Name: My Husband
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 22 December 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

My husband Bill suffered his first aortic dissection on December 20, 2014. He was 58 years old at the time. He was on the treadmill when he felt what he described as, “My heart feels like it just ripped from the lining of my chest.” Having suffered a heart attack five years earlier, I assumed the pain had something to do with the stents that had been inserted.

Upon arrival to ER we were quickly whisked back into a room and things moved pretty quickly. We were initially told that he had a lesion on his aorta and that he needed surgery. I asked if they would go through his groin to fix it, similar to how they put in his stents. The ER Doctor said, “No, this surgery is a much more involved but I’ll let the thoracic surgeon talk to you.”

When the surgeon arrived he told us that if my husband didn’t have the surgery he would die. He also said that a quadruple bi pass was a walk in the park compared to the surgery my husband was about to have. After 8 hours of surgery, my husband had a new ‘radiator hose and was good for another 100,000 miles.’ We spent Christmas in the hospital and my husband was finally released on December 31.

During 2015 my husband was the text book patient. He ate healthy, went to cardiac rehab, and continued exercising- no weights just mild cardio and calisthenics. In August, after riding his bike he started having chest pains. He thought he overdid it on the bike; however when the pain didn’t subside after a couple days, we went back to ER. He was kept overnight and a host of tests were ran. The doctor told him his heart was fine and that there was nothing wrong. After a week or so my husband resumed his normal exercise routine.

On December 22, 2015 we picked our youngest son up from the airport. He recently joined the Air Force and this was the first time we had seen him in 6 months. After spending last Christmas in the hospital we were all looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case. That evening, around 7:30 pm my husband said he was having chest pains. He didn’t want to go to the hospital because our son had just gotten home. Fortunately, my son insisted he go to ER. Upon arrival, my husband was diagnosed with an MI and they took him to the Cath lab and implanted another stent. When his chest pain didn’t subside, a hospitalist finally ordered another CT scan. The news was devastating. My husband’s aorta had dissected from the point of last years repair all the way down to his right thigh. Plans were immediately made to transfer him to a University hospital 2 hours away.

Due to his heart attack and the complexity of the tear, surgery was not performed. The surgeon also informed us that the CT scan done in August (after his bike excursion) did show a dissection down to the diaphragm. This was missed by doctors at our local hospital. The latest dissection extended from the diaphragm down to his right thigh. After spending 12 days in ICU, my husband was sent home on a boat load of BP medications. The plan is to keep his BP low and monitor the dissection. It’s my understanding that the aorta has torn but does not have an aneurysm.

We’ve only been home for 5 days so my hope is that somehow we find our new normal. I could ‘what if’ our situation to death but I know that will not do any good. Right now I am paralyzed by fear that something will happen to him. I spend my nights listening to his breath and watching the rise and fall of his chest. Each morning he wakes, I praise God for giving us another day together. For those of you living with or taking care of a loved one with a similar situation please feel free to share how you cope with situation.