Category: Fifties

Ken Sexton-57

Personal Stories: Ken Sexton


My name is Ken Sexton, I’m 57,married to Angela for 35 years and have 2 beautiful daughters aged 30 & 27. I live in Radcliff near Manchester in England. I am a keen squash player and a qualified gymnastics coach.

On 6 February 2005 I was walking my dog in the fields behind my home when I started to get a tingling in my legs and an ache in my chest. The sensation in my legs became worse and they would no longer support me. Fortunately I had met a couple of other dog walker friends and they came to my aid. Peter immediately rang my wife on his mobile and then the emergency services. Angela rang other friends and suddenly there were numbers of people looking after me. The paramedics arrived within about 10 minutes closely followed by an ambulance. They quickly managed to find a way of getting me from the fields to the ambulance with the help of a lot of friends. This was about 2.00pm on Sunday 6 February 2005.

My next memory was of somebody asking me to squeeze his hand. I now know that it was Eddie McLaughlin the consultant who performed the operation which saved my life.

The date was now Thursday 10 February 2005 and I had lost 4 days!

During those 4 days I had an 8 hour operation to repair an ascending aortic dissection. The volume of leakage meant they had to pack my chest which could not be closed for a further 24 hours. I have absolutely no memory of any of these events although all my family and friends cannot speak highly enough of Mr. McLaughlin and his team, especially the intensive care team.

I have since had a lot of the detail filled in, the lows of being given less than a 50% chance of survival to the highs of recognizing my wonderful wife and daughters for the first time and not understanding why they were so concerned about my condition.

I had no understanding of the seriousness of the situation nor the potential effect on the rest of my life. I thought I would be playing squash again in 2 or 3 months and back coaching at the same time. I now know of course that it may take just a little longer!

There are some flashbacks coming back to me, especially the nightmares and feelings of persecution due to the drugs, however the support of my family and very good friends are allowing me to view it all in a very positive light. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that I have the best family and friends in the world!

I think my experience can be summed up as being very fortunate that I had friends who took control, a wonderful succession of doctors at both Bolton and Manchester who diagnosed the condition so quickly and an intensive care team who took as much care of my family as they did of me. Many people criticize the Health Service in the UK, but when called into action I received the best attention possible from the best people.

I am now 1 month into my rehab and am taking short walks and progressing well. My daughter gets married on 8 July and I am well on track to ensure I walk her down the aisle!

Kind regards

Ken Sexton

Michael Kohler-54

Personal Stories: Michael Kohler

Brian,   I am a 54 year old dissection survivor such as yourself. I am also living proof that no good deed goes unpunished, I am a living organ donor (3-16-2001, kidney) who suffered a triple type A dissection on 9-21-2003. I am certain that the meds are what make us feel so tired and wasted after the least exertion although regurgitation in my aortic valve is a  definite contributor.   In my case I am just happy to be alive. The night it happened, I was in the shower when I felt a vertical burning pain down the length of my sternum. I thought it was a mild heart attack so I dried off, walked into the hall, called down to my wife to ask no questions and call the EMT’s. I walked down stairs, took 2 ,aspirin and sat down to wait. Luckily the EMT’s arrived within 5 minuets, immediately diagnosed it as a triple A, and transported me to Seton Hospital. The hospital was my wife’s request and I thank God for it because it was possibly the only hospital with the experience required to save my life.   As it turned out I was the recipient of 5 miracles that night. The first was the EMT’s rapid diagnosis, the second was my wife’s request as to the hospital, third was that the doctor that was qualified to diagnosis a dissection just happened to be present, fourth, the right surgeon, who had performed 3 dissection surgeries that week was at a nearby hospital, and 5, there was an angel on my shoulder or the good Lord just did not want me at this time.   I was later informed by my surgeon that my odds of never making it to the hospital were 92%. When we took the EMT’s out to dinner 6 months later they said that in their opinion I should have never made it to the hospital. I received 18 pints of blood during the surgery, which included 3 stents and  an aortic valve which was split along with the aorta.   I now suffer from a 50% reduction in renal function, really wacky blood pressure, significant regurgitation trough my aortic valve, frequent shortness of breath and fatigue. My doctor says to never pick up weights greater than 25 lbs. and take 3 naps a day. Since I am self employed (in a specialty stone wall business) and take care of a 100% disabled wife I found the doctors request interesting. In fact my wife was in a wheelchair and had been for 18 months when this when this occurred.

In addition to this, we had just moved to a new home and she had not met any of our new neighbors and didn’t even have a house key yet!   As bad as this all seems things worked out very well, our next door neighbor came out when she heard the siren, and ended up spending 2 days with my wife at the hospital. She also saw that my wife had groceries until my wife, Wanda’s, family arrived from out of state. Other neighbors also helped.   The amusing result of all my disaster is that I now enjoy people more than ever before and enjoy life greatly. However, I would like to look into the feasibility of replacing the aortic valve before it’s to late. I understand that a leaky valve can lead to like threatening complications if not corrected.   By the way, my wife Wanda is a cancer survivor (bilateral nephrectomies from renal cell carcinoma 9/96) and was on dialysis for 4.5 years until she received one of my kidneys in 2003.   By the grace of God we are both survivors.   Michael Kohler

Update on his wife’s condition:

Brian,   I am sorry that it took so long to reply to your request to use my E-mail.  Certainly you may do so!  Your site has already helped me by answering several questions. We were in Houston for several days seeking a reason for my wife, Wanda’s, inability to hold down food for the past 2 months.   Although her problem doesn’t involve dissection it does involve problems with the medical community and diagnosis of medical conditions.  Wanda had been suffering both dysentery and vomiting for more than 2 months when her neurologist hospitalized her for tests. During her stay she was attended be 5 or 6 doctors, all specialists who, in the end, could find nothing wrong.  She was sent home after 7 days knowing  a lot about what was not wrong with her…and no clue to what was wrong.   Two weeks after her release, we asked her doctor to refer her to a gastroenterologist and that they look into her upper stomach. After a simple procedure lasting less than  15 minutes a ulcer was located that caused the problem.   The lesson that applies here, in my opinion, is that we must always think for ourselves and always maintain control over our own healthcare.   Again thanks for the site…it is a Godsend.   M.K.    P.S.: Are there any meetings or get together planed for dissection survivors ?

Contact Michael

Harold Garwood-59, 47, 43 & 36

Personal Stories: Harold Garwood’s Family Brian,   I’ve been browsing for info about subject and thought I’d see if you had ever heard of the kind of incidence in my family.   In Feb 1984, my mother was stricken very suddenly while attending her mother’s funeral.  Grannie was 100 years old.  Mom was 59.  There was no autopsy done, but a few years ago, I wrote to the hospital where she died and the symptoms noted on the one page medical report were much the same as others who have died.   In Nov 1988, my 36 year-old sister, 7 months pregnant, had flu-like symptoms.  She went to doctor who detected low bp.  He sent her to hospital for observation.  She walked in around 5:00 pm and was dead by 7:30.  Baby was also lost. Autopsy reported ruptured aortic aneurysm.    In Aug 1990, my 43 year-old sister started feeling bad around lunchtime at her job at Vanderbilt Univ library.  She died before ems arrived.  Autopsy reported ruptured aortic aneurysm.   In Feb 2001, my 47 year old sister, a medical transcriptionist, began having pain in her chest and back.  She logged off from her at-home workstation and emailed her supervisor that she thought she had an aortic aneurysm.  She called ems and was taken to a rural area hospital in Shelbyville, TN.  They had asked for a helicopter from Vanderbilt Hospital which arrived while she was in the MRI machine.

The immediately put her on the chopper and flew her to the hospital.  She endured 8 hours of surgery to implant dacron graft and remove a golf ball sized tumor from her heart.  She is nearly fully recovered and enjoys her horses on her small farm in Shelbyville. Dr. recently told her she has some kidney damage, but nothing very serious.

In Jan 2005, my 29 year-old daughter delivered our first grandchild, a beautiful little girl, by C-section.  She was released after 4 days recovery and spent one day at home.  On that evening, she had a pain in her back and chest while eating supper, but said it passed.

A couple of hours later, her husband took her back to the hospital where she had delivered.  He reminded them of the family history, and an MRI was done.  They diagnosed a Stanford type B aortic dissection.  Blood had began to enter the medial tissue.  They said this type of leakage could be treated by controlling her bp and that if it didn’t heal itself, they would consider surgery in a couple of months.

She was kept in icu and was being monitored when she coded.  CPR was performed and she was revived, but she coded again in ambulance to heart hospital next door to maternity hospital.  They tried heroic measures but failed.

We lost hope very early when dr said he had done cpr for 45 minutes.   We have one other daughter, age 25, and there are 4 other young nieces and 2 nephews.  My 2 brothers and I are 60, 46 and 43, and have undergone numerous screenings, all with good results.  Seems to be a girl thing. One sister, age 56, has not been affected.     If you have anything to share on this, please reply.   Thanks, Harold Garwood This is certainly quite a sad story. I presume the family has been evaluated for the known causes of familial aortic dissection – Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type IV… If not the this should be done at once. I would also consider seeking evaluation at a center with strong experience with familial aortic dissection. Dr. Diana MIlewicz at University of Texas at Houston would be my recommendation.   David

Frederick Vicari-55

Personal Stories: Frederick Vicari

Dear Brian,

I would like to address my experience with Acute type I Aortic Dissection.

It started when I got up from a chair and got a pain in my chest and the middle of my back that caused me to fall to the floor. I had to stay there for an hour before the pain weakened.

I then drove to the hospital ER waited 4 hours and after being seen by the doctor was told I had heart burn and sent home.

For the next 4 days I had pain in my stomach so bad I couldn’t go to work.

I went to my primary doctor who also told me to continue to take the heart burn medicine.

On 12-27-02 I went back to the ER they did a Cat Scan then told me I had to be air lifted to Loma Linda for surgery. My surgery was performed on 12-28-02.

Now 2 years later I am told that the aortic has expanded from 4 cm to 5 cm and that 6 cm is the number that will make me have another operation that is 8 hours long and a 50-50 chance of making it.

I have gone to 2 heart surgeons both have told me the only thing that I can do is keep my blood pressure at 115/70 however, the beta blocker I am taking is changing my whole life; my blood pressure is high and low it goes to 145/72 the 118/65.

The doctors haven’t given me any method to keep the aortic from expanding and my chances of living five years are 75% and 10 years 40%- 69%.

I don’t exercise because My blood pressure goes up.

Life seems to be very hard because of no possible good news.

I just had to get this off chest.

Thanks for the opportunity.


Contact Frederick.

D Rogers-56

Personal Stories: D Rogers

Friday the 13th, 2002 was a bad luck day for sure. It was late in the evening and I was taking a shower, when all of a sudden it felt as if someone had hit me in the chest with a sledge hammer. The pain knocked me to the shower floor. I remember crawling to the bed room and trying to tell my wife I thought I was having a heart attack. That is the last thing I remembered until I woke up in ICU 32 days later. A whole month gone from my life.

I was told that I had been transported to a small local hospital where I had stayed for about 10 hours until someone decided the I had suffered an ascending aortic dissection.

At that point in time I was transported by helicopter to a large hospital and underwent several hours of life saving surgery. Several things went wrong with me because of the long delay in diagnosing my problem ( for example, lost a kidney ).

My recovery has been long and difficult and I still have a long way to go. But thanks to the support, love and care provided by my wife I am still alive. I could not have made it without her and the help provided by many others. I returned to the operating room in December of 2003 and underwent open heart surgery for valves with little success. I now have congestive heart failure and have to deal with this and the drugs that go along with it on a daily basis. I also have pump head syndrome, which affects my memory.

Taking it one day at a time seems to work for me. I have good days and bad days. I just try real hard to enjoy the good ones and forget about the bad ones.

Diane Villano-57

Personal Stories: Diane Villano

My story begins the early morning of May 8th, 2004. I delivered newspapers at the time and got up about 4:30am. This morning was no different from the others. I started off to the depot which is about 10 minutes away and I wasn’t too far from home when I felt something really strange on the bottom of my jaw. It didn’t hurt but I knew it shouldn’t be there so I pushed on it. The pain I got was not to be believed. From the top of my head to about my waist I got this horrible hot pain which subsided with time.

I was now on the highway and had to decide what to do. I decided to keep on going, I was feeling a little better but had to sit up in my seat because if I leaned back I would have a little problem breathing. When I finally got to work I knew something was very wrong. I asked my bosses to call for help and the EMT’s were there in minutes. My blood pressure was low.

This was unusual because I have a history of high blood pressure normally, and hadn’t taken any medication for it in years. Well, everyone was called and off I went to the hospital. It seems they knew what was wrong with me as soon as we got there. They started ordering all kinds of tests and got the family together. Sometime later I heard the surgeon say something about “emergency surgery.” I didn’t even know what was happening at this point.

I asked so may questions after I got home about that day because I hardly remembered anything. The last two things I remember was going for a CT scan, saying “goodbye, I’ll see you later” to my family, and then being wheeled down this hallway into this cold, empty forbidding looking room. I later found out this was the OR. I woke up the next afternoon but not for long. I remember my family kissing me goodnight and telling me they would see me the next day. After they left I tried to turn over and realized I couldn’t because there was all kinds of stuff on my chest and I was hooked up to these machines.

I hurt all over too. By this time I knew I had stitches but had no idea how long the scar really was or what they had actually done to me. I got really scared and called the nurse who explained what had happened and where I was. She promised I’d feel better in the morning. The next day they got me out of bed at the crack of dawn. I felt like a truck ran over me.

I made my way to the chair with help but realized that my left leg wouldn’t work. It just hung there. It was explained to me that possibly I wouldn’t get the use of it back again. I sat up that entire night and didn’t give up until I could move at least my foot. By the time my family came I was able to wiggle my toes and lift my foot a little bit. Someone always had to get me back into bed before they left. It was quite a while before I was able to lift it fully on my own. I was in a lot of pain though. Between the moving around and walking with the therapists that came in throughout the day I was ready to go home a week later.

It was better at home but harder. I had help from my husband and children but it was aggravating trying to do some of the little things by yourself. These little things were the hardest. It was hard to get dressed in the morning. The whole ritual took about 2 hrs and then I was too tired to go anywhere. I did nothing but hang around for the first 2 months. Everything was too much, or too heavy to do.

That’s when the depression set in. I wasn’t working now either and my husband was sole support of everything for the first time since we’ve been married. Not having money for the bills is depressing, let alone the stray hospital bills that come in from time to time. I’ve been more afraid of things since this happened to me. I was afraid to drive my car alone again even when the dr said it was ok to do so. I was afraid to go to my daughter’s house and climb the 32 stairs. I was afraid to be alone with my grandchildren again.

These among other things are being dealt with slowly but surely. It’s been 4 months since the surgery. I’m definitely feeling better, but I still get tired quickly which I don’t like. I wonder if it will go away someday? I’m obsessed with things that I wouldn’t have thought about in the past. I always think about the operation and I always have questions. I take my blood pressure a few times a day and worry when it’s a little higher than it was the time before.

I’m scared to death that I will have to have another dissection again. I think about all the wonderful things that happened in my life and all the places that we went on vacation and I wonder if I’ll be around for a long enough time to see more of that. Will I be able to keep up with my grandchildren as they grow up? Before the operation I was doing everything with them now I don’t because I’m scared I’ll hurt myself. This type of operation may be life saving but it is also life altering. I feel that God kept me alive for a reason but I don’t know what it is. At this point I have no job, can’t do the things that I used to do and don’t really feel the same like I did.

My right leg feels so sensitive sometimes it hurts to the touch. My chest hurts sometimes for no reason. I’ve read the letters for the other folks who have had ascending dissections and in a lot of ways I am better off than they are. This surgery affects everyone differently. Some have health issues, some emotional. The one thing we all have in common is that our lives are changed forever. I always say “they took me apart, but didn’t put me back together right.” I want to prove that wrong. Here’s hoping someday I will.

Contact Diane

Pamela Cherry-53

Personal Stories: Pamela Cherry

Hi! I am a 53 year-old black female, who became the victim of an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture.

My doctor, J.R. fiekes, M.D. said that I renewed his faith with my recovery. I woke up August 21, 2003 with a chest pain that beats all (crushing).

I tried to get up, but my right leg didn’t work. I knew then that something serious had happen. I dialed 911 immediately.

I remember the ambulance ride and nothing until I woke up two weeks later in CICU. It’s almost a year since my surgery and I feel that I will never be the person I was.

I am afraid to do anything but walking. I take 12 prescriptions per day. I have been told that my dissection is chronic, which led me to disability.

I just wish my stamina would improve. I feel that the Lord has something for me yet to do. I am truly blessed.

Pamela in Las Vegas

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Stan Derr-59

Personal Stories: Stan Derr

On January 8, 2003 I had a total dissection of the Aorta, both thoracic and abdominal. Until that time I did not even know that such thing as an aortic dissection existed. The fact that I survived is due to a series of circumstances and actions by key people, the most important of which was the support and care of my dear wife Merrie Rose from the time she first arrived in the emergency room through today.

Without her loving support my prognosis could be much different. At the time of the dissection, I was a 59 year old president of a small research company that held many patents using Infrared to uniquely recognize and individual and do medical vital and other screening without touching a person.

In this job, tension was very high as we were a startup and always seeking funding or grants from the federal government or investors. This pressure exacerbated my long term hypertension and caused the dissection. My background included a 23 year Army career (including two combat tours in Vietnam), 13 years of high pressure new business development for a defense contractor and two years as president of the research company. My medical history is mixed but included gunshot wounds in Vietnam, type II diabetes and a serious weight control problem.

One of the factors that I think allowed me to survive was a gastric bypass surgery in March 1999 and follow on weight loss for a high of 400 lbs to 250 and the diabetes going into remission.

The story starts with me sitting and talking to my technical director and preparing for a noon meeting with a potential investor. At about 10:00 it felt like someone hit me in the chest with a sledge hammer. I suspected I was having something serious with my heart. I asked my technical director (also my sister in law Fran) to please get me to the hospital and called my doctors office. The doctor’s office encouraged me to call 911 and go by ambulance.

I really didn’t want to do that but all of a sudden I was not able to stand or move either legs or right arm. At that time my budget analyst (Pat) came into the room and took the phone and immediately called 911. This was the first of a series of critical actions that led to my survival.

Fairfax county EMT’s arrived in less then 10 minutes and I was transported to the emergency room of Fair Oaks hospital. My sister in law followed the ambulance while my budget analyst called my wife at the elementary school where she taught and picked her up and took her to the hospital emergency room.

What happened next is what I have been told by my wife Merrie Rose, Fran and Pat all who spent many long days with me. I remember nothing from the time the EMT’s arrived and I awoke 4 days later in an ICU. At the emergency room, my wife Merrie Rose (she had spent 20 years as an ER and OR nurse in NY) was insisting on me receiving immediate attention. After vital being taken and being placed on oxygen the ER doctor ordered a CT.

The CT showed a dissection starting at the aortic valve and extending the length of the aorta to the abdomen. The doctor was amazed that my vital signs were good all the time considering all the tearing occurring inside my body. In addition both legs had no pulse and were turning black.

The ER doctor told my wife, Fran and Pat that I had suffered a dissection and that they could not treat it at Fair Oaks and the prognosis for survival was poor. She was encouraging them to consider organ donation. Merrie Rose asked where there were surgeons that could address the problem.

The Doctor said that Fairfax Hospital had the capability but doubted that I could survive an ambulance ride of 50 minutes to get there. Merrie Rose brought up air evacuation and all three ladies became very firm with the doctor that she order an air evacuation which she eventually did. Merrie Rose said I asked the doctor if I was dying and she told me I was.

The helicopter diverted from another mission and arrived in only 10 minutes although the doctor told Merrie Rose that she didn’t think I could survive the helicopter ride. Even though the ER doctor was very negative, the fact that she quickly diagnosed the dissection was my second key event of the day.

I was loaded in and transported to Fairfax hospital where I was very lucky that a fantastic vascular surgeon (Dr. Albus) was waiting and had been repairing aortic dissections for 14 years. I was taken immediately to surgery and was on the operation room table by 2 PM or only 4 hours from the onset of the dissection. The operation continued until about 11 PM when I was moved to ICU. Dr.

Albus told my wife and others that he thought the operation went well but they were having trouble finding good tissue to suture the Dacron implant to. The prognosis was guarded and stayed that way for a number of days in the ICU. Dr. Albus and his expertise was a key factor in my survival.

The surgeons fixed the ascending dissection but did nothing with the abdominal dissection as I had been on the heart lung machine for almost 3 hours and the heart stopped for 35 minutes. When the operation started they thought they would have to also amputate both legs but that did not occur and I have total use of one and partial use of the other.

As any of those who have gone through this know that I was hooked to many monitors and my wife said I had 24 IV, drains or sensors hooked to me. Here was another series of key people for I was individually monitored by a nurse 24 hrs a day and these were the most professional people we encountered. After 8 days in the ICU I was stable enough to be transferred to a cardiac ward. I was not able to walk as there was serious neurological damage to the nerves in the right leg and right hand. I was not permitted to lift anything or get out of bed. After a week of getting better and being able to sit in a wheel chair a couple times, physical therapy began.

From here to the end of my hospital stay things went down hill fast. The nurses were not as qualified and they were trying to fill beds in the sister hospital (Mount Vernon) that had a fast rehab program. I questioned whether I was ready for such intensive physical therapy but was told that the therapists would not push past what I can do. So I was transferred via ambulance to Mount Vernon and within an hour of arrival they had me on a mat doing exercises. I immediately threw an embolism shortly after arrival there and was transferred to a cardiac ward to stabilize me.

Here my wife virtually took over my care as the nurses were contract nurses and didn’t even know where things were in the hospital. A series of potentially catastrophic mistakes were avoided through my wife’s intervention. When I was being discharged the choice was to go to a nursing home and rehab there or go home and rehab. My wife decided I would be better off at home where she could care for me. So we had a hospital bed delivered and put in the living room, rented a wheel chair and other medical items and had a temporary ramp built to the front door.

My wife took 12 weeks of family leave from teaching and became my caregiver. Thank God for her. What followed over the next 4-6 months was physical therapy and occupational therapy at home, nurse visits, and gradual improvement. First to a wheelchair and being able to take care of my basic needs. To water physical therapy and well as many visits to Dr. Albus, my family doctor, a neurologist and periodic imaging and blood tests. My right leg improved to the point that after about 7 months I was able to leave the wheelchair with a total leg brace and finally after about 1 year to be able to walk with a cane.

Currently, I am able to walk with a cane or in the house for short distances with no cane. My right leg and fingers of right hand are still partially paralyzed and it appears that this is as well as it will get. I was very lucky to have no brain or spinal cord involvement and the neurological damage was localized. Unlike many of you who are doing exercises, my doctors have put the following restrictions on me for life. No aerobics or weight lifting, no lifting of anything over 30 Lbs. and never get my diastolic blood pressure over 80. I see a cardiologist and neurologists every 4-6 months. My abdominal dissection is being treated by medications and I take 11 medications daily. My cholesterol is closely monitored and has been reduced to an unbelievable 110 total. Blood tests are conducted every 4 months and I have had 4 CT since the dissection. I will have a CT every year from now on if things stay the same.

So as you can see, I have been blessed by a continuing series of events that have brought me to where I am today. I am sorry this story is so long but as you all know there is much more to this then even mentioned here. I am very upbeat and optimistic about my future and look at the partial neurological problems to be minor vs. the alternative. I hope this helps others and if any of you have questions please contact me, I would be very happy to help.

Contact Stan

Patti Cooksey Fisher-58

Personal Stories: Patti Cooksey-Fisher


My husband survived the 11 hour surgery to repair his dissecting aorta

nearly 5 years ago. He had respiratory problems coming off the

machine. A year after the surgery he was tested and found out that he

had an acquired brain injury. Have other patients experienced this?

Originally he was treated for depression, but his short term memory,

fatigue, and confusion did not clear up with therapy and medication . It

was after they had exhausted all efforts to treat depression that they

finally tested him for evidence of a brain event.

Also, his vocal cord was damaged in the surgery and paralyzed. He now

has an implant that helps him talk, although he needs a microphone if he

is in a class or meeting. I wonder if others have experienced this too.

Recently, his surgeon said the graft that was used to repair the tear

can last 5-10 years. Do you know anything about this?

Certainly we are grateful he survived and make the most of each day now!

Perhaps some day my husband will write his story–the story of a

hospital chaplain who survived such a horrific event.

Update: June 10th, 2004

Brian, My husband was 58 at the time, had been a hospital chaplain in

the trauma center for 13 years so he got excellent care in the ER.

However, like some of the other stories I have read on your web site, it

took many tests and many hours before they found the tear in the

ascending and descending aorta. He was in surgery and on the by-pass

machine for over 9 hours. His condition was very grave. He also went

into respiratory arrest in ICU and had to be put back under for several

days before they could gradually bring him back up and gradually wean

him from the machine. He has had a host of problems in the years that

have followed, but continues to enjoy and contribute to life as much as

he can.



Patti Cooksey-Fisher

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!)

Chris O’ Brien-52

Personal Stories: Chris O’Brien


It was 01/17/03 that I experienced my dissected aorta aneurysm.  I was taken to St. Joseph’s hospital ER in Atlanta.  I spent till the end of June 03 in various hospitals-starting rehab.  In July 03 I continued this rehab on an outpatient basis.  This was after I spent 41 days in ICU with complications of kidney failure and stroke associated with the surgery in the ER to place a patch on my aortic valve that was dissected.  I was 52 years old when I experienced the dissected aorta.

The rest of 03 I spent in various rehab centers – in which I still participate and exercise today.  I lost some blood flow to my right leg during the procedure to patch my aorta and therefore have suffered nerve damage which still exists in my right leg today.  I walk with a limp and will not experience re-growth of the nerves for 18 – 24 months.  That is however the extent of my injuries from the aortic patch procedure.  I feel very lucky.  John Ritter died of his aortic aneurysm about two months after I had mine.  I believe he also was 52.

Thanks for doing this site.  I would like to know if you feel tired and without stamina?  I find it difficult walking to the mailbox to get the mail.  Also has anyone told you about longevity associated with this condition? I feel somewhat normal except for the ability to walk that far on a treadmill or ride a stationery bike.  It gets a little bit better every week.

I’m on a lot of blood pressure medicine and coumadin.  Also wellbutrin for depression and stratera for ADHD.  These problems existed before the aortic rupture and still afflict me today.

Again, thanks for taking the time to do this site.  It is a godsend to me and I really appreciate you taking the time.

Regards, Chris O’Brien

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