2 weeks, the mental tests I took showed it. For some reason, I just got a lot better after the first 2 weeks. I became the only patient that didn’t wear a diaper, I was the only patient that could walk, and go into a bathroom.

I retook the mental tests at week 5, and scored almost perfect. I threatened to go home AMA if they didn’t let me out, but I agreed to wait over the weekent till the Dr in charge dismissed me. I walked into the conference room for my exit interview, and they all agreed I was OK to go home.

My question is……have you ever heart of someone with a previous type A dissection, surviving an aorta burst?????? I know most people die before they hit the floor.
My aorta was leaking on the helicopter ride, but it burst when he started the surgery. Dr Hastings said I almost bled to death. My brother said I’m just lucky to be in the right hospital, with the right surgeon, at the right time.

I would like to know if you or any doctor knows it anyone else has survived a burst.

Kenneth Lucas-50

Name: Kenneth Lucas
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 16 August 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

I was working the night shift in a well known grocery store chain. I worked alongside my wife when I started having chest pain along with pain in my left arm. I began perspiring profusely and felt nauseated. My wife had me sit down, and she immediately called 911, fearing that I was suffering a stroke. Paramedics assessed me at the scene and then transported me to the hospital, just minutes away. After a CT scan, I was taken into emergency surgery. After many attempts to repair the aortic dissection, the surgeons were successful.

My chest was left open for about 24 hours to insure I was free of any infection. When I finally woke up, I realized I was left with a severe case of footdrop. The doctors told me that was common with descending aortic dissection, due to lack of blood flow to the lower extremities. Doctors told me later that in another 2 minutes after the dissection I would not have survived. While I’m thankful for everything they did for me, my quality of life has suffered greatly because of the foot drop.

I now walk with the aid of a cane, and cannot stand or walk for long periods. I have since had an artificial aortic valve, aortic root, and implantable cardiac defifrillator installed.

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