Name: Joe Nucci
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 September 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi..Here is my story–I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and was taking meds for that for about a year before my aorta dissected. One day my blood pressure spiked to 180/100 and my doctor upped my blood pressure meds. Three days later I was at work at the main post office in Rochester,NY at 11:30 in the morning. I was a window clerk in the middle of doing a passport application for a very beautiful lady when I began to sweat profusely and got faint.

The woman was finished with the passport and just left my station when I got a sharp stabbing pain in my chest which knocked me to the floor. One of my coworkers helped me to my feet and with his help I made it to the manager’s office nearby. My left side was completely numb at this time. I sat there for a few minutes until I got my bearings back. I still felt faint and was asked if I wanted to call 911. Because it was noontime and the place was very busy I declined and wanted to try to sit there until whatever it was had passed. Another coworker insisted that she take me to emergency if I did not want to call 911.

Together we walked to her car and about 15 minutes later I was in the emergency room. They took me right in and gave me the usual exam as if I was having a heart attack. I told the doctor that it seemed that my pain was above where my heart is. They told me that my blood pressure then was 210/125 and put me on iv with to stabilize. They then told me after my pressure had subsided that the plan was to monitor me and I was to take a treadmill test to see if I had blockage in my arteries. Now after about 7 hours the attending gave me nitro pills to see if the pain would go away. after 7 nitro pills a different doctor ordered a cat scan. I asked for some water because they hadn’t let me eat or drink anything yet.

I took a sip of water and immediately a sharp pain hit me in the chest. I was rushed to radiology and after only 1 trip into the cat-scan unit which took only about 10 seconds I was talked out and a doctor came to tell me that a surgeon was on the way. I asked what was going on and when the surgeon got there within a minute I was given a permission form to sign. The surgeon then told me that my aorta had just dissected and surgery was “emergent”..a word I had never heard before. I texted my daughter in law in Phoenix and the text said aorta dissection–going to surgery. She is an RN and told my son they had to get to Rochester asap and I would probably be gone when they arrived. I was taken to surgery and Dr. George Hicks at Strong Memorial Hospital saved my life!

The next thing I knew I was in intensive care recovery and when I opened my eyes there was applause in the room that I was awake. Dr.Hicks visited me in my room the next day and when I asked him how lucky I was he told me that I had just hit the lottery–twice! He put in a graft of my ascending aorta.

He told me that the dissection actually occurred while I was in the cat scan and that probably was why I had survived. I was out of work for 7 months and went back to work against my doctors’ advice. There were so many restrictions put on me that I had to retire in 2012.

Now I have been told that my abdominal aorta is compromised and as long as my blood pressure is controlled I should be ok. This is a long story but my life changed dramatically that day. I am still here!!