Category: Personal Stories Page 1 of 29

Kurt Zivelonghi -57

Type: Descending
Age:57

It all started when I was watching TV. I bent over to look at my computer, and this pain felt like someone was taking a knife slicing me up the middle and up into my chest. At first, I thought that I may have strained a muscle because I was into working-out with weights but after a few minutes of this pain I knew something was terribly wrong.

I had this instinctive feeling that I couldn’t wait for a ambulance so I took myself to the hospital which was only a few miles away and I knew exactly where it was, because it was right next to my bank. When I got there they asked me all these questions about my pain, how severe it was and told them it was the worst pain that I ever felt, and if I felt nauseous.

After some tests, they told me that my aorta was splitting apart and I knew that having an aorta splitting apart is a serious situation. They gave me some morphine and prepared me to be transferred to another hospital which had a heart specialty facility. When I arrived at the hospital I was immediately put in cardiac Intensive care unit where I spent a few days talking to the nurses and family members.

After about the second day I fell into a coma and all I remember are these weird dreams . After 3 weeks I finally woke up by prodding by the nurses. Evidently, they wanted to come out of the coma, because what I heard was “Kurt time to get up” and them pulling at me to get me on my feet. They didn’t pull in a hard way, they were gentle with me.

I remember in my dreams was them making me stand up and sitting me in this chair. After six weeks I finally was released from Cardiac ICU and sent to physical rehabilitation for a week where I learned to walk and swallow again.

And finally released to my brothers care where nurse came for two weeks.
the effects were that my left hand is paralyzed, depression and sundry other problems and when I left rehabilitation they gave me about 15 prescriptions yo take for my blood pressure and various other problems.

Steve Keglovic age 63

Name: steve keglovic
Email: kegg118@yahoo.com
Age at time of Dissection: 63
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 24 June 2018
Tell Us Your Story:

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y Sunday morning started out on the golf course as is the norm as i am an avid golfer. On the 2nd hole, i developed an awful feeling, lightheartedness and feeling like my legs wouldn’t support me. I asked the guys to take me back to the club house, but thankfully they called 911. On the way to hospital, I developed weakness in my left leg and arm.

Upon arrival to ER, I could not see out of my right eye at all. After CT scan showed dissection of ascending and descending with occlusion of right carotid artery, I was life flighted to Cleveland Clinic. After 10 hours of surgery by the esteemed Dr. Eric Roselli, I woke up in intensive care. 10 days in hospital and discharged July 4. Slow and steady progress so far. Frustrating how slow however. I had just retired 4 months prior from being an Iron-worker for almost 40 years.

Not used to feeling like a baby, where I needed help just to shower. Walking pretty good around the house. I do have times of syncope, but i think it is because my BP is so much lower now with the 2 blood pressure medications i take.. Meeting with my cardiologist tomorrow, so we will see what happens from this point.

Looking forward to driving again and to doing things outside. Cardiac rehab in another couple weeks. How does everyone stay motivated? How do you know if you are doing enough exercise or maybe too much? thank you for letting me submit my story

Will Jipson-36

Name: Will Jipson
Email: wjipson3@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 36
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 February 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]awoke at 2am, thanks to the screech of a cat fight in the hall outside my bedroom. All night, I’d been feeling a tight ache in my upper back and chest. At that moment, I felt what I must describe as a fist trying to press through my chest from the inside. Or like an Alien Chestburster, if you will.

I called 911, suspecting I was having a heart attack. I sat and waited near the door, controlling my breathing and trying to remain calm to keep my pulse down. Arriving EMTs suspected it was an aneurysm, and I was sent by helicopter to a hospital in Washington, D.C. for emergency repair.

It’s been 13 months since the repair. In that time, I’ve suffered intermittent blood clot issues (specifically Pulmonary embolisms) – likely the result of inactivity. I used to bicycle 20+ miles a day, and a year of convalescing put considerable weight on.

I was advised to seek therapy, but have neither the time nor money, really. The hardest part of this has been the severe depression and lack of support. I’m considered a young survivor with an even younger peer group; the experience and the severity of the trauma is difficult to explain.

James Brown-62

Name: James Brown
Email: sirjab@live.com
Age at time of Dissection: 62
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection:  7 September 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he day started out as any other day I was feeling good and about 3:00 PM I started making dinner I needed to make a run to the store my wife and I went and on the way back we stopped at the mailbox’s to check for mail, I got out of the truck and all of a sudden felt this pressure in my chest and back, it was as if I was being pushed to the ground.

We went straight back to the house where I tried to lay down but the pain was excruciating, so I laid down on the floor the wife called 911 and paramedics came. I don’t remember a whole lot after that. I was rushed to the er where they treated me for heart attack and sent me to St. Peter’s later that night.

The admitting doctor Jimmy Swan did not believe I had heart attack so he ran a catheter up my arm and discovered the tear. I was immediately prepped for surgery. Doctor Santemerino performed the surgery which took 11 hours, He nearly lost me on the table.

I spent 17 days in I.C.U and a total of 30 days in the hospital with one week spent in a nursing home. My recovery has been slow, I haven’t felt good since the dissection. I found out just a few weeks ago that my aorta has increased from 4,4 to 6 cm with the dissection continuing into the abdomen.

I was told by a cardiologist that there was no need to see a vascular surgeon because there was nothing that could be be done for me and if I did see the surgeon he just tell me the same thing. Now I am scheduled to see the vascular surgeon this week and discuss my next steps.

It may well be that they can’t repair the dissection because of where it is and the risk involved the cardiologist said if they did operate it could leave me brain dead or paralyzed. I will leave my fate in the Hands of God and the vascular surgeon.

I survived this life threatening ordeal once hopefully I will survive this also and be around to complete my story and this journey.

Jeffrey Randa-48

Name: Jeffrey Randa
Email: avaroni@aol.com
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection:  8 December 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a follow up to my first post about 6 years ago.  Re-reading it, I am humbled by how humbled I was as I wrote it, and reminded of how lucky it is to survive this trauma.  I am glad to report that my life has almost entirely returned to normal over the last 6 years, despite the severity of my dissection.

Bit by bit, over the years, I have returned to weightlifting, although I have learned to do it much differently than before (no “Valsalva” maneuver), taking the time to breathe through every rep. My cardio conditioning is fair to good, meaning better than average for my age, but probably not as good as it should be given my AD; I’m working on it.

And that’s really the point of my post.  It seems that many people find this site soon after they have surgery.  I was wounded when I made my first submission, and even my typing suffered as I wrote it.  I thought I’d never be strong again and that I was going to forever be hobbled.

When I finally did make it back to my weight bench, the 45 pound bar felt like a ton.  I’m not out to get huge or lift tons of weight anymore, and even now, as I age, I’ve backed off a bit, but a few years ago I was able to dead lift 350 lbs and breathe through it rather easily.

At one point, my cardio conditioning was much better (that tends to go in cycles) and I could run a few miles without killing myself.  I can still outrun and outlast almost anyone my age. 

As I recovered from my surgery, I thought I would be frail and weak forever.  That’s not necessarily the case, and you MUST make the best of what you have.  Never give up, quit or otherwise surrender.  Fight to be the fittest and strongest you
 can.  Nothing good will come from just sitting, or, worse yet, just sitting and eating all the wrong foods.

I do think it’s important to take one’s time, but also to work at becoming fit.  Walk.  Walk a lot.  Do some strength training.  Eat well and enjoy life, but do it intelligently (everything in moderation (including moderation) remember?). 

As I sit here now, I cannot think of any limitations that my AD has imposed on my life or lifestyle.  I think one should live fully, albeit mindfully, at that.

In the early days of my recovery, I was taking every day as a gift. I sometimes lose sight of that now, at least for a bit, but then I remind myself how lucky I am to be here, how easy it is to be gone, and the wisdom of the old adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff.”

Carry on, my friends.  Remember, the best revenge is to live well…

Geri Shufelberger-56

Date of AD=8/31/2017

Type of AD=Ascending Type A

Email=prettywomangds@live.com

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ello – I had a Type A aortic dissection repair August 31, 2017 at Baylor in Dallas. My surgeon, Juan MacHannaford, told me the dissection was from top to bottom. I was flown there from Pampa, TX due to the wonderful diagnostic abilities of my cardiologist in our local emergency room.

His quick action saved my life. I had a history of untreated high blood pressure for approximately 3-5 years before beginning treatment in October, 2013. When he saw me in the ER, I had experiences sever stabbing pain from my throat down to my stomach and almost immediately lost feeling in my legs. I also eventually had vomiting and lost consciousness.

My surgeon almost immediately from visual examination and I am not sure what other indicators, told me when I saw him a week after being released from the hospital, he felt 99% sure I have Marfans Syndrome. I am female, 6′ tall with a long torso, arms and legs.

I had a great uncle who had a aortic aneurysm in the 1960’s. That is the only family history I am aware of. Both of my parents are deceased and there are no other living relatives to talk to about this. I have had retina detachments in both eyes and a vitriol hemorrhage in one eye, all happening within 8 to 10 years intervals, starting when I was in my mid 30’s. I have two sons who are 6’2″ and 6’5″.

The surgeon has recommended genetic testing for them. I have changed my eating habits more than what they were, increased my exercise and made other life style changes, all thanks to a wonderful cardiac rehab program I have been attending since the surgery.

I will have a CT scan in 6 months and then once a year for the rest of my life. My scan October 26th, showed 3.2 in my abdomen and 3.4 in my chest. I know this is not something I should think about a lot, but I feel good about my future as long as I keep my scans up.

Are aneurysms common for someone in my situation? Thank you for any input you can give.

Answer from Dr. Liang:

Geri,

 
I would certainly agree with your surgeons concerns about Marfan syndrome as a cause cause of the dissection. After the dissection the part of the aorta that is dissected beyond the repair is at increased risk for aneurysm formation so the regular CT’s recommended by your surgeon make sense. We also recommend very rigorous blood pressure control at this point to reduce the stress on the aorta.
 
Getting evaluated for a genetic cause of the dissection such as Marfan syndrome is very important, especially since you have children. If you can I would recommend seeing Dianna Milewicz at UT Houston.
 
David

Michael McKechnie-62

Name: Michael McKechnie
Email: mmckechnie55@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 62
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 21 September 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

From a personal health perspective I cheerfully breezed through the first 62 years of my life. There was the minor tennis injury and the occasional sinus infection but I never had to stay in a hospital and amazingly never missed a day of work. Throughout adulthood daily exercise was imbedded in my lifestyle and I monitored every aspect of my diet. Asking me if I went the gym was like wanting to know if I breathed oxygen, I ate maybe 3 hamburgers a year. I was one of the healthiest people I knew.

This abruptly changed on August 1st 2017.

Two days before my 62nd birthday I had my long past due (oh sorry, Doctor I have just been so busy) wellness check. It was during this routine exam that my primary physician Dr Whelan Culley detected a heart murmur and referred me to a cardiologist named Dr James Neiman. I had no pain or shortness of breath and my history did not suggest alarm but Dr Neiman directed a series of diagnostic tests. After the echocardiogram he asked to see my wife and I at his office as soon as possible and it was then that I heard a group of relatively common words spoken sequentially for the first time. Ascending aortic dissection and aneurysm– what???

Dr Neiman told me to immediately stop exercising and ordered a TEE which not only confirmed the condition but also the precariousness of the aneurysm that somehow contained itself between the two inner layers of my aorta. At this point I was on the fast track and then scheduled to see a heart surgeon, Dr Hartmuth Bittner, (the appointment was delayed twice due to Hurricane Irma, and I filled one afternoon recklessly removing storm panels from my house).

Even though I did some previous research I was still unsure what to expect and was stunned when Dr Bittner outlined what was ahead of me and explained that an extremely intense operation was necessary to replace the damaged section of my aorta. Two days later I spent 12 hours on an operating table. The surgery proceeded normally and was almost over when the right coronary artery unexpectedly burst. Dr Bittner and his team were prepared for just such an emergency, before the operation they took a vein from my leg which they used to bypass the blown artery. This was when my wife and daughters began to feel overwhelmed about the uncanny series of wondrous and inconceivable events that occurred over the last several days.

After 2 weeks in the hospital my homecoming was a treasure, my recovery has had some setbacks but I still expect to eventually be able to resume most of my normal activities. There are no words adequate enough to express the gratitude I have to my incredible doctors and all the professionals at Largo Medical Center.

My survival started with a basic check-up which resulted in an accurate diagnosis before anything really bad happened. Still…why did I not feel any pain? Why did the aneurysm contain itself? (The dissected area was described as being like thin tissue paper). The consensus theory is prior physical condition but I still pause during my recovery and understand that there is a much deeper reason.

As for now I want to hug everyone I see, I’ve fallen in love all over again with my wife and I’m getting reacquainted with God. I feel such a joy in savoring this precious and beautiful gift, it is wonderful to be alive.

Update: 9/20/2018:
Today is one year after my surgery and the first birthday of my new life. Spoiler alert–I feel wonderful!
It was not until the early spring of 2018 when I felt close to normal again, however it became clear that this was an entirely different normal. It evolved into an understanding of a dividing point to a life ‘before 9/21’ and ‘after 9/21′. I came to terms that no matter whatever happens to me the world moves on very quickly and that only I could control how to react to such an incredible change.

The first few weeks of my recovery was a brutal struggle with the physical effects of such an invasive surgery. I could not eat unthickened foods or drink unthickened liquids, I developed thrush, there was numbness in my legs and left arm, just walking to the bathroom was a major accomplishment. And there was the turmoil in dealing with an unexpected emotional aftermath. I felt an intense anxiousness about the unknown. Some mornings I was afraid to just get out of bed, consumed with a fear that I would not get better. I ached for the body I once had. I wept constantly.

As with most recovery success stories it was a support group that helped me through this most difficult period. Encouragement came from my doctors during follow-up visits, the specialists I saw for my cardio rehabilitation, friends who visited me and called regularly. And how rich is a man to be surrounded by a loving family and a devoted wife, my absolute soulmate, who was tirelessly by my side almost every moment throughout this entire ordeal.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Somewhere in mid-life I eased into the comforts of good health and modest prosperity, I rarely thought about my good fortune other than being a just reward for hard work. Over the years I also became spiritually empty and sometimes even began to question the existence of God. Then out of nowhere I’m told I have this life threatening condition, the series of events that lead to my diagnosis and survival were beyond coincidental, I know I was being guided and was called on to accept whatever purpose that is planned for me. So many gifts were right there in front of me but my eyes were closed, I had to be awakened to see and appreciate these treasures.

I will not waste this suffering, I rejoice the beauty and fullness of each day in this wonderful new life.
mmckechnie55@gmail.com

JAMES SAYLOR-53

Name: JAMES SAYLOR
Email: jhsaylorlpn92@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 May 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

It all started after I was folding some clothes and I started walking up the stairs. I had this feeling of in pending doom and sat on the stairs and called out to my stepson call 911 .I knew since being a lpn for over 25 years not to go lay down or take an aspirin because this did not feel like a heart attack.

I woke up 3 days later in the cardiac unit at Pocono Medical center on a vent. The doctors keep me in a medical induced coma because they said I kept pulling on my wires and tubes coming out my chest and abdomen .I was also tied down with restraints and was on 1 to 1 supervision around the clock.

I was discharged home with visiting nurse service for six weeks. Then I went back in after the site in my groin area got infected for emergency surgery. then after 1 week, I went home with a wound vac for six weeks. I now go to cardiac rehab 3 times a week to get strong again. I went back to work at a nursing home as a charge nurse again on light duty.

I’m glad I can work but I must stay stress free and eat right and stay on my blood pressure meds to live .I’m on depression meds to sleep at night. I was wondering would medical marijuana help down the line then all these pills.

Any feed back would help. thanks to all the great care I received I’m glad to be alive.

Brad Bennett-70

Hello Brian. Enjoy your site very much. 2 years ago I collapsed in my bedroom with intense chest pain around 11 pm. My wife called an ambulance and they rushed me the local hospital here in Abbotsford BC. Once there they ran the usual tests for heart failure but could find no cause? I remained in pain and needed a lot of meds. After another Ct scan with still no answer they decided to hold me over night.

But one Dr on night shift, Dr Newton, sensed something wrong and called the Cardio center at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster. There a Dr Daniel Wong asked for the scan and was certainly concerned, but even he was reluctant to have me sent over to his facility as it was 3 am and a team would be hard to get together. But Dr Newton was adamant, and insisted I should be sent immediately. He ordered an ambulance and I was sent to Royal so fast my wife could’nt keep up. Once there Dr Wong ran more tests and sure enough I was developing a full ascending aortic breakdown and had only hours to live!

Somehow Dr Wong got a team and I went into Emergency open heart surgery. Later the attending Dr told me my aorta was splitting right down the middle and they were able to remove it with just in time. They spliced in a plastic tube to replace it that ran from the top of my heart and down to the defending section. Quite a feat of surgery for Dr Wong.

I’m 74 now and leading a healthy life thanks to some very fine doctors. I was truly blessed that night.

Cheers. Brad Bennett

Patricia Schultz-57

Name: Patricia Schultz
Email: passchultz@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 September 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

On September 10th 2017 I went for my usual run hoping that day to run around 9 miles. Into the first mile while going up a short steep hill it felt like my heart was in my throat. I stopped and sat for a minute, drank some water. I got up and tried running again but I just didn’t feel right. Thought I would try and push it to mile three where I usually get in my groove.

My vision was a bit off and was still not feeling good. I decided it was best to stop and I started to walk back to my car where I ran into my husband who was exercising where I was running. I told him I wasn’t feeling good so we went home . My husband had plans I told him to go ahead with them. I still was not feeling the best.

I could not figure out what to do with myself. Within about a half hour my husband called and wanted to know if I wanted to go to the er. I said I thought that would be a good idea. After a few tests and MRI’S I was diagnosed with an ascending Aortic Dissection.

I was transported to the hospital where I had emergency surgery. They repaired my aorta and a valve. All went well. One day after the fluids were not draining properly around my heart and lungs so I to had to go back into surgery to have the fluids drained. Fast forward …… It has been five weeks and my recovery is going well. Cardiac rehab has me moving each day and I hope to be running in the near future!

Craig Carda-35

Name: Craig Carda
Email: Craigcarda2@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 35
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 25 May 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi, I am Craig Carda and I survived a ascending Aorta dissection!
This is something I tell myself everyday since memorial day of 2015,
It started out as a beautiful holiday weekend enjoying time making some burgers and hot dogs and relaxing with my family and suddenly begin to feel ill…I thought maybe I did not cook something well enough or Just tired.
I proceeded to tell my wife, “I’m going to take a shower, I do not feel good.”

At that moment I begin to walk towards the bathroom and said, “No shower, Let’s go to the hospital.” She looked at me as I was walking towards the front door in pain, I am ok with pain but then my right leg lost feeling I could not move it as I got to the car…..The pain Started to increase to my back as my wife started the car. Thank god we lived minutes from the hospital. When we reached the hospital I could no longer walk and tried to drag my leg out and make it function. It would not cooperate. The panic set in.

I was on the ground with car door ajar and screaming some pretty insane swear words and the pain felt deeper. Two paramedics outside the ER grabbed a wheel chair and pushed me in….Keep in mind I am still conscious and I am angry wondering how this happened.

I am in a machine all of the sudden getting some dye scan when I am pulled out very fast and on to a bed and rushed to a room. I see 4 doctors, maybe there was only 2 but at this time the drugs they gave me kicked in….They begin asking questions, Do you want a mechanical or a pig valve? I remember saying what….Can we talk about this later? Do you authorize your wife to make this decision you have 10 minutes. I replied, 10 minutes for what? I remember saying, “Yes my wife can make any decision about me, she always does!”

Before passing out….I woke up from a weird sleep in a trance with a tube in my mouth and very frightened….Thank goodness my wife was there to explain and calm me down…It has been 3 years since the operation and life has been different. I miss a lot of things but I’m grateful I am still alive….

If anyone ever needs to talk I understand. please reach me at craigcarda2@gmail.com

Dominique Pair-69

Name: Dominique Pair
Email: mdpair@earthlink.net
Age at time of Dissection: 69
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 January 1916
Tell Us Your Story:

After a night with friends at the movie The Revenant, and feeling wonderful
Arrived home and began to feel like there was a vice tightening around my neck.

Living a mile from Emory University and Emory emergency room and realizing I was experiencing a very very strange sensation I jumped in my car
and drove myself to Emory emergency room having sent my boyfriend home
earlier.

Miraculously I was diagnosed and in emergency surgery within 45 minutes with less than 50/50 chance of survival. Thanks to Dr. Steven Macheers,and team, Who happened to be on site for a conference that night he saved my life, and I feel wonderful today or year and a half later !!!!!

Peter Passink-51

Name: Peter Passink
Email: ppassink@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

Iam a 51 year old male. I have had excellent health my entire life. I have had no family history of any cardiovascular disease. My cholesterol and blood pressure have always been lower than average.

I took a ride on my motorcycle on a sunny afternoon, enjoying some spring weather after a long Colorado winter. This turned out to be a life saving decision, as I rode 40 minutes to Colorado Springs from the small rural town in which I live.

I arrived at a motorcycle shop, got off the motorcycle, and immediately began having significant symptoms. I felt a pounding in my upper back, trouble getting my breath, and some pain along my jawline. I kept thinking it would stop and could not figure out what was going on.

The only thing I could think of was “is this a heart attack?” I called my wife and we decided to call 911. I went into the shop to wait, and began to quickly deteriorate. I have only very slight memories of the time before the ambulance arrived and remember nothing after getting on the ambulance until waking up 5 days later in the ICU.

I was told upon waking how lucky I was to have been as close to a hospital as I was, and had I been home when the event occurred I would most likely have died. I had the dissection in the ascending arch of the aorta. I received no explanation for the cause of dissection.

Due to high possibilities of organ damage or G.I. tract damage, I was also “opened up” in the abdomen to be examined. I was 15 days in the hospital, and did 2 months of medically supervised cardio-rehab. It is now September 2017 and I feel back to normal.

I have some lingering fears of what caused this to happen and what, if any ramifications will result from this.

Tony Taylor-65

Name: Tony Taylor
Email: mandmboy@yahoo.com
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 3 March 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

I have been monitoring this excellent forum for three years, and I thought it was about time for me to weigh in here. I am doing it mostly to offer an alternative set of circumstances that can indicate an aortic dissection. In a nutshell, three years ago I had a small hemorrhagic stroke, and in the course of the diagnosis the doctors discovered that I had a Type B aortic dissection that extended “all the way down.”

The point I want to make is that my dissection was accompanied by no pain whatsoever; the stroke and dissection were completely unrelated. So in a sense that stroke was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. It revealed a serious problem that I might never have found out about until it was too late.

In the intervening three years I had an endovascular aneurysm repair, but I am fine. I have been lucky with no pain. From this point on it’s all about blood pressure control and being careful with what I lift and how I lift. So except for the initial few weeks of being scared, I have gotten on with my life with only a few common-sense changes.

Jack Paltell-64

Name: Jack Paltell
Email: Paltell@comcast.net
Age at time of Dissection: 64
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 July 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

Stabbing pain, right side of chest and back, a tearing sensation in my chest, lightheartedness…not that bad, I thought to myself, must be indigestion.” A minute or so passed and the pain increased, I began to feel faint.” “Jeff,” I called out to my law partner in the office next door, “call 911, I’m having a heart attack.” And I passed out at my desk.

I don’t remember the paramedics arriving, or the ambulance trip to the hospital, or my wife’s arrival, or the priest giving me the sacrament of the sick, but I remember asking the doctors to try to save my legs which were numb, and the throbbing of the helicopter blades on the ride from Annapolis to University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore where the thoracic surgery team awaited my arrival, and where the intricate life-saving open heart procedure was flawlessly performed by Dr. Zachary Kon at 2am.

That was Friday night, July 17, 2015. On Monday morning, July 20, 2015, I was walking circuits around the ICU and trying to remember the words to the Gettysburg address. I had an ascending aortic dissection, and the emergency room physician, Dr. Kenneth Gummerson, correctly diagnosed it. He and my law-partner, Jeff Gauges, and of course, God, saved my life.

It has been two years since the event. I am well, but not the same. Better in some ways. Not as good in others. Wiser, more thoughtful, slower to anger, slower to judge. I weigh less, but am strong again. I can do pushups. My hypertension, which had plagued me since my mid-thirties is well controlled with medication and the DASH Diet. I lift weights, run, bicycle, hike, play music, and work at my law practice, but at a different pace than before. I understand more about love, I think, and care less about money; I do more work for charity and less work for wealthy clients; I say grace before I eat. Life is slower, I linger longer over a photograph or a painting in a museum. People mean far more to me than things.

The physiological journey has been relatively easy for me. I am married to a wonderful wife, I have great doctors and before the incident, I was comparatively fit. My body was able to handle the insult that is open heart surgery. The spiritual journey has been a little more complex; it has taken a little longer for me to accept my lack of control over my destiny and to simply permit God to guide me to the next destination.

I am hopeful that others will have the opportunity to benefit from excellent medical care and will perceive an aortic dissection as a message from God and your body, that something about your life needs to change. Many on this message board have used the same words. Very few of us get a second chance.

William Overdevest-49

Name: William Overdevest
Email: overdevest3@hotmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 20 December 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

H ello. I live in Simcoe ON. I live alone, and fortunately when my ascending aortic dissection began. My brother and nephew were over watching Sunday night football. About 10;15 p.m I felt a tight feeling in my jaw. It moved to my neck, back and lower back immediately. My brother called 911.

I was lucky the area Dr. was familiar with Marfan s Syndrome, which I mentioned I had. He sent me immediately to Hamilton General by ambulance. During the ride to HGH. Dr. Driver who s presence was requested by Dr. Bardon, the ER Dr. AT Norfolk General. Whatever he did he saved my right arm and leg, which were black and blue from the blood clots, and I was most likely going to have them amputated, did something in the 45 minute ride to Hamilton, that saved my limbs. I arrived at HGH at about 1 a.m. At 1;3 ish.

Dr. Adel Dyub arrived, and examined me and spoke to me and my family. He assembled his team, and I went into the OR at approx. 4 a.m. The surgery was about 15 hours. My organs had shut down and began dying. I have been told that my organs had to be removed and I was literally put back together. My brain was frozen to 23 degrees F. for approx. 25 minutes.. I have only recently learned to some extent what I had been through.

I have been told many many times I am a true miracle. That in my case, if a 1000 people came in like me, I am the one that survives.. I spent 8 and a half days in ICU. I had been complaining about my tongue, and it was quite swollen. 3 weeks after the surgery, my tongue basically exploded.

I was rushed back to Er area . I lost 4 litres of blood in 3 and a half hours, before I was brought in to the OR. where Dr. Corman a professor at Macmaster Hospital. Miraculously managed to cut out died tongue tissue. Reattach my tongue and stitch up a 9 cm long by 1 cm wide and a half cm deep. Which it has held together and healed nicely. I spent 4 days in ICU for this procedure. I have covered briefly what I had gone through.

I am told that I am famous. I assume in the eyes of the medical community. I had signed waivers permitting publications of what I experienced, in order to help Dr.s learn from my ordeals. Currently I am part of a group study of 300 people taking Entrersto. Fyi April 18th 2016. I was rushed back to HGH. For heart failure, my ejection fraction was down to 19% and I was told, it had to go up.

That if it continued to drop, it didn t look good for me. I spent 4 days in the cardiac care unit at HGH. Again the staff was amazing. I Hope this brief explanation helps. Thank you to everyone that helped to save my life. Beginning with my brother Frank, the Dr.s at NGH, and everyone at Hamilton General Hospital. A Special thanks To RPN Colleen Powers and Irene Travale 5 South, Dr. Buchanan Dr. Corman . Dr. Dyub. My cardiologist Dr. Greg Curnew, his staff. And the nurse tending to me through this Entresto study Aleks. I can never thank you guys enough. I hope this helps Thanks
William Overdevest

Richard Reed-65

Name: Richard Reed
Email: richardcreed702@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 22 April 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

I was on a motorcycle trip with a a good friend in rural Eastern Washington State. We were spending the night in a nice old hotel in Republic after a day of riding mountain passes, exploring small towns and enjoying the views of lakes, rivers and mountains. My friend Ed was in bed, finishing up his journal entries for the day and I went to take a shower. Bending over to wash my feet I felt like I had been stabbed in the chest by a bayonet.

I figured it was a bad case of indigestion and tried to go to bed. After 3 hours I knew this wasn’t right and woke up Ed, told him I was having chest pains and to call 911. Ed’s a test pilot, having served in the Marines, so he remained calm, took charge and got on the phone. After giving the operator our location and room number there came a knock on the door. Ed opened it to find the hotel owner telling us he’ll have the paramedics back right up to the door. Turns out he was the towns fire chief. Ya gotta love small towns.

They got me to the local hospital where all the typical heart tests came back negative. The on-call doctor, who happened to be the Chief of Staff at the hospital (them small towns again) noticed the chest x-ray showed an enlarged aorta and called for a medevac helicopter to take me to Spokane where they had an excellent cardiology unit.

By now I was on a morphine drip, and chatting with the flight crew of the helo. I wanted to try their night vision goggles as I am an engineer for the FAA and helped certify a few of these. Anyway, after arriving at Spokane they gave me another battery of heart tests including a stress nuclear test, only to find nothing wrong. FINALLY after a change in shift, the doc looked at my CT scan and knew I had a Type B Aortic Dissection, and immediately changed my meds and stopped the tests.

Spent two days in the hospital, then my wife who is a nurse drove me home to Seattle. A cardiologist at the hospital where she works took on my case and directed me to stay off from work for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks I started working part time and slowly increased my time, but finding it difficult.

Three months later I am back at work full time, and am doing OK. Still can’t lift anything heavier than a ham sandwich and can’t play with my grandsons, but they still like to cuddle and let me read to them or watch Pixar movies. And no riding motorcycles, which is a bummer but I am alive.

The couple who ran the hotel put my bike in their shop to keep it safe, and my sons drove over in my truck tow weeks later to bring it back home. Love them small towns, and they are now our friends.

I still have trouble keeping my BP low and am on a dozen or so pills. My job is stressful so my bosses and I are working on a plan to keep the stress low until I retire in January 2020. It bothers me not being able to take care of my home and turning these tasks over to landscapers, and worse, I took my truck to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. I always took care of my owns stuff and paying someone else to do it grates on me, but, I am learning to live with it. And my wife, what can I say? She saw angel. I see the doc for a follow-up i two weeks and will update this story.

GAGAN DEEP KAUR-35

Name: GAGAN DEEP KAUR
Email: sahnigagandeepkaur@gmail.com
Age at time of Dissection: 35
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 June 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

It was a normal routine Sunday till 9 pm. I had just finished my dinner and about get up from my table when the pain started in my back . The pain was located between the scapula.It soon started increasing and a sensation of something tearing down was felt.Since I am a qualified Homeopathic practioneer and already lost my elder brother to this disease i.e. aortic dissection in 2002 at the age of 25. It took me just few minutes to realize that it is dissection.

I told my parents that this pain may be due to dissection. for both of them it was once again the same old time of mental trauma which they had earlier gone through when my brother died.Our neighbors are really very nice they took me GMSH SECTOR 16 Chandigarh. There I told the likely cause of pain along with medical history. ECG was done, Sublingual medicine was to minimize the chances of cardiac arrest along with 2-3 injections for pain killer.In the meantime I had vomited 4-5 times .

I was sweating profusely along with severe pain and tossing about to get relief. The doctors then referred me to PGIMER Chandigarh for furthur treatment.The doctors at PGI emergency went for CT ANGIO which confirmed the dissection.It was type A and B dissection and was obstructing the coronary artery.I was at higher risk of getting a cardiac arrest due to blockage of the artery.

I then called My father’s cardio thoracic surgeon Dr RANA SANDIP SINGH at his place.It was already 7 in morning the next day 1/07/13. He asked me what is wrong , Is my dad is alright as my father had been operated upon for aortic aneurysm at the sinus as well as at ascending aorta. I told him about the whole episode, he immediately asked his subordinates to make arrangements to shift me to CCu and prepare me for surgery.

He was there by my side before i reached CCU He told my parents that I will be undergoing a massive surgery and this one is going to be a complicated one and there are bleak chances that she will survive.I still remember the time it was 11 am and I was shifted to operation theater.

It took more than 12 hours to complete the surgery. My mom told me later after my recovery that it was 1 a.m. when the told her that surgery is over and she will be better and out of CCU after few days. I stayed at the hospital for 40 days. I had few complications post surgery like left lung effusion was not draining, developed hallucinations due anesthesia. MY life have changed since then.

Todd Kozelichki-45

Name: Todd Kozelichki
Email: mtk1519@cox.net
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 August 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

Please take a look at this link on YouTube. It can also be found at the Nebraska Medicine Facebook site. It has had several thousand views on their Facebook page, and many on the links I have shared with others on my own page.

https://youtu.be/Mo9DriwJGCQ

Relates to my story, and recognizes the excellent treatment I received at Nebraska Medicine. Please share with others, or post on your website if you want. I am also willing to provide a written description of my experience if this is something you would prefer. You can contact me at mtk1519@cox.net for questions, suggestions or comments.

I enjoy your website. Thank you for your time.

Todd Kozelichki
Omaha, NE

Bruce Berin-57

Name: Bruce Berin
Email: Bruce0322@aol.com
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection:  4 March 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

Iam a EMT for many years so this is a very strange story.  I purchased a California king mattress.  I needed a truck, so I drove to my buddies place of work talked with him and exchanged my car for his truck. (I don’t remember doing this).  I drove about 20 miles to factory loaded the mattress on the truck and drove home (remember this).  At home my neighbor whom was not originally going to help says come on lets do this, so we did took new mattress in and brought old one out. (I remember this).  I remember that the mattress did not fit in the dumpster and getting into the dumpster and jumping up and down to make it fit.  I remember making the new bed.

I don’t remember driving the truck to my friend and getting my car.  (He says we chatted a bit I have no memory of that).  I got home and my neighbor asked how I felt?  I said I was tired.  he told me that i looked terrible(Don’t remember).  I laid down I lost track of time, I would say this was about 2 or 3 in t he afternoon.  The next thing I remember waking up face down in the shower and the water running on my face and I was soaked.  I got up went into bedroom (remember this part) and from that part on I don’t. . I apparently called 911, my friends on the ambulance arrived saying that they thought I lived here my car was there but did not know the apt.  The door was locked.  The FD was calling for assistance to get in.. Days earlier I had made up with the neighbor to have an emergency key available. 

She obtained it and let the FD in. (Apparently I called 911 and then called her to let them in. I don’t remember) The ambulance along with the Paramedic loaded me into the ambulance.  I wanted to go to a local hospital Level 2.  It was closer, but something the medic didn’t like and he wasn’t sure.  So at the end of the driveway the EMTs asked which way?  Right to the Trauma center 20 miles away left to level 2 hospital 4 miles away.  The medic decided to go to the trauma center “something wasn’t right” vitals were good.  Enroute I asked why was it taking so long?  Then I began to complain of chest pain, so they began to speed up a bit more, and by the time they got to the trauma center the medic says he could hear the swishing in my chest.  (I do not remember any of this) in the ER a trauma was called, I remember the nurse  telling me that I had to go for a very serious operation. 

Ok I said, and I must have given them contact names from my phone and insurance information and signed the papers.  I don’t remember.  The thoracic surgeon thought I had a aneurysm which I had and he fixed.  As soon as the blood was turned back on I blew the repair and my aorta apart.  The surgeon did not expect me to live.  14 hours later he replaced my aorta and put me in to CCICU.  Where I stayed for 18 days.  I woke up what I thought was that day and did not understand why I wasn’t able to see and why I couldn’t talk.  I reached to see what was in my mouth and felt the breathing tube.

They yelled at me not to touch it. I had no idea why I was there or what happened I thought I was kidnapped.  I was trying to reason why I would have been.  the next time I woke up I remember the tube and grabbed it without saying a word and pulled.  (apparently I was in recovery the first time and the 2nd time I was in CCICU) I stayed in CCICU for 15 days, with that tube in my throat. I remember some things but not alot.  My family came to visit, I did not remember.  My friends tried I didn’t remember. My sister told me that 2 days afterwards I was complaining of pain and they had to bring me back into the OR.  At some point I went into Cardiac arrest 2x they put an external pacemaker on me.

I have no recall of any of this, I tried to communicate to no avail.  What I do recall was waking up and being told that I had been in the hospital for 5 days and that I thought I had a car accident with either my car or my friends truck. I tried to communicate via text but I was not able to get my fingers or hands to coordinate to the proper keys.  I tried a board where I could spell and wasn’t able to push the letters or spell the word correctly.  The nurses seemed to know what I was trying to say.  They explained to me what happened.

That I understood.  My family told me that I looked like I was hooked up to go to the moon. .I had over 12 lines going in and out.  I never saw my family there. 3 more days they removed the tube, I have no memory, and I recall being able to sit up.  My friend told me that I was in a chair in the room. .I don’t remember.  I went to a step down where PT tried to get me out of bed with 5 people supporting me.

I walked a bit but it was terribly painful. From my knees down they were black and blue, from the ankle to the toes they were black.  No hx of diabetes, it was from the blood being off for so long. I went to a rehab unit out of the hospital and stayed there 10 days before being discharged to home .  The rehab unit got me from walker to crutches to walking without assistance.  They helped me gain some of my strength and coordination. 

I wasn’t able to lift the electric razor to my face. I wasn’t able to cut my own food, I wasn’t able to brush my teeth, I had no coordination.  Eventually that returned.  I was discharged and home bound for 2 months.  Visiting nurse came daily and helped me wrap my feet and my neighbor took me to podiatrist whom after 2 months from incident had to amputate the tip of my big toe and the tip of the 2nd toe.

My color returned to my feet but I have some loss of feelings to my feet.  They feel like they are asleep. As time went on I was able to return to full work status.  I can no longer provide care on the ambulance, and I have loss of some short term memory.  I loose words that are common, and forget peoples names.  I have returned to the hospital 2x the following year one for rectal bleeding which I was in for 10 days.  They were going to do a colon resection with a colostomy bag for a year.  I was besides myself and the bleeding stopped.

I was in the Hospital for 5 days for kidney stone.  I have yearly cat scan.  They find that the aorta is good but the descending looks a bit distended and always causes concern except for the Thoracic surgeon.  My blood pressure has increased and they want to put me on b/p meds.  I am on coumadin and do monthly INR tests. But so far 2 years parts are holding. I am driving and ride my motorcycle and work full time.  I do not have the stamina I used to and probably should go to the gym.  My weight is a bit over by about 30 lbs.  Otherwise things seem to be good. .

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