Name: Jim Fahlman
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 October 2014
Tell Us Your Story: Type A Aortic Dissection
My name is Jim Fahlman, I was 52 years old at the time of my surgery. I have a girlfriend Jacqueline and 2 children, my son Deron (23) his wife Kelsey and also my daughter Shelby (21). I live in Regina, Saskatchewan Canada but Lived in Weyburn Sask. at the time of my surgery.
It all began on Oct 1/2014. I returned from my day at the office at 5pm and started my 10th day of a 21 day cardio workout as Jackie and I had wanted to get in better shape as we advance into our 50’s and want to live a healthier life style. During my 30 minute DVD workout it was like someone stabbed me right in the upper chest and I dropped to my knees gasping for air. I couldn’t talk or catch my breath so I text Jackie “I can’t breath”(as she just assumed that I must be having a heart attack) and she immediately called my daughter in-law Kelsey to come over to check on me and get me to the local hospital which serves a community of 12,000.
They checked me over (X-ray, ECG, blood test, etc.) and determined that it wasn’t a heart attack but instead possibly a hiatus hernia. So after 12 hours of observation they sent me home the next day at 11 am.
The next day my chest pain had returned but it was more gradual and more of a numbing pain and very laboured breathing. I was driving at the time so went directly to the emergency room (after a quick stop at the fruit stand) as I was only 2 minutes away and they did the same tests. Again all proved negative and after another 6 hours they again sent me home.
I spent the next 2 days in Regina which has a much larger hospital with a high quality Cardiac care facility. On Oct 5th we had return from church and shortly after the numbing chest pains returned and Jackie took me to the Regina General Emergency and they went through the same test as the previous Weyburn hospital. After 3 hours of inconclusive tests, they finally asked if we were on any lengthy road trips lately. We had just gone to Denver (18 hour drive) for a football game. So they immediately did a CT Scan thinking I may have a blood clot.
I returned to the ER 20 minutes later where Surgeon Dr. Mustapha greeted me and informed us that I have a tear in my aorta and that I require emergency open heart surgery or I wouldn’t make the night. He also explained to her the severity of the operation and that there was a high chance of me not making it through the surgery.
He allowed me to call each of my kids for what could possibly be one last “I love you”. I then gave Jackie one last kiss then off to the Operating Room. I then underwent a 10 hour surgery to repair my Type A Aortic Dissection. They were able to repair my valve but replaced approx. 2 inches of aorta just above it. After a few complications (internal bleeding) they left me in an induced coma for the next 30 hours to assist in recovery. All went well over the next 10 days and I was released on Oct 15th.
It’s been a very slow recovery as I am still limited in what I can physically do. I am currently on long term disability and will continue to remain there until after the recovery period of my next upcoming surgery which will be more severe than the first.
I continue to have quarterly CT Scans as the next 10 inches of my aorta (aortic Arch right down to the bottom of my heart) is still enlarged and will be replaced once it hits the 6 cm (diameter) point. This could be in 1 month, 1 year or maybe even 2 years, depending on how fast the diameter of my aortic arch aneurysm continues to leak and expand. They were not able to repair this piece as they needed to get out after 10 hours during the first surgery.
Also this next surgery will need to be performed at the Mazinkowski Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta as it is too complex for our local Cardiac Unit.
A big thank you to Dr. Mustapha and his surgical team for an amazing first surgery and care to this point. The entire hospital stay was 100% positive as each and every doctor, nurse or hospital staff member I have encountered provided exceptional care and service.
As well a big thank you to my gal Jacqueline and our family, friends and co-workers for all the love, prayers and care they provide as it truly is the best medicine (along with the 3 blood pressure medications that I’m currently max’d out on).
One of the largest challenges that I have encountered is to find my new normal as even though life will never be the same you can still appreciate it….even more than before.
God Bless….Jim F.