Name: Carmen David
Age at time of Dissection: 33
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 15 May 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

May 14, 2015 at 10:11pm I gave birth to my second baby girl. 22 hours later, while nursing her on May 15, 2015 around 8pm, I had an aortic dissection. It was soon labeled an Aortic Dissection Type B-Complicated. I was still in Labor and Delivery and felt a severe onset of pain. I was young, healthy and active, I was not pre-eclamptic, had no risk factors, delivery was vaginal with epidural and went smoothly. I felt fine until it happened. A ripping pain started from the base of my neck down my entire spine, then immediately a wave of pain across my stomach then it hit me in the (left) chest and straight through my body to my back.

I gasped and laid the baby down between my legs and called the nurse.They wanted to monitor me for an hour; I said no, something is extremely wrong. Then I remember a doctor asking me my symptoms, I said “I feel like I’m having a heart attack or something” to which his response was “you’re a little young for that”. My obstetrician came fairly quickly but I felt my breathing weak and speaking was slow and quiet already. A chest x-ray and EKG were normal so the thought was maybe something happened with the epidural, so I was sent for a CT scan. The radiologist found the aortic dissection.

I was rushed to another room in like the ER I think to do an A-line (arterial line to read my blood pressure internally) and docs/nurses were trying to call everyone searching for a doc to fix me or take my case. This left me in shock with the details I was overhearing, but that’s another story. I was careflighted from Texas Harris Methodist HEB to Texas Harris Methodist in Fort Worth where a doctor thought the type B dissection I had was manageable by medications but I continued to deteriorate. I had uncontrollable vomit/diarrhea, I could barely whisper and I felt my body shutting down. Much of it I was in shock I think and I just remember voices speaking around me.

That’s all I remember at that point in Fort Worth. Thank God my husband asked for another opinion. A third hospital said she needs surgery now but still the Fort Worth doctor thought he could handle it until ultimately I was so bad he said ok, yea, it’s probably in her best interest. They then ambulanced me to Dallas (storm made them unable to careflight me) to UT Southwestern Medical Center. I underwent surgery there because it was Type B Complicated meaning the dissection was involving part of the arch of the aorta, there was no blood flow to my organs nor to my right leg and they placed 3 stents.

The first surgery was the upper stent and two in my left leg because the arteries collapsed. I was still complaining of abdominal pain so a second surgery with another vascular surgeon was done and he placed 1 more stent, the thoracic stent that butts up directly to the higher one that half way blocks my left subclavian artery. For this surgery they also had to do a lumbar drain in my spine because the thoracic stent blocked a few arteries that supplied blood to my spine. With this they could manually manage blood pressure in my spinal column.

This lumber drain had to stay in 24 hrs after the surgery and I had to lie flat prior to removal and for the day of removal of the drain. In the end they explained that I had multiple tears or that the dissection went all the way down the aorta. I still have an abdominal tear they are monitoring. Meanwhile they had told my family there was high chance I would not make it through surgery, I had not seen my baby (s) and I woke up not knowing where I was and then had to stay in the ICU for 11 days. 3-4 of those days of admission and surgeries I have no memory of.

Then I didn’t get to see my children for 8 days because I couldn’t get out of bed and no children were allowed in ICU due to possibility of them getting sick, which I understood, but this killed me. I fortunately had no major complications after all this given the severity of what had happened. I was told I was lucky to be alive, not to have had kidney failure and that I was lucky to even have my right leg still. After finally somewhat lowering my blood pressure and stabilizing it with medications they released me on tons of medications. My symptoms since have included severe migraines due to the lumbar drain because it took a while for the blood pressure to equalize again in my spine. I could not stand or hardly move without getting these intense positional migraines.

If I coughed it was absolutely horrible. The immense amount of medication early on also played a role in the headaches and took a few weeks to go away. I also have a weak sensation in my hips/legs that even caused me to fall once holding the baby (my legs buckled), leg pain, left flank pain, swelling, abdominal pain/cramping, memory loss & just losing train of thought often, hair loss, severe fatigue, depression and extreme anxiety. I’ve been strictly told I should have no more children so I’ve had an IUD placed until I’m emotionally prepared for a tubal ligation. My husband has been supportive during everything. I probably would also not be here had he not asked for a second opinion. We have had much family and friend help early on after the ordeal and now have thriving little ones running around the house. I’ve been stressed about starting/being back at work.

My perspective on life has completely changed. I am trying to get back to a new normal routine though. I look back now to chest pains that began at 35 weeks (a month prior to dissection) but were dismissed as probably the baby’s foot up under my ribs, to my sister asking if they’ve checked my blood pressure because I looked swollen (which I told her I’m 20+ weeks so I’ve gained like 20 lbs and dismissed her) and the fact that the baby cried if I put her down at all once she was born, as if she was pleaded for me to hold her because something was about to happen that I would not get to for a bit. I have PTSD from this for sure and probably postpartum depression or hormonal changes affected me as well, but I feel it’s mainly been an emotional roller coaster wondering why this happened to me and I will never understand it.

I feel like I can’t work or function normally or for long. I just wish to rest or do nothing stressful and just enjoy time with family and friends. Nothing else matters to me. I just hope I can live a long life to see my girls grow up, get married, hold grand-babies and hopefully not let the stress of this all rip my husband and I apart either. Really I could go into further detail on my feelings and how my body has felt after all of this, but that would be a novel.

I hope my story helps someone else know that they are not alone. I don’t feel so alone now that I’ve seen a few other post-delivery stories and survivors. I’m a believer in the Lord God Almighty and I praise His mercy on me and the grace bestowed to me. I’m a true believer in the power of prayer through all this more than ever before…but I’m still human, have my bad days, am not understanding of it and just want to get over this hump.

I wish I could just be me again…or figure out the “new” me stat. I’m trying to be positive, grateful and not dwell. I research and read a lot on this recently, not to dwell, but to gain more knowledge if possible. It’s only been 6 months since and I’m much better. I will never be the same, but someday I’ll figure out my purpose and God’s reason for leaving me here on this earth. In the meantime, I just plan to live, love on my family and thank our Heavenly Father.