Name: Charles McKenna
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 25 January 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

On Thursday January 24th, 2014 I was 6’0″ and 180 pounds. Reasonably fit non-smoker. On a Thursday evening I lifted a 175 pound, big, awkward snowblower into my SUV, took it to a cottage, used it, put it back in and returned home and took it out. My wife helped on all but one of the lifts. I stupidly did it myself on the last one. It was too heavy to lift comfortably alone and I knew it but did it anyway. I felt fine, slept fine and worked on Friday. Friday night, while I was home alone as my wife was at the cottage, I felt a searing, ripping pain in my chest and abdomen.

I called 911 and laid down to die on the rug by the front door. I had sustained a Stanford type A and B aortic dissection. It was diagnosed and my ascending aorta was removed and replaced with a tubular Dacron graft the next morning. Three weeks later I was finally conscious and able to be removed from the respirator. I couldn’t talk or swallow and was very weak. Those things had completely resolved about 4-6 weeks later with rehab. Today I am three years post surgery and doing fine.

I was on a sick leave from work for about four months. I do plan to retire a little early to enjoy life beyond work. I do still have some abdominal pains periodically, maybe every few weeks or so, which I attribute to the descending dissection. But that is being monitored for size and my blood pressure is being controlled. I do have some numbness in my toes.

I can live with that. But a cautionary word- exhale when you lift heavy weight! Google the Valsalva maneuver as it relates to heavy lifting– ramifications are serious for anyone with aortic flaws. I believe the heavy lift caused my dissection.