Category: Fifties Page 2 of 5

Donald Case-57

Name: Donald Case
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 4 January 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

I had been home from a camping / hiking trip to AZ and NM for just a few hours. Sitting at the computer looking at my photos when I felt very weak. Got up to get an aspirin and fell down in the kitchen, hitting my head on the cabinets. I had fainted for a moment, but thank God I regained consciousness and was able to call 911. Never did get the intense pain in the chest, just an odd weak feeling. After a cat scan at the hospital I was told what happened to me is what happened to John Ritter and they had to operate immediately.

Also told it was 50 / 50 I would live through it. I was in the hospital three weeks and out of work four months. I always had high blood pressure and my cardiologist said that’s why I had the aortic dissection. I take a lot of blood pressure medicine now which does tire me out at times. I did suffer a bout of depression a half a year after all this happened. It’s been over two years now and on the plus side I am still active, hiking the mountains, playing the drums etc. On the minus side I know I am not the same and lessen the intensity of the activities I enjoy. I regret going back to work as it’s getting too much for me, hopefully I could retire soon.

Brian Udell-50

Name: Brian Udell
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 November 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I had a Type A/1 Aortic Dissection as a result of an ejection from an F-15E 18 years earlier. In 1995 I survived a Supersonic Ejection from an F-15E Strike Eagle. During the ejection my body experienced over 45G’s during the deceleration. The G forces weakened my Aorta and it went undetected for 18 years. On November 30, 2013 I was working out when I encountered a sharp pain in my chest. The pain was very isolated and felt as if my heart was tearing apart.

Fortunately I was within 3 miles of a Top Rated Cardiac Hospital and the Surgeon that was on call is rated as one of the best in the world. I was diagnosed after an MRI and ECG and rushed into emergency surgery. The procedure lasted 10 hours and I was in the hospital for 9 days. The Aortic valve through the arch has been replaced with Bovine material and reinforced with grafts. I am doing fine now and have no pain or symptoms.

I have no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. Mine was a result of an extreme injury caused from an aircraft accident. It should have killed me at the time of the accident. My heart was never checked for possible damage at that time and so it went undiagnosed. It took 18 years before it failed. The lesson for this story is if you are involved in a serious accident that imparted high G-Forces to the body it might warrant being checked for a possible dissection. Rapid deceleration forces will cause the Aorta to tear.

Gary Brown-56

Name: Gary Brown
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 24 March 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Gary Brown and on the morning of March 24th 2014 while at work at about 8:30 am, I suddenly felt weakness in my legs and minor pain in my ears and throat. I suddenly felt tired and weak all over but no serious pain at all. I told my boss that I felt sick and I was immediately attended to by in house paramedics. I was eventually taken to the hospital where my blood pressure was taken many times and many EKGs.

Both were normal over the next three hours and then I was given a ct scan where the problem finally showed itself. Within an hour I was on a helicopter headed for Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis which was a forty five minute flight. I was being prepped for surgery quickly while the surgeon was explaining everything. The whole time I was in disbelief because I still had no pain. I woke up in the ICU the next morning with everyone telling me I was very lucky to still be there. Now, it is eleven weeks later and I am doing rehab and feeling well.

I was six weeks out before any strength came back even though I was walking a mile a day. As far as I was concerned this came out of nowhere but after surgery I was told this condition was due to marfans syndrome. I am still unsure what the future holds or what my life expectancy is now but worrying won’t help. I was in good shape before this happened. I lifted weights, did yoga, chelates, and other things in the gym.

For now, I am recovering and won’t be going back to work for another month. But, I do feel great now.

John Handy-52

Name: john handy
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 April 2014
Tell Us Your Story: This is written in four parts, and was originally Facebook posts.
Part 1
It was 8:30 PM and I was in the pool swimming laps. I generally swim 400 meters after running 3 miles so I will cool down before I go home. I was feeling a little bit winded which was odd, but I ignored it. The very last 5 feet of the last lap, I felt a sudden pain in my chest. I do very little weight training and none that night, but I thought it was (maybe) a muscle cramp. I just glided to the wall and then eased my way to the pool steps. At the steps I told my son that my chest really hurt, so I needed to rest a bit and maybe gently stretch some muscles. Or maybe it was heartburn, so I tried to burp a little. Both made me feel better and after about 15 minutes we hit showers and went home.

I related all this to my wife, a Cardiac Nurse, who suggested I relax a bit since it seemed to pass. It was the start of Easter weekend and the kids were out of school the next day. My son and I decided to watch “Star Wars” (I refuse to call it “Episode 4, the New Hope”). At exactly 10:26 PM it felt like someone was shoving a broom stick into my chest. It was not a sharp pointed pain like a nail or a screwdriver. It felt like it was the size of a nickel and was being pushed into my chest just above my heart. I immediately went to consult with my wife. While standing there my lips really started to tingle and my right check felt like it was being blasted with a hair dryer. My arms felt weird too. She decided a trip the ER was in order.

The ER assumed it was a heart attack or maybe a stroke. They drew two blood samples, one for heart enzymes and one for blood clots, hooked up the EKG and started blood pressure checks. The only issue was my blood pressure which was sky high. They gave me Nitro pills and both the pain and the blood pressure subsided. The next step was a CT Scan since it obviously was not a heart attack, coronary blockage or stroke. Several hours after I checked into the hospital, the ER Doctor told us I had an Aortic Dissection and emergency surgery was planned for me. The two surgeons, surgical nurse and anestesiologist came in separately and explained their roles and the procedure. Since it was 2:30 in the morning I asked each one “Its late at night and so you’re good, right?” They all chuckled and said they were on standby for this sort of thing.

My wife understood this better then I did since she is a trained professional. She was the picture of calmness, knowing any anxiety on her part might run my blood pressure up or make me nervous too. She calmly signed paperwork, listened to the surgical team and chatted me up. The nurses commented on my zen like state because the monitor readings were so low and my respiration was 1/2 of normal. When it was time, we both knew this could be a one way trip into the OR. The very last thing I last thing I wanted before I was wheeled away was to touch my wife, kiss her and look her in the eyes before I closed my eyes, possibly for the last time. Then I rolled down the hall.

Part 2
I am writing this 8 days since the operation, I left the hospital on the fourth day. Including the time in the ER I was out off there in 87 hours. 2-1/2 days in ICU including the day of the operation, and 22 hours on the Cardiac Ward. I was going crazy by the third day, and it was a rather smart move. Hospitals are mind numbing places, but on the upside, after 6 years I finally got to see where my wife works.

I feel better every day, but lack any upper body strength due to my sternum being cut in half. So no pushups for a few months. One strange feeling was many of my arm movements were accompanied by popping and clicking, like the muscles are sliding over each other. I have found ways to minimize that because it is a little irritating. For example only moving my forearms when possible.

The pain has been minimal, and I only take pain killers to sleep. My rib cage feels like it collapses a bit when I try to sleep. At first it was very anxiety provoking. For the first several days I thought I would suffocate in my sleep, which meant my eyes popped open every time I nodded off. Then my mind would not stop wildly racing from one thing to another. I never was affected by coffee but I imagine it would be the same as if I was caffeine sensitive and had a cup of Starbucks just before bed. For the first couple days after I got home I spent the whole night staring at the ceiling. I still don’t sleep through the night, but I get a solid four hours somewhere in there.

I saw a presentation on YouTube, about 55 minutes long, that described the condition, what it is and is not, the urgency, and most interesting had a video showing the procedure. I did not realize the doctors actually remove the damaged section of my Aorta, from near my heart for about 2 inches. Then they sew in a new piece of replacement prosthetic tubing and call it good. Hopefully its got a good long life since it can’t self repair like other body tissue.

I have a modest post operative social life with some visitors taking me to lunch. Because of the cut sternum, I can’t drive, though I bet that I could drive just fine. I have been in situations where I had to steer with my knees before…….

Part 3
So it has been 2 weeks since I was cut open like a fish. The operation went well from what I can tell since I am still alive. Evidently my Aorta was leaking into my Pericardium so I was on my way to my higher reward by the time they cut me open. That explains the hasty stab wound they made at my femoral artery and my jugular to get me plumbed up and cool me down to 50 degrees.

One thing I will never forget, in the hour or so from when I was diagnosed (and told “this kills most people”) until I was put under is that I was at peace with where my life had taken me so far. The ER Nurse noted my “Zen like state” with my breathing so slow the alarms were occasionally going off. I had no regrets, though there were things I still needed to do. However I felt nothing had been postponed unnecessarily and I did not feel some overhanging bucket list that I was missing out on. I was all caught up on my responsibilities and had done all I needed to do through that moment of my life. I told my wife I was going to close my eyes after she kissed me in the ER on the odd chance I died on the table. I wanted the very last thing I ever saw was her leaning over me. (I actually had to open my eyes in the OR because they asked me a question but I was already drugged up so that doesn’t count.)

So I survived – I saw my surgeon 11 days after for the post op follow up. His nurse pulled out the staples, 24 of them, which hurt more then anything else so far. It was like they were yanking out hairs one by one. The Doc said I was doing well, so “check back next year” and he sent me on my way. Next time I may get another CT Scan or a consult at Stanford to see if there is anything else to do by way of follow-up. Otherwise, I got a limited release to go back to work (telecommuting), I was told I could start driving after 3 weeks, and I have full release to work on June 1st. He also said to avoid strenuous activity, like hitting the gym for about 3 months. Even then, I need my cardiologist to give me the green light.

I have resumed light activity. My wife and I started walking almost immediately, maybe 4 or 5 days after the surgery with ½ mile walks at a leisurely pace. Last night I was fully prepared to start the second ½ mile but she told me to cool my jets. I find myself feeling more eager to take on more then my Cardiac Nurse allows (that would be my wife).

One thing I noticed in my interactions with folks is the immediate logical leap people make. When I say “Aortic Dissection” it means nothing. But when I tell them “open heart surgery” they immediately jump to “heart attack” followed by notions of poor health. Maybe I am projecting, but maybe not, since nearly everyone has told me a heart attack story of a close relative who had poor health, poor eating habits, smoked, never saw the inside of a gym and how clearly it was foretold. So for the record, I had no risk factors. My blood pressure was low, cholesterol was good, I ran 3 miles every other day at the gym or on the streets and the doctor said my Aorta was squeaky clean. I was nearly killed at random and I may never know why. Maybe God was calling me home but the surgeons intervened.

Part 4
So its has been six weeks and I am not dead yet. I read I was supposed to get depressed along the way, but that has not happened yet. Maybe next week? I guess I don’t wonder “Why me Lord” after surviving 32 years in the Army with the attendant occupational hazards that comes with vacations in hell as well as some really cool experiences around the world. The one thing I did feel that was unsettling was a very great sense of personal vulnerability. I have never been assaulted in my little town, but I was very fearful that I would get pushed, or assaulted or otherwise put in harms way at a time when I was physically unable to even run away. I was afraid I would standing in the line at the store and someone would pick that moment to declare I had cut them off and start shoving me around. Or I would be walking down the sidewalk and dog would try to bite me. Or, Or, Or. The anxiety was pretty bad sometimes and lasted until week four or so.

My other big concern is “What can I do?” I used to run. Can I do that? I used to play golf. Is that okay? How about intimacy? How about garden work? How about bike rides? How about working on my car? How will my quality of life be affected? And how about my quantity of life? Not my life expectancy – I expect 30 more years. Rather how full can my life be with the things I used to enjoy? What is in and what is out? I am walking 3 – 5 miles now at a 20 minute pace. I used to walk a 15 minute pace, and I used to hike hills. When can I start that again?

I feel better then I am. I have no way of knowing how my graft is doing. The scare at my groin site, ugly though it is, is all I have as a proxy for my insides. It is still lumpy and bumpy and feels like there is three or four toothpicks stacked under my skin. Until that is healed completely, I figure I must be careful about over exertion, which has a pretty low threshold for two more months. One real benefit that I did not count on is a slow but steady weight loss. I was starting to worry about weight gain, but have since lost twenty pounds which is close to my ideal weight of 13 years ago. If this continues I may lose 5 more pounds to the weight I was when I met my wife.

KD Hobbs-58

Name: kd hobbs
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 May 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

May 5, 2012 I went in the hospital w/what appeared to be a heart attack, but it was my aorta. May 8, 2012 my aorta gave out and I was rushed into heart surgery for what was called “aortic dissecting aneurysm” w/a 50-50 chance to live. Fortunately I survived and went home a week later.

I ended up disabled to the point I could not return to work. I have more physical problems now than I can put here w/ no help on dealing w/it. I have been given no reason or solution to how I feel by my surgeon or current cardiac doctor. Disabled for life!

Gerry Raach-51

Name: Gerry Raach
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 24 October 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My Aortic Dissection Monday October 24th, 2011 was just another work day. However, I went to work with a plan for leaving early after attending a 2:00 PM meeting close to my home. My plan was to work in the yard and enjoy the unseasonably warm 80º temperatures.

I got home at about 2:45 PM and went directly to the bedroom to change my clothes. I had removed my work clothes and was stepping into my shorts. About half way up I felt the worst pain that I had ever experienced! That pain was in my chest, it was sharp and burned. I began to sweat profusely. It was 2:50 PM.

I went to the living room, turned on the ceiling fan and sat down in a chair. At 3:00 PM I was still sitting and the pain was subsiding some. I took my blood pressure (I have a pressure cuff at to home to monitor my high blood pressure – controlled with medication) it was 110/64, extremely low for me. I knew that something was wrong!

My first thoughts were that history was repeating itself. My father had his first heart attack when he was about my age (51). My next thoughts were how should I get help? Call 911 and wait for emergency responders to get there? Drive myself to the hospital? I stood up, decided that I was clear headed and could drive. So, I threw on a shirt, got my wallet & car keys, found a pair of flip-flops and headed out the door.

I mapped out my path (in my head) before leaving. There would be one stoplight that always backs up traffic but the right turn lane is usually empty and I could use that to get past everyone. I got there and traffic was backed up with an empty turn lane … Several horns honked as I went straight as the light turned green.

As I was on my way to the hospital I called to let my wife know that I was going to the hospital and to not worry about me. I told her I’d call when I knew something. Well, first she asked me what the hell I was doing driving and then informed me that she was going to leave work and see me at the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital I found a parking spot that was only about 30 yards or so (uphill) from the Emergency Room entrance. By the time I got to the registration desk I was again sweating and my chest was hurting. I realized that I was holding my chest with my right hand balled up into a fist and I was shaking. They took me to a (very uncomfortable) bed immediately and said that they’d get my information in a little while.

They examined me, took a blood sample to determine if I was having a heart attack. About this time my wife arrived. It was very comforting to have her there with me.

The blood test came back negative for a heart attack. My pain was subsiding but still there. So, they took another blood sample and gave me a tiny nitro pill (under my tongue). The nitro pill seemed to help so they put a second pill under my tongue. The doctor then had the nurse apply a nitro patch to my upper arm.

The second Blood test results also came back negative for a heart attack. However they wanted to keep me overnight and perform some tests in the morning. I told my wife to go on home, get some dinner and a good night’s sleep. There was not an available bed (actually it was their shift change, I think) so they put me in a small room with a TV. I called my office and asked one of my co-workers to bring me my laptop so that I could help keep a project on schedule since I would probably be going in late that next day.

My co-worker brought me my laptop and we visited for a little while. Shortly after he left I was taken up to a room. They knew that I was coming so they had ordered me a dinner. I ate my dinner and then settled in with my computer and worked until ±2:00 AM. Except for the frequent visits by the nurses to check my vitals I tried to get some sleep.

I was up early the next morning wanting to be disconnected from the monitor(s) so that I could take a shower. I was very persistent in my desire to take a shower, so much so that after breakfast and some more requests I was allowed to take a shower (at ±9:00 AM).

My wife had arrived at a little after 8:00 AM to be with me. She brought me some clean clothes in anticipation of my going home after the planned tests. The first test was supposed to be a Stress Test which was scheduled for 10:00 AM. The doctor came in to “examine” me before I went for my stress test. After listening to my heart he asked if I had ever had a heart murmur, I had not. The nurse came in with a sonogram machine, set it up, put some lube on the wand and began to look at what was going on in my chest.

She very quickly and abruptly left the room, returning shortly with the doctor. It was then, that they very calmly explained to us, and showed us on the sonogram screen that my Ascending Aorta had ruptured. I could see the inner layer(s) of tissue flapping as the blood flowed through.

Things happened very fast after that. The hospital I was in was not equipped to handle my problem. In their opinion there were only 2 hospitals in the metro area that were properly equipped and staffed to handle an Aortic Dissection so the calls were made to determine which one I would be taken to. Then there was the matter of how I would be transported. There was some discussion of Life Flight so it was obvious that this was a serious situation.

While awaiting the decision as to which hospital and how best to get there I was given an MRI. After coming out of the MRI we found out that I would be taken by ambulance to Research Hospital and that my surgeon would be Dr. Seligson. My wife took some of my things (clothes & computer) and stopped by home to get a few things on her way to Research. After stopping at home, she decided to leave her car at her mother’s house and ride with her mother to the hospital.

The ride from St. Mary’s to Research seemed to take a long time. When we got to Research we went in the Emergency Entrance. The ICU was on the other side of the 2 block long building, another long ride (on the gurney).

When I got to the ICU there was a room all ready for me, full of monitors and IV stands. I was transferred from the gurney to the bed and my IV was hung on one of the stands. Several people were coming in and out of the room doing more things than I could keep track of. In the crowd of people was one nurse that gave me her name (that I don’t remember) and told me she was going to be my ICU nurse. She started to explain to me what would be happening. Not far into her explanation my surgeon came in, introduced himself and then told the nurse that he was unable to read the MRI that came over from St. Mary’s (something about St. Mary’s having old software) and that I was to be taken immediately for a new MRI, that ended her explanation of the upcoming event(s).

During the MRI Dr. Seligson was watching it as it took place. He came out of the “control” room just as I was being moved from the machine back onto the bed (to be taken back to ICU) and informed me and the others in the room that I would not be going back to ICU, I was to go to the OR. Several of the people there left the room (to do prep, I’d guess). Still in the room with me was the MRI Technician, a young doctor and a nurse. The nurse was trying to help me find (call) my wife. My wife was in the building and was trying to find me. The nurse went to get her and the technician left the room.

I looked at the young doctor standing by my feet and asked him what my chances were. He told me that Dr. Seligson was a good doctor. I told him that I had heard that but wanted to know what my chances were. He told me that with Dr. Seligson probably 80 or 90 percent.

Dr. Seligson came back in with 2 pieces of paper. He asked the young doctor to leave us, he did. Dr. Seligson then explained what would be required in surgery (in terms that I could understand). He explained that the ruptured Aorta would be repaired with a man-made material. Also, it appeared that the valve had been damaged and may need to be replaced. I had two choices in the event the valve needed to be replaced, one is a pig valve that would probably only last for 8 to 10 years before needing to be replaced. The other choice would be a mechanical valve that would be good for 50 to 100 years. The drawback to the mechanical valve was that I would be on a blood thinner for the rest of my life to keep the blood from clotting on/around the mechanical valve as the body will not accept it. I chose the mechanical valve. I said “let’s just go in once”. I signed both sheets of paper one for each repair.

As he began to leave I asked him what my chances were. He told me “I’ll do a good job”. I told him I was sure that he would but what were my chances? He again told me “I’ll do a good job”. He then left the room. I knew then (for sure) that things were not good. However,
I felt at peace with things.

The nurse then returned with my wife. I gave her the few valuables that I still had with me. We exchanged an I Love You and a kiss. I remember the fear and tears in her eyes. That is all we had time for before I was taken to the ER.

As I was being taken to the OR there was a man with a razor preparing to shave me before I was moved from the gurney to the operating table (that’s when you know that things are serious!). As soon as I was on the operating table the shaving began in earnest. The man told me that the chest hair would grow back and I told him that I would not miss those 4 hairs.

As soon as I was on the table another man asked if I knew who he was, I told him “no”. He said that he was the anesthesiologist and asked if anyone had explained what he would be doing? Yes they had. As he was asking me these questions two other people were taping my wrists down. I said “this could get kinky” no one laughed. The anesthesiologist then told me I’d feel a little stick. The next thing I knew I was in ICU, no counting backwards from 10 or anything like that.

10:00 AM the ruptured Aorta was discovered. 2:00 PM I was on the operating table. I was on the operating table for 8 ½ hours.

±6:00 AM Wednesday morning I began coming out of the anesthesia. I remember first having a dream and the immediately having the conscious thought that I made it, I was alive because I figured that you did not dream if you were dead. I was very happy, to say the least. By 7:00 AM I was trying to take the breathing tube out (as most people do, I hear) and I was told to leave it alone. As best as one can talk with a breathing tube in, I asked what I would have to do to get it take out. They said that I’d have to breathe. I told them to take it out and I’d breathe! They did and I did.

Next, I wanted a drink of water. I was told that I could not drink water (they worry about fluid build-up around the heart). I was persistent in my desire to have a drink of water. After a while the nurse contacted the doctor for permission and returned to my room with the smallest glass of water I had ever seen. She set it down and informed me that I could have 3 of those – in a 24 hour period. I told her that that was “not going to cut it”. I asked what I would have to do to get more than that. She told me that I would have to go upstairs. So, I asked, how do get to go upstairs? She said that I had to get out of bed (with assistance) and sit up in a chair for a certain period of time (and get doctor authorization). I was upstairs in a new room by 6:00 PM that day having a solid food dinner.

I was very proactive in my care which frustrated many of the nurses (I have lots of stories there) but, I wound up going home 5 days after my surgery. I returned to work (electronically) the following Monday. I was physically back at my office before Thanksgiving and doing well today.

Debbie Pecoraro-52

Name: Debbie Pecoraro
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 August 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

On August 29th, 2012 I went to work as usual and when the end of the day approached I decided to go for a walk since it was such a beautiful evening. I stopped home, changed clothes put on my sneakers and proceeded to the river walk for my nightly walk. When I arrived I met a friend who I had not seen all summer spoke with him for a few and we agreed to meet in the parking lot after my walk to catch up on things. I turned up my mp3 player and started my walk. Everything was fine for about 10 minutes when I suddenly felt a terrible pain in the front of my ears. along with hearing a pop. Since I love my music loud I thought I busted my eardrum and continued to walk. I kept getting weaker and weaker turned to return to the car as my legs moved less and less, all that kept running through my mind was I was not going to die on this river walk. I had no heart pain but started to get pain at the base of my skull and started to sweat as I got weaker.

Luckily my friend came back early to meet me and saw that something was wrong. He could see that I was having trouble walking and started running towards me until I was able to yell to him to get the car. He then picked me up and placed me in the car since I now had no strength to lift my legs.

I was rushed up the hill to the Emergency Room they immediately started to hook me up to the EKG leads and asked me when I fell. I was arguing with the nurse that I had not fallen when she told me to look at the bruise I had. When I looked down I could not believe what I was seeing. My midsection from my breastbone all the way down and around to my back was all purple. The ER doctor had an idea of what this might be and immediately ordered a cat scan. It showed I was bleeding internally and my aorta was dissecting. I was rushed by ambulance to Yale New Haven Hospital where the O.R. staff was waiting for me. Luckily Dr. Geirsson was on call.

I awoke five days later, not remembering anything. I did not even know who my son was or sister. Not until she put on her glasses did something snap and it was like I came out of a fog and knew who everyone was. Things went fast after that. The last of the tubes came out. I was walking by nighttime. Transferred from CCU to a normal room two days later. I stayed overnight one more night than went home the next day. Found out I was on a respirator for 5 days. Not a good patient while on respirator. Lucky to be alive since I had minimal time before my aorta was completely dissected. Required three chest tubes to get rid of blood and my heart was completely stopped for surgery and my body temp was dropped to 18 degrees. I still have a ways to go but have come a long way. I have trouble with my left arm probably happened during surgery but that was not important(totally understand) I now have asthma and tire easily. I have been told it gets easier. I am not so patient But I wake up every morning and take it day by day.

Please feel free to email me to just chat or discuss surgeries or ask questions. This is how we can learn from each other. I did have a history of high blood pressure for four years which I ignored plus an enormous amount of stress in my life when all this happened. Between the two I was told I was a walking time bomb. Thanks for letting me share it feels great to talk about it.

Tony Sorg-54

Name: Tony Sorg
Age at time of Dissection: 54
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 28 October 2008
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas diagnosed with a AAA in July of 2008,after a little farming accident. I had no symptoms what so ever. After being informed I had done nothing to damage my heart by the Doctor,he said it was caused by a bicuspid aortic valve and that it had to be surgically repaired. Before the surgery I had to decide if I wanted a mechanical valve or a pig valve best because scenario would be to repair the valve. As the case goes the Doctor was able to repair the valve and aneurism,thus far 5 years later things are good,normal life and run a elliptical trainer 5 to 6 days a week.I really hope this brings hope to someone just going into it.

Daryl Reed-51

Name: Daryl Reed
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 September 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Daryl Reed, I am 51 years old, I survived an Aorta Dissection on September 8th 2012. I am a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer and I spent the last twelve years as a Police Officer in Arkansas. Here is my survival story. I was camping with friends and family in Noel, Missouri. I woke up the morning of September 8th 2012 for a car show and a chili cook off, which I have attended since 2001. I wanted to get my day started by washing my car for the car show. I walked into the shower of our cabin, I turned on the shower.

As soon as I got in the shower, I noticed the water was cold, being in the Navy for 20 years, I have taken a cold shower or two in my time so it was no big deal to me. As soon as I touched that cold water with my full body I hit the floor with a sharp chest pain. I knew something was wrong. I grabbed a towel to dry off, I knew I was in trouble and needed to get help. I walked to my room where my wife was asleep. I woke my wife up and told her to call 911 because I thought I was having a heart attack. My wife remained calm, as she called 911 to get me help.

We were upstairs in a very large cabin, our friends helped keep me calm while waiting for the ambulance crew to arrive. I was helped down the stairs by three boy scouts who were friends and were staying in our cabin with their parents, to meet the ambulance staff.

I was life flighted to Joplin Heart Hospital where I was met by a heart team. They ordered a CT Scan. I met Dr. Foreman afterwards, he explained to me that I was having a Dissection of my Aorta, he explained the burst was through two of the three layers of my Ascending Aorta. Dr. Foremen stated I was in need of emergency surgery to save my life. My wife arrived at the hospital and was informed as to what was going on. I told her I needed to have this surgery and the outcome was not promising, but it was a long shot at survival.

The good doctor explained the procedure to us and the risk. I was rushed to the emergency room. Twelve hours later my wife was told it was over, but it was going to be a rough night. They replaced the torn Aorta and a heart valve with a mechanical valve. My wife stated they took me to the ICU for recovery. The next day I was taken off the vent and woke up.

The pain I was experiencing was unreal, but I was alive. My wife explained it was touch and go for the last twenty four hours. I told her I was glad to be alive, but I didn’t remember what had happened to me. My wife explained I was asking for my granddaughter and if she was ok, I guess I thought something happened to her, she was only a few months old at the time. I spent the next two days in ICU recovering, I was moved to a step up room where I spent another two days. I had a physical therapy staff to help me walk and move my limbs, my body was to long in surgery table so my limbs were numb, and it was hard to walk. My doctors told me this was normal and I would recovery. I was discharged after five days from the start of my ordeal, to return to my home state of Arkansas.

I was home for five days and didn’t feel well, I felt something was wrong, I was having strong chest pains, so I had my wife take me to our local hospital to the ER room. I was diagnosed with a paricardial infusion in my heart sac, which is a fluid that slowly builds pressure around the heart. I was taken into surgery for a second time in 10 days to remove the fluid from my heart area. I was placed back in ICU where I spent another two days recovering. I spent another five days in the hospital and was released to go home.

I spent time over the couple of weeks seeing my cardiologist in his office, he told me I would never be able to return to my current job as a police officer, or any job that could be stressful, so I submitted for early retirement due to my disability. I was approved in December 2012 for retirement after seeing the State of Arkansas physicians. I struggle every day with dizziness, from blood pressure issues and I feel I am tired all the time as if I ran a marathon. I spoke to my physician about this, he states it could take a year or two to recover or I may never recover to where I was at before the dissection.

In January 2013 I was denied SSDI and had to hire an attorney. My understanding is it will take months to find out if I get approved through a reconsider process, if not I will see a hearing with a disability judge. I found this site recently, it has helped out a lot, but there is very little about disability for this health issue.

Gwen Brooks 59

Name: Gwen Brooks
Age at time of Dissection: 59
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 May 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

I am a bank teller and had worked the early shift that Tuesday. My husband and I spent a quiet evening at home, where I eventually fell asleep in my recliner. I woke up a little after 11:00 pm and decided to go to bed. When I rose to get out of the recliner l suddenly experienced the worst chest pain I had ever felt. Being severely anemic at one time I was familiar with how angenia felt but this hurt as bad or worse but different. My legs gave out and I held onto the chair and slid to the floor.

I called to my husband who had already gone to bed and he ran to my aid. The pain was so severe. I couldn’t tell him how I felt but I was holding my chest so he gave me an aspirin and he prayed and called 911. When the paramedics arrived they gave me 3 more aspiring and 2 nitroglycerin tablets, started an IV of some sort and started doing an EKG. They must have given me something for the pain because I remember some things but I can’t account for time.

I do remember them cutting my clothes off and doing a Cat scan. The next thing I remember was being loaded into a Helicopter and being told that I was being life-flighted to Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas (about 100 miles away). When arrived at Methodist Hospital I remember the doctor telling me that he was going to have to do surgery and that it was serious. When I became aware again I was in ICU having a ICU experience that’s a story in itself. I was in ICU about 4 days and then in a regular room about a week.

I then went to a rehabilitation hospital for two weeks. I couldn’t support my weight and I couldn’t walk without assistance. It has been 3 and a half months since my surgery and I am back to work and feeling fine. My surgeon said that my aneurysm was caused by untreated hypertension, which I didn’t know I had.

I didn’t know how serious my condition was until a month after my surgery. I still haven’t regained the full use of my right arm arm. and hand (from the incision hooking me to the heart /lung machine) but it is getting better daily.

Thomas Krug-58

Name: Thomas Krug
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 27 January 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

2010 Was a hard year to stand tall. I was in my late fifties and beginning to feel the aches and pains that come with it. For several years I had lower back pain, and now it was excruciating. After a conversation with my daughter, who works at Columbia University Medical Center as a fundraiser, on 25 Oct 2010, I found myself in the surgery room at Milstein Hospital at NYPH, Columbia having a Micro Disc Laminectomy with Dr. McCormick. I felt a million times better and after being out of work for some time I was to return to work on the 1st of Feb. 2011. I was given strict orders not over exert or do any heavy lifting.

January 27, 2011 is a day I will never forget. The snow came down in soft fluffy mounds and needed to be removed. I was home from work along with my two youngest daughters while my wife was at work at a Nursing Home. I knew I wasn’t supposed to clear the driveway, but I hated not being able to help and they snow was light plus I had use of a snow blower, I felt safe. I dressed in layers to be warm and after about 35 minutes I was huffing and puffing, feeling short of breath and starting to sweat.
BAM, I was hit in the chest with a baseball bat. I fell backwards into the snow and my legs and arms went numb. I was shocked and out of breath and realized this was no random baseball bat attack; it might be the big one.

I had to lie in the snow for several minutes until I caught my breath and I called out to my daughters. The older of the two came out and saw me in the snow and she ran to call for an ambulance.
In the words of Red Fox, I thought this was the, “big one.”
The ambulance showed up along with the fire department and city truck with a plow. Soon after the paramedics arrived and they put large IVs in both arms and put me on their field heart monitor. I was loaded into the ambulance and my daughter Victoria came with me as my youngest daughter Patricia stayed home to notify my wife and two other daughters.
After we arrive at the hospital, well the tests and timeline is better described in bullet points:
• I am moved into the ER and my clothing cut of, blood drawn, an EKG is done and I am given pain medication.
• None of my enzymes are elevated.
• I wait for four hours to re-take the tests.
• My wife, daughters, my daughter’s in-laws, as well as my god-daughter and good friend arrive.
• I am speaking with the ER physician and tell him I am followed by a cardiology group, he told me it is my LUCKY day; one of the MDs in the group was in the ER checking on someone else. Dr. Lombardo came to see me and review what had been done; he also did his own physical evaluation. He remained in the ER with me.
• Around the four hour point more blood was drawn, again no elevation in the cardiac enzymes, but the d-dimmer was starting to elevate.
• I was maintained in the ER for an additional four hours, they completed another blood draw with basically the same results, no elevation of the cardiac markers but the d-dimmer continued to rise. (indicates clotting of blood is taking place in the body somewhere).
• Dr. Lambardo requested a cat scan of the chest and upper abdomen.
• I was moved to a room to await the results. I am laying there with my wife and daughters in the room. A nurse walks in and announces she has the results for me and my youngest children leave the room. My wife and eldest daughter are there to hear the news. It is not a heart attack. The nurse says the aortic dissection, I see my wife and daughter put on big smiles not grasping what the nurse is saying. My daughter later tells me that my face went immediately pale and that’s when they began to worry.
• My oldest daughter, Kate – the one who works for Columbia University Medical Center, began to text and calls her colleagues giving them my status and situation.
• Dr. Lombardo called a nearby facility and in the area that does open heart surgery and discovered they were available to take me. They had two surgeries ahead of me and another PT waiting, it could be the next afternoon before they got to me.
• The aortic valve team at Columbia said they would accept me as a patient, send an ambulance and could prep me for surgery right away.
• I arrived at Milstein Hospital of NYPH-Columbia at 2:00 a.m. on January 28, 2011. It was explained to me that the Surgical Team had been notified and was attempting to get to the hospital in the snow.
• I was moved to a surgical ICU suite right outside of the OR, I was told I would be monitored and if anything started to show any additional stressors, or in laymen terms I started to go south I would be rushed into the OR and the surgery would be started with team members who were on site.
• My wife stayed with me all night, in a small uncomfortable chair feeding me ice chips, while my children were sent to my eldest apartment to nap and come back.
• I had many doctors stop by the room checking on me and asking questions about what had happened and what my sensations were when the dissection was first occurring.
• Two anesthesiologists came in around 6:30 am and preformed yet another physical exam, explained that they would transport me into the OR. They made sure the IVs I had in were open and functioning.
• I was moved into the OR suite, I was introduced to the different nurses and told what their duties are; I was also introduced to the profusionist and the surgeon, Dr A. Stewart.
• The anesthesiologists told me they were giving me something to make me drowsy so they could intubate me. Well it put me out and I did not wake up for several days.
• My family tells me the surgery took almost 12 hours, I saw the inter op report, it was 11.5 hrs. My daughter Loretta spent the nights with my wife in the hospital, while my eldest took the other children home to rest. Soon my son-in-law, who was working in the Philippines at the time and cancelled his business trip to come home arrived. My family spent several days living in a waiting room waiting for me to wake up.

• When I woke I found out that I had the aortic valve replaced; I now have an equine valve. They also replaced the aortic root, ascending aorta, aortic arch and a portion just distal to that with a Dacron tube. I was on by-pass twice; each time was for a period of about 2 hours. I was in an extreme trendelburg position with my head packed in ice and my body temp lowered. I must have been strapped in very securely. This type of surgery is never planned and I assume the surgeon doesn’t know how extensive the damage is until they have the chest open. Dr. Allan Stewart performed the surgery and since I am writing this it was a very successful outcome. Dr. Judah Weinberger, MD, Ph.D. followed me post op during the remainder of my hospital stay.

In the New York metropolitan area they run commercials where different patients explain how they experience excellent outcomes with surgeries and hospitalizations at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia Campus and if I was ev
er approached I would gladly be a cheerleader for them. My family and I, my parents, brother and sister and multitude of friends are all thankful the surgeon, doctors and staff at NY Presbyterian are so exceptional with their expertise.

• After the surgery I was moved to a post surgical ICU and maintained in an induced coma for a day before I was allowed to awaken. I stayed in the post ICU for several days then moved to a medical ICU.
• I had to learn how to walk again before I was allowed to leave the hospital.
• I was hospitalized for 15 days before I was released. I caught a condition called c-diff, a severe form of diarrhea and broke out in a rash from head to toe.
• I left the hospital using a walker, could not get far without it. Had to regain my strength just to stand by myself let alone walk unsupported.
• I have to mention my health insurance company was very at tentative; they assigned a nurse manager to me and called me several times a week when I first went home. They, the INS Company, provided visits by physical therapists, occupational therapists, psycho therapy all providing care for me in my home.
• I learned that many males experiences uncontrollable bouts of crying for no particular reason, I can attest to this and other facts that open heart patient’s experience.
• During the surgical procedure I experienced a crushing injury to my right ulnar nerve at my elbow. I woke with my right fourth and fifth digits numb and numbness running from my elbow to the finger tips. My surgery was performed 28 January 2011 and it is now 20 June 2012 and my fourth and fifth digits are still numb. Sensation is returning but it a very slow process.

• It is still numb in the area of the bypass incision. That area is also decreasing in size.
• I did participate in cardiac re-hab, a great way to learn how perform aerobic exercises and build up stamina. I am restricted from any heavy lifting and no straining of my upper body. When the insurance coverage for re-hab ran out, I joined a local wellness center and realize my party is over.
There is no way I expected this to happen to me but I did not do anything to avoid it. I retired from the U.S. Navy after completing 21 plus years of service. I left the Navy standing 6’4” and weighing 235-240 lbs. I experience the dissection when I was 58 and good 18 years after retiring from the navy, I was still the 6’4” but had increased my weight to just shy of the 380 lbs mark. A good 140 lbs more then when I retired, I drank too much alcohol and eat entirely too much of whatever I wanted. Besides the over consumption I was lacking any physical exercise, all positions I held post Navy were / are sedentary and I did not do anything on my own. So I did not expect it but did little to avoid it or setting myself up for other physical ailments.

I thank god I was afforded the opportunity to reform. I continue to take too much for granted and am struggling to get down to the 250 lbs mark. I exercise more, consume less, and ETOH is off the menu it does not mix well with the numerous medications I take to stay well.
This did not just happen to me, it happened to my entire family. My wife took care of me when I returned from the hospital, bathing me and assisting with all the things I took for granted prior to the dissection. I am grateful to so many people who did so much to keep me around and those who cared for me.
I will gladly speak with anyone who wants to discuss their experience or would like further or more detailed information on what I experienced. My email address is and a phone number I can be reached at is: 908-230-9363.

Lloyd Jones-51

Name: Lloyd Jones
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 September 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

The evening before I attended a football game and had popcorn and fish from a fast food restaurant. Two weeks earlier I revisited by cardiologist due to a flapping felling in my heart after 3 weeks on a new bp medicine toporol. The day of the type b dissection I traveled 6.5 hours from NW Indiana to Nashville, TN to assist my son in moving into a new apartment.

Early that morning I lifted the U-Haul trailer to attach to my Jeep. During the 6.5 hours I frequently asked my wife to rub my back pain behind my heart. After arriving in Nashville within in 5 minutes I had traveled up and down the 3 flight of step leading to my son’s apartment. I bent over to pickup a pillow on the floor and that’s when the attach hit me. It felt as if I was drowning and I counted for 1 to 3 minutes.

The neighbor new CPR and instructed me to lay down and that when the drowning effect stopped. The 911 response took about 4 minutes. They administered nitrogen into my mouth and all the hyperventilating and coughing stopped. Within 5 minutes it repeated and they re administered nitrogen into the mouth.
I was rushed to the St.

Thomas Hospital cardiac center and professional services were implemented for 8 days. (The next day my father was murdered and this new issue created more precautions for me.) I take 10 medications – 5 bp, K 75 meg, two water pills, and cholesterol med, and protronix. I have limited activities but get sleepy often and understand I have an abdominal aneurism. I thank God, the medical staff and a wife who keeps in me check.

My employer refused to let me return to work.. Hope this has been helpful. I never lost consciousness.


Hi I am Therese and I guess I’m looking for reassurance we can get through this.

Our story is…. Tim just turned 50 in April 2012 he has always been very healthy apart from migraine headaches
he is on no medications and we are farmers . We live in Queensland Australia.

January 2012
Tim fell to the ground with a massive headache and we called an ambulance turned out he had a ruptured brain aneurysm.

He was flown by royal flying doctors to Brisbane for emergency surgery after sitting at the Mackay hospital most of the day in a dark room because they thought it was a migraine, it was 9hrs before they scanned him and found his brain was bleeding. A failed attempt to coil it on the Sunday than they clipped it on Monday meant that from rupture to finish of surgery was 50 hours so thank god it was a slow leak.

While in the Brisbane hospital talking about how lucky he was to survive this as most don’t with the type he had, one nurse said it could have been worse he could have had an Aortic aneurysm we all laughed and agreed that he was indeed very lucky tho Tim did say with his luck he could get that too and he never really shaked that feeling off. He has had a few nightmares that it would happen.

April 2012
Tim was still taking thing easy from the brain aneurysm. He was eating his dinner when he thought he was having a heart attack and the pain was in his chest and shoulder ran down his back and settled in his left hip.

I didn’t wait for an ambulance this time as it take way to long for them to come (we are an hour from a town with a hospital) even though I thought it was more likely to be indigestion, we went straight into the hospital luckly they took him right in and started test so very quickly they found the trouble and again he was transport by royal flying doctors, this time to Townsville hospital. They are calling it an aortic dissection type A.

He has shredded the arch and torn his aorta down as far as his left leg. His left leg and kidney suffered from not enough blood supply from when it happen to when they could get him into surgery (it was about 12hr before surgery started).

He had a 10 hour bypass surgery in which they repaired the arch of the aorta. Than he was in ICU for 5hours when they rushed back into surgery and back onto to bypass to remove a huge clot around his heart and put another graft on the artery that runs from the aorta towards his right arm.

All in all I feel the heart part of his dissection is being well looked after BUT they dont seem to be doing anything for the rest of it and that worries me. I am so scared that the false lumen as they call it might also rupture he is sure that it has shorten his life expectancy. When I press the doctors about the lower part they say lets get though this (the open heart surgery part first) But I feel that they have fixed that bit yes its only been a week but that bit is on the mend. He had terrible burning in his left leg we he tries to walk and he is not eating because it cause him to have terrible tummy pain. I am worried that they have not sorted that area out.

Am I being paranoid?
Is it likely to happen again?
He has had 3 major surgery’s in 12 weeks. Is he going to rupture again?
Now he is having nightmares that he is dieing.
They keep saying how lucky he is but I sure feel that he very unlucky
They say blood pressure is the problem and that there is no connection between the two ruptures.
However we were seeing the GP every two weeks to check his BP from February til April and the GP said his blood pressure was fine no need for medications

I am so worried to take him back out to our farm 🙁

Thanks for listening

Repairing just the ascending aorta and arch for a type A dissection is the standard approach. The most likely place for a rupture to occur is near the heart which is why that is repaired first.

It is not possible to reach the descending aorta from the incision used to replace the ascending aorta. Fortunately the descending is much less likely to rupture, so it can generally be watched.

There is however concern about blood flow loss to the branches of the descending aorta as occurred in Tim’s left leg. I would be concerned about pain after eating as that can be due to lack of blood flow to the stomach and intestine. It could be other things but after a dissection blood flow to the intestine can be compromised. I would recommend a CT angiogram to carefully assess how the dissection affects flow to the stomach and intestine.

The pain in the left leg assuming that blood flow has been reestablished is likely due to residual nerve damage from when the leg was not getting blood flow. Once the nerves grow back the pain should get much better. That us a slow process as nerves grow about a millimeter a day. In the meantime drugs like gabapentin which help with nerve pain can really help.

As for prognosis – the dissection should not make a profound difference in life expectancy if appropriate monitoring and surgery when indicated is performed. I have many patients who are more than 20 years out from their dissection and one who is more than 30 years.

As for the coincidence of the brain aneurysm and the aortic dissection, it could be coincidence, high blood pressure or an underlying condition that results in weak blood vessels. Writing it off to coincidence is probably being rather careless. High blood pressure would have to be rather extreme to explain both, so it is important look to for conditions that weaken the arteries, e.g. Loeys-Dietz Syndrome, bicuspid aortic valve disease etc. looking for those conditions is important since some of them can be passed on to children. DL

Just a quick update.
We are back home on the farm. Tim is still very tired and has trouble moving around due to his leg.
He is not sleeping well and has a lot of back pain between the shoulder blades, I guess that’s normal no one said what to watch out for.
He is just starting to eat food tho not much he is still living on milk and apple juice mostly
Everything tastes really bad, toxic he says.

I asked the doctor what to watch out for with his lower AD when we got home. He said he would get the nurse to get me a booklet but all they gave me was a booklet on everything to look out for after having bypass surgery. So Im still in the dark there. Seems like they are going to scan him every year for awhile and give him BP meds, that’s it.

He is on a ton of meds now mostly BP meds.
Well it feels that way because he was on none before.

Rampril 10mg (BP) x1
Prazosin 1mg (BP) x1
Metoprolol 50mg (BP) x2 1/2
Omeprazole Magnesium 20mg (treat reflux) x1 not sure why they gave him that.
Multivitamin x1 again not sure why

Prazosin 1mg (BP) x1
Metoprolol 50mg (BP) x2 1/2

Atonastatin 40mg (cholesterol) x1
Amiodipine 10mg (BP) x1

Today he had a bad headache again, he hasn’t had any since his brain aneurysm was clipped.
I know I’m letting my paranoid mind run amuck again. I worry over every little pain he gets now
We see his GP tomorrow. Thank god as I’m worried that his pulse rate is too fast at
7am his BP was 132/69 pulse 157 he hadn’t even got out of bed yet.

They want his BP to be under 120, much like everyone else I see on the forums
I cant post or ask questions on there. Am I doing something wrong?
I activated my account as mummydarling and it lets me log in but that’s all

Thanks for listening again.

David Morrissette-54

Name: David Morrissette
Age at time of Dissection: 54
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 14 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon when I decided to go out for a 5 mile jog. I ran my usual route and felt terrific during the jog. I walk about 0.5 miles as a cool down. It was than that I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my chest. I proceeded to make my way home. Once in my house, I decide to take a couple of Ibuprofens.

My father died from a heart attack in 1972 at the age of 44. I’ve always been keenly aware that I may have a predisposition to suffering from a heart attack due to genetics. I have experienced chest pains in the past and they are generally mild and go away. As I sat in my chair about 1/2 hour after taking the ibuprofen, I broke out into a cold sweat and began experiencing blurred vision.

At this point, I thought I was experiencing a heart attack and drove myself to Milford Regional Hospital. I walked into the emergency room and told the attendant that I thought I was having a heart attack. They immediately took me into an exam room and drew blood to check for a specific enzyme that is released if you are having a heart attack, They also hooked me up to an EKG for an evaluation. After about 4 hours, the ER doctor approached me and said they could not find any signs that I was having a heart attack.

I told him that there was something definitely wrong with me and the symptoms were getting worst. I now was experiencing shortness of breath. I told the doctor that I was not a hypochondriac and hadn’t been to a hospital since I was in the 7th grade. I told him that they needed to find out what was wrong with me because I was certain that my condition was worsening. He told me that they would give me a CT scan. Once they did, the doctor came back and said “Mr. Morrisette, you have a very serious condition. You have a dissecting aorta and you need to have emergency surgery tonight or you will die”. Well after the initial shock and the disbelief I was feeling, I weighed out my options – have surgery or die. I than told the doctor let’s get this thing done. They transferred me to UMass Memorial and at 3:00 a.m. they began a 12 hour surgery.

My family arrived at the hospital right before I was sent into the operating room. The medications they were giving me to prep for surgery put me in a dream like state and I vaguely remember seeing my family. I was in a coma for 4 days and spent 22 days in the hospital. The worst part of my recovery was when I sneezed or coughed because I would experience severe pain from my chest being carved open for the surgery. Dr Mandapoti, my surgeon and the staff at UMass Memorial were fantastic and thanks to them I’m alive to tell this story. I now have a dacron tube where my aorta once was inside my body

I was out of work for 3 months on medical leave and worked hard on my recovery. Initially I was able to walk only 1 lap around my block which was 1/3 of a mile. By the end of the summer I was jogging 16 laps and took to the streets and resumed my usual route that I run.

It has been 1 year since my aortic dissection and I’m happy to say I’ve experienced a 100% recovery. I’m back to doing all my favorite activities including golfing & Skiing.

My advice to anyone experiencing chest pains, with cold sweats and blured vision is to seek immediate help. Time is critical when dealing with an aortic disection so take your symptoms seriously so you can stay healthy.


Name: Paul
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 September 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas working in my home office on a Friday afternoon, feeling pretty stressed out, from the volume of my work, when I felt a strange ‘fluttering’ feeling in my chest. I knew immediately that something was wrong and asked my wife to call 911. I don’t recall feeling pain, though my wife and the hospital report stated that I did say I was in pain. The emergency folks could not detect a pulse in my left arm. I was taken to one hospital that’s part of my network but they apparently felt that a surgeon at another area hospital was better qualified for this procedure (though of course I was unaware of this at the time). So I was taken to another hospital and operated on that night for about 7 hours. The dissection extended down to my illiac.

The surgeon replaced my aortic valve with a mechanical and did a hemiarch repair. During my recovery I had a collapsed lung and some kind of infection, but after about 2 weeks I was well enough to be released from the hospital. Within a week of coming home, however, I noticed some pain in my left arm and, following instructions, went to local emergency room. They detected fluid in my heart and readmitted me. The procedure went well, I was home again within about a week. I had some pain and seroma in my right thigh where a cannulus (sp?) was inserted during my initial surgery.

This caused swelling in the insertion point in my thigh and a numb feeling in the inside of my right thigh. The swelling has dissipated and I can now walk normally with no pain, though some numbness remains. Since my release from the hospital I have been keeping my BP under 120 through a combination of lisinopril, hydralazine, metoprolol, tamsulosin, and amlodipine. I have also found that the supplements described in Kowalski’s book “The Blood Pressure Cure” have had a noticeably positive effect on my blood pressure. I have kept my weight down around the low 170s (after weighing between 190 and 200 before the surgery) through a low-sodium and low-cholesterol diet. I walk daily but that is my only exercise. I have had multiple CTs and they all show that my dissection is “stable”–not expanding.

Danny Plummer-55

Name: Danny Plummer
Age at time of Dissection: 55
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 6 January 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

It was a beautiful sunny day In the mountains of Tumbler Ridge BC Canada when I finished hiking up a hill to look at the mountains from a different view when I let out a jubilant call to my friends who were just behind me, when I felt a slight chest pain. At that moment I thought it was just a injury that occurred when I let out that victory scream to my friends.

It was very uncomfortable, but thought it would go away. Our car was parked back at home, so I sent a friend back to go get it, while I walked to the hospital with our other friend. The hospital was a good mile walk and it was getting tougher each step I took but managed to get there before my friend arrived with the car. Now you have to understand we are in the mountains of BC and there is only a clinic, so I had to be transported by ambulance to Fort St John BC, where I was told if I did not get a operation I would die within the night. I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and would and will not except blood and that was their hangup. The Doctor told me I was stupid and from that point on he washed his hands of my case.

They left me in the intensive unit to die that night. In the mean time friends called St.Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver BC and they excepted my condition and six hours later I was taken by Jet to St.Paul’s. The Doctors informed me there I had a Aortic dissection in around the arch of the Aorta and they assumed I would die within 24 hours, and they prepared my family for it.

Two months later I was discharged without an operation so that they could get my numbers up to operate. Two weeks later I was flown back to St.Paul’s as complications developed including kidney failure. Another month in the hospital to recover and to prepare me for surgery failed as the Head surgeon refused to operate as he said,” you will just die on the table”, so you should die at home.

I was discharged at the end of February and told to prepare myself for death. In July of 2011 a Doctor Modry in Edmonton Alberta Canada decided to take on my case, and in August he successfully operated on me and fixed my dissection and implanted a St.Jude’s mechanical value. I can’t believe I am alive, but I sure thank my friends,and my God Jehovah for the support and of course Doctor Modry for taking such a huge chance, a chance that saved my life.

Peter Weston-55

Name: Peter Weston
Age at time of Dissection: 55
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 September 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

I was shopping at a local department store. I had called my wife while I was there and told her I felt poorly. My plan was to finish the errand, go home and take a nap. While heading to the front checkout i experienced a sudden sharp pain up the left side of my neck.

I can paraphrase my medical history by saying I had a certain laissez-faire attitude. I had been diagnosed with extremely high blood pressure but when my prescription plan maxed out I stopped taking the medications- for almost a year.

Now as I walked to the front of the store to “rest in my car” I decided to call 911, the pain made it difficult to see and walk straight so I chose to interrupt the people at the service desk and asked for them to call in case I blacked out. I laid on the floor and waited. A man approached and introduced himself as a certified CPR volunteer. He asked to help and called my wife and started a dialogue with the ambulance staff who, as luck would have it, were in the parking lot at that moment preparing to purchase their lunch at the store’s sub shop. The store was very close to the nearest hospital and we were there quickly.

My wife had called my sons fiancee, who worked in the hospitals Operating Room for 2 Cardiac Surgeons, and she met us in the Emergency Room. This was another of my many blessing that day. She shepherded me through the testing and, after a CT scan was taken, the Cardiac Surgeon informed my wife and I that I needed emergency open heart surgery to save my life.

My next conscious memory is nearly 2 weeks from that day. The doctor found an ascending aortic dissection at the arch of my aorta. He told me later that he had eclipsed his best time ever and got me off the pump as quickly as he could. Still in all the procedure lasted about 5 hours. The nurses in the operating room kept my future daughter -in-law posted on the progress through text messages, this kept the family and friends that had gathered informed and calm.

From all accounts that would be the last calm moments that involved me for quite awhile. I was uncooperative and had to be sedated and restrained so I would not undo the surgeons work. I tried to pull out the tubes in my body several times. On the second day after my surgery I was talking to my son (this has been relayed to me as I don’t remember this time) and I suffered a heart attack. Thankfully I was heavily sedated and suffered no pain. I continued to be a bad patient, refusing breathing masks, swearing at the staff and other poor behavior.

My oxygen levels dropped dangerously low and I was trached so the doctors could be sure I got my proper levels back in line. I remained in the hospital for nearly a month. I missed my son’s wedding. I couldn’t talk for nearly 3 weeks and I could not sleep, chronic back pain wracked my body every day.

I came home very weak, very scared and suffering from awful sleep anxiety. My memory is spotty at times, names escape me. I had cognitive problems that did not allow me to read more than a small magazine advertisement. I also suffered trauma to my voice and can no longer sing with the range I once did( I have been a performing musician prior to surgery). I deal with issues of loneliness and sad television shows make me cry easily, my emotions are sometimes beyond my control.

But things are getting better now. Although I am not working I am working seriously at my rehabilitation. I workout 3 times a week and walk at least 4 miles a day,every day. I diet diligently and I have dropped 50 lbs from my frame, nearly 8 inches from my waist and 14 inches from my belly. I am happier now.I have joined Mended Hearts.My sleep anxiety is kept at bay by nightly reflection and meditation, you could call them evening prayers. My friends and my family all support me in my process. Yes things are getting better and I am happy to be around for each day, happy that so much went right that day instead of wrong

Ed Herrmann-51

Name: Ed Herrmann
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 June 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

Idecided I needed to share this story after I lost my 33-year old son on December 8th of this year (2011).  I have three children and my second child is gone from aortic dissection.  Six days prior to my son’s death, he complained with a sharp pain in his chest.  The following day he went to the VA hospital emergency room complaining with this sharp stabbing pain in his chest.  The doctor on shift ordered a Chest X-Ray, Blood work and an EKG.

My son was told that he must have a chest muscle pull or tear, was given ibuprofen and told to go home and rest.  He did mention that his father had an aortic dissection.  However, the doctor felt that since my son was in excellent physical shape, recently out of the Marine Corps and worked in construction. It was assumed that he must have pulled a chest muscle.  My son indicated that he was operating a jack hammer two- days prior and did some heavy lifting.

On December 8th, my son collapsed at 3:45 PM and was pronounced dead at the hospital since they could not resuscitate him.  An autopsy was performed the next day and the coroner told me he died from an acute ascending aorta dissection with a two centimeter tear in the arch.  I was devastated since I realized that maybe this condition might be genetic.  As I still mourn my son’s passing, I needed to share this story.  His story begins with events that happened to me 5-years earlier.
On Saturday, June 10th, 2006, a monster introduced itself in my life.  I was 51-years old then.  It was the day before Fathers day and I just spent the day at a farmers market selling our farm raised produce and fruit.

I came home around 3:15 Pm and after getting situated from the day by unloading the truck, I came in and lay down on the living room floor to catch a nap. (I like sleeping on the floor since it helped to relax my back muscles from all of the lifting I do every day).  After waking up, I ate a light supper and went to the store 8-miles from my farm to pick up a few items and get gas in my car.  I picked up a can of coke and started to return home.  The coke had a funny metallic taste.   Suddenly I had this very sharp pain in my upper chest near the base of my neck.  I felt a tearing sensation that felt like I swallowed a golf ball.  My neck began to cramp and my vision became blurry and I started to see (stars).

I began sweating profusely and felt very faint.  My vision field narrowed and I couldn’t really see that well, so I pulled over to the side of the road and waited.  After a few minutes my vision came back.  I realized something serious just happened and I became scared and started to drive myself to the hospital.  Along the way I started to feel a little better, so I turned around to head back home.  (Bad decision!)

After I made that fateful decision, I had another episode.  I stopped again until my vision came back.  By now I was not in a really good neighborhood in the city of Lancaster and felt compelled to continue driving home.  As I continued to drive I had several other drivers yelling at me as they passed “get off the road you drunk!”

I must have really driven my car badly for people to shout that at me.  I continued to drive until I reached a local restaurant/resort.  I pulled into the parking lot running over curbs and mounds of dirt.  I knew I needed help.  I tried to get people’s attention.  I could see their blurry body forms in the distance, but nobody came.   I could not believe that no one would help me!  I rested my head on the horn knowing it would get attention of someone.  In a short period of time a policeman came and asked me “how much did you have to drink today, sir”.  I immediately requested that he do whatever he needed to do to get me an ambulance, because I thought I had a stroke!
After I was transported to the hospital by ambulance, the folks in the ER could not figure out what was wrong with me since I was fading in and out of consciousness.  This was not a stroke!  They gave me a chest X-Ray and did an EKG.  Additionally they drew blood for lab work.

My daughter is a RN and was working in the hospital that day.  She was my advocate and was at my side the whole time.  All of the sudden, miraculously I sat up and blurted out, “could this be an aneurism?”  All of the sudden the ER doctor put two blood pressure cuffs on me, one on each arm and discovered the discrepancy with my blood pressure.  (I was told later by the ER staff that I may have saved my own life)  Immediately I was sent to have a CT scan of my chest.  I don’t remember much after that since my next stop was emergency surgery.  I had a type 1 acute ascending aorta dissection that started from my aorta valve trunk and up to and including my subclavian and lower region of the carotid

My aorta valve was repaired and tubing was placed over the other dissected arteries.  My surgery lasted over 8-hours and as a result I was told I had possible stroke.  My daughter later told me that usually they don’t like to keep you on the heart and lung machines for over 5-hours. Additionally, the other procedures and equipment required for the surgery were not meant to go too much longer than 5-hours either.  I was very blessed as the good lord was watching out for me.

I know I lost my memory for several weeks, but it began to come back as I forced myself to remember through the use of a PDA, the computer and my family.  My vision was affected and now I need to use reading glasses to read and work on small repair projects.  My recovery was slow for me; however I forced myself to get back to work.  I became tired very easily and needed to rest frequently.  I lost 20-pounds and had difficulty eating food that I loved since I lost my sense of taste as everything tasted like cardboard.  I think it took me about 1-year until I felt better.

Two years ago I suffered a TIA and I was checked again to see if I dissected my carotid arteries or the other arteries going to the brain. My neurologist put me on Plavix and 325 mg aspirin. I take topral for blood pressure medication even though I have low blood pressure, and I take an anti- depressant to help control my anger/worry issues. I get a CT scan every other year, and live a very active normal lifestyle.

My prior health to this event was pretty good, since I was very active and not too overweight.  I did smoke cigars and on occasion would drink beer.  My blood pressure was always on the low side and it was not an issue to cause the dissection.  I did allow stress to manage me at times and it wasn’t hard for me to become angry and lose my temper.  At times I did worry about things and tried to work through that by physical work.  Since I am a farmer, I do a lot of strenuous work and much of the stress was related to farm work getting finished to meet the demands of marketing or finances that often caused a vicious cycle of stress and anger to repeat the cycle over several years.  I had no pre existing health conditions that I was aware of.  In 1978, I had a multiple trauma accident where my liver was cut, my gallbladder removed and my ribs on my right side were broken from being crushed between 2- trucks.  I recovered very quickly from that event and I could never compare that with the aorta dissection.

My concern was how this could happen to me and tried to find a correlation to lifestyle.  My surgeon told me that although smoking didn’t help, it was not the cause and that it might be a genetic issue that should be investigated.  Dealing with stress was very important and needed to be controlled.

After my son died from this same terrible condition I intend to help other family members recognize the possibility that they may have this condition too.  My sisters and brothers and their children have all included the information in their health records and some of them had a baseline CT scan taken recently.  I intend to contact  researchers to help find a genetic link since this happened twice in my immediate family, and may have happened to my grandmother who was assumed dead from a heart attack in her late 50’s, in 1954.

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

Jim Sanquedolce-51

Name: Jim Sanquedolce
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 October 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas at home alone with my dog, It was 1 am when I must have been in excruciating pain, (I waited 3 days resting on my knees foot of the bed over my Gallbladderectomy a couple years prior) but Thankfully< I called 911 and being 2 blocks from the firehouse and 3 from our local ER, I believe The FD Medics were heading back to the firehouse they were here quickly... Upon arrival the ER doc agreed with the medic's assessment that whatever it was wasn't GOOD so he did a heart echo and Called ahead to ship me to Yale New Haven about 15 minutes away ( without Construction delays ) Thankfully most of that was during daytime it seems... I woke up right after they yanked the tubes, and a good friend/coworker who is also a 30 year Paramedic in the area began to fill me in as I still have no recollection of any of it.

Dr.Donald Botta was my Thoracic Surgeon, Dr Bart Muhs my Vascular Surgeon along with a cast of thousands, I suffered pneumonia so was in and out of ICU for a Month a year ago this month, Dr Muhs completed a Popliteal aneurysm bi pass surgery… which is getting better every day, I’ve recently been for a stress echo which is showing some bulging just above the Repair (my ascending aorta and expect I’ll be going for an audience with John A. Elefteriades, M.D-Yale Center for Thoracic Aorta Disease and we shall see when we might need to go back…

Contact Jim

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

Howard Hehrer-51

Name: Howard Hehrer
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 June 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My story begins at about 9:00 PM on the evening of June 8, 2011. I was visiting my mom and was just walking to the car to leave with my wife. I got a sudden pressure and “squishy” feeling in my chest with some discomfort. I can’t say it was extreme pain, more moderate. I knew immediately something was very wrong and I told my wife to call for help as I laid on the sidewalk. The paramedics showed up within ten minutes and took vitals. My blood pressure was variable but all in all I wasn’t feeling too bad. Once they loaded me in the ambulance they started IVs and proceeded to play “guess what’s wrong with the patient”. Since it didn’t appear I was having a heart attack and I was conscious they took the slow ride to the hospital, no lights or sirens. When we got to the hospital they told me to contact them when I found out what was wrong, they didn’t have a clue. Once we found out how serious it was we didn’t ever hear back from them.

Once I got in the ER Things were kind of at a stand still until one of the ER nurses noticed I wasn’t getting a blood pressure reading in one arm. She just said she liked the right one better than the left and tehn left to speak with the doctor. I truely believe she saved my life because the next thing you know they are wheeling me off to get a CT scan with that wonderful die that makes you feel like you peed your pants. As soon as I got back to the exam room a resident with the surgeons office came in to give me the diagnosis – she got so choked up she left the room and another surgeon had to come in to give me the news. I had a dissecting aortal aneurysm in the ascending aorta. It was serious, and they would have to perform open heart surgery immediately. I was scared and completely unprepared for what I was going through. I kissed my wife goodbye and they wheeled me away. My wife is a nurse and had a grasp of the gravity of the situation but kept up a good front. She was definitely my rock.

I am 6′, 185 pounds and reasonably fit. I run occasionally, walk a lot and the most serious health issue I ever had was getting wisdom teeth out. Low cholesterol, low blood pressure. There were absolutely no warning signs which is the most scarey part of the whole ordeal.

I woke up in ICU recovery after 5 hours of open heart surgery, 2 hours on bypass. I was fortunate that there was a cardiothoracic surgeon on call that specialized in the procedure. He told me the outcome was very good, they were able to save the aortic valve. God was at my side for sure. I don’t remember being on a respirator, they removed it when I came out of it. I had 4 IVs, all kinds of wires and a catheter. My family tells me I was joking around with them though I have no memory of it. They had me stand up that day to weigh me and I asked if I could sit in the chair for awhile.

They said sure so I sat for a short time. The next day they moved me up to the heart center where I recovered for 7 days before getting released. I started out just walking to the door of the room then a little more each day. My wife was an incredible advocate for me, getting all of the information we needed and making sure everyone followed up. I was surprised that even though I went through major surgery the pain I experienced was really intense only one time a day or two after the surgery when they reduced my meds. Other than that they said my recovery was remarkable and my case was a miracle for as well as it came out. I left the hospital and continued to recover at home, increasing my walking until I am now walking like I was before and even starting to run a little.

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

I have developed a small aneurysm at the clavicle from where they attached to my artery for the bypass. I will most likely be getting a stent put in to block it off in a month or two. I am back at work and living a mostly normal life.I am very grateful to the skilled professionals at the Spectrum Health Meijer Heart Center and especially the emergency room nurse who first recognized the condition. They saved my life with their skill and with God guiding their hands.

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

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