Category: Sixties

Elliot Gordon-67

Here’s a great story that I found this morning on my Google Reader: WOW!

By Rich Bockmann
WEST WINDSOR — Elliot Gordon ran his first marathon in 1984 at the age of 42. A quarter of a century later, while in training for what would have been his 43rd marathon, the interior wall of his aorta ruptured, and he was suddenly given a painful reminder of the lessons learned from one of life’s most challenging tests of endurance.

“Running, in real measure, saved my life,” he says.

In that 1984 run, Gordon completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., with a time of three hours and 45 minutes. The accomplishment motivated him to make a goal of perpetually chasing better marathon times. The challenge of competing against himself soon became an integral part of his life.

“I started out with one a year, sometimes two a year, on rare occasions three,” he recounts. “I’ve run the New York marathon, London twice, Rotterdam.”
“Whenever you sign up (for a marathon) things are different,” he said.

While in training, he would run 30 miles a week, two-hour runs on the weekends, striving over periods of years to make small gains and shave the minutes off of his times. “In running, small improvements are measured as big gains,” he said.

In October 1992, a month after turning 50, Gordon ran at a pace of 8:11/mile to finish the Atlantic City Marathon in 3:42:12 — a time that stands today as his personal best. While he recognizes that this time doesn’t put him in the company of elite runners, he’s still proud of the achievement.

As the years went on and Gordon’s body did what ageing bodies do. The paces got slower, the times got longer and he progressed through a few age groups. But it would take more than four-hour-plus times to keep him from running.

He was training to compete in the April 2009 Boston Marathon when he fell ill. Just 15 days before he was set to run, while sitting at his computer at home, he became dizzy. He got down onto the ground so that he could avoid injury when he inevitably fainted.

The next thing Gordon knew, he was regaining consciousness in the intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He had suffered an aortic dissection — a tear of the inner wall of the body’s largest artery. Such an event gives those who don’t die immediately a 50 percent chance of being alive when they reach the hospital.

If those odds aren’t daunting enough, Gordon was first brought to the University Medical Center at Princeton, where he says his dissection was diagnosed as a seizure. After his wife, Linda, contacted his cardiologist, an echocardiogram was ordered and Gordon was finally sent to the hospital at University of Pennsylvania, where he was once again given a 50 percent chance of surviving as he was prepared for surgery.

“The surgeons said I survived because my body was in such good shape. Had I not been training for Boston, I would have died.”

The surgeons were able to save his aortic valve, replacing the aorta itself with a Teflon tube, but the news at this point was far from encouraging. “My chest was still open. They weren’t sure what was going to happen. I was basically just a piece of meat.” He was again given a 50/50 chance of survival.

As he lay in his hospital bed, many of his major organs were dangerously close to failure.
“In order to save my life, they pulled as much blood to my major organs as possible.”

With his extremities drained of blood, he started to suffer from medically induced gangrene. “To the extent I’m alive, that worked.” Gordon was told that his feet had played a significant role in saving his life; now the tips of his toes were turning black. Amputation was being discussed as a possibility.

Gordon kept coming down on the fortunate side of those 50 percent probabilities, and over time his liver regenerated and his condition improved. He was beginning to make small gains.

After a month and a half in the hospital, he was released on May 14. He was 25 pounds lighter and afflicted with a number of health conditions resulting from his ordeal. Three times a week he would travel to St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton for dialysis treatments that he considered somewhat disruptive.

“As a lifesaver, dialysis is wonderful; as a lifestyle, it is barbaric.”

As a goal, his doctors set 20 percent kidney function as the mark that would be “good enough to keep you alive,” he says. Once this goal was reached, and he was off dialysis, Gordon’s life could return to some level of normality.

He was anxious to begin running again, feeling that the act itself would signify recovery. Gordon signed up at his local gym and got on the treadmill, but even though his will was ready, his body was not. The still gangrenous toes would open up, and his shoes would turn red with blood. “I had to relearn the lesson of patience.”

Day after day his physical condition made slight improvements. He got well enough so that he could run from his home to the rubberized running track — the one he had voted against as a taxpayer — at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. It was unbelievably difficult to run — an experience he likens to running though molasses, but he was happy to be making improvements. “As everyone passed me on the track, I just smiled.”

He was now running 15-minute miles, but in the world of a runner, this was discouragingly slower than the under-10-minute miles he had been running in 2008.

When he complained that his body simply couldn’t perform as it had, his doctor told Gordon that his body had essentially aged 20 years as a result of the dissection.
Little by little, stride by stride, Gordon improved his times, and on Nov. 20, he ran his first post-dissection race. He completed an 8K in Philadelphia in a time of just under 58 minutes — another achievement.

Thinking about the way competitive running fits in his life, Gordon recalls an experience he had when he was a commander in the Navy Reserve. He wanted to be promoted to lieutenant commander and as soon as he was selected, his first thought was: “maybe I can make captain.”

Today, Gordon’s descending aorta still has a residual dissection, so it’s important that he maintains a healthy blood pressure through diet and exercise. “In theory, I’m living with this time bomb.” With only 20 percent kidney function, he doesn’t feel that his body is quite up to the grueling demands a marathon puts on the body.

“Human nature being what it is, I think to myself, maybe I can do a 10K.”

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Richard Ives-63

Name: Richard Ives
Age at time of Dissection: 63
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 March 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

On March 23rd,2010 I was having coffee with a close friend a retired Navy Chief at the restaurant at the South Bend Regional Airport. We finished drinking our coffee, walked through the building to the east exit where we stopped and chatted. Chief exited out the east end I walked back to another exit, left the building crossed the street to my car where I retrieved my laptop from the trunk of my car started back across the street and that is when the back pain/chest pain hit me and in my mind I knew I was probably in trouble.

I walked to where a safety officer was standing, set next to him and struck up a conversation. After a few minutes he stated he was going inside the building. Knowing the pain was not going away I asked him not to leave me and he said ” Why you having problems” which I stated “Yes”. This set in place a chain of events that resulted in a 43 day hospital stay. I would love to tell the rest of the story but this window keeps rolling to where I can not observe what I am typing.

More to come……

Continuing on with my story.

Upon being informed that an ambo was en-route I laid down upon the sidewalk trying to find a comfortable position. The time was approximately 11:45 AM on March 23rd on a relative nice spring day. I remember being loaded into the ambo, signing a form and the first mile of the ride to Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana.

My next recall of time was Saturday March 27th when I started becoming coherent . I opened my eyes to my daughter who came up thanks to my younger sister from Georgia telling me “I’m here Dad”. My wrists where tied to the sides of the bed, at the time I did not know why, and really did not care why.

When I started becoming coherent is when I was told “You are a MIRACLE”.

The surgeon Dr. Michael Steinberg of CARDIOTHORACIC SURGERY PC began explaining what had happened and why the surgery. It was not until I received his critique of the surgery did I begin to understand the term “MIRACLE” that I was still alive.

In a nut shell I learned that my aorta dissected. The aorta started dissecting from a tear in the intima in the ascending aorta.

The surgeons report stated “ CT scan revealed a type 1 aortic dissection with intimal flap that extended from the aortic root all the way down to the iliac vessels. There was complete occlusion of my right iliac artery”, this resulted in a fem-fem bypass to save my leg, a surgery preformed by a vascular surgeon. “The dissection flap extended into the left carotid artery into the left subclavian artery and into the superior mesenteric artery”.

The surgeon started at my heart where he had to resuspend the aortic valve, install a Hemashield graft tack down the intima, bioglue is a wonderful invention , and a whole lot of other miracles.

With all this stated there is minimal damage to me mentally and physically.

To further add to the excitement I added pneumonia and a Trac tube which was not removed until I was moved to a specialty hospital where I received P.T., O.T..Respiratory and speech therapies.

This was my adventure one week before  retiring from as a journeyman inside wireman electrician.

There is NO WAY I can begin to THANK all the peoples involved in the saving of my Life.

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Carolyn Pruitt-63

Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2007

Tell Us Your Story:

I was driving home from work when I felt a gurgling in my chest and a light headed. No pain. I called my son and told him about it but that I thought I would just go home and he insisted that we go to the emergency room. I took an aspirin because I thought I might be having a heart attack. It was about 7:00 at night. At the emergency room I was x-rayed and I had a CT scan and a young resident found it and called Dr. Edward Owen who happened to still be in his office which was next door to the Methodist Hospital.

He looked at the scan and told them to tell me I needed surgery. I asked if I could wait until the next day and he told me that if I waited I would not live. He did surgery at 2:00 AM and I was in the intensive care for 5 days and had a complication-I was bleeding internally and they had taken the tubes out and it was causing me to not be able to breath-my son told them and they had to do a second surgery. I stopped breathing and had t o be revived. After 25 days I was able to go home and after 2 1/2 months I went back to work. I worked for almost 3 more years and retired this past December 2009.

I am able to do everything I did before the incident and just continue to be monitored and get CT scans.

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John Ley-62

Hi Brian, I just found your website today….

What a miracle to read so many stories from survivors! Thank you for all the great work you are doing!

Sadly, I do not have a wonderful story to post on your site… my precious husband, the love of my life, John, age 62, died on January 12, 2009 – after waiting in the hospital for 18.5 hours for a correct diagnosis – Type A – Aortic Dissection. The ER and the hospital never gave him a CT Scan and the dissection was finally found after doing a Cath test. John endured the 8.5 hour emergency surgery… but died 21 hours after surgery.

I’ve been walking down this very hard road of grief the past 18 months… have tried to find a law firm to represent John, but have been told no by six firms. Most all of them agree that the “delay” was not good, and that some degree of negligence was involved, but that this type of medical condition is so severe that the 18 hours would not have made a difference in John’s survival. Also, because of Tort Reform in Texas – no lawyers want to touch such a challenging Medical Malpractice case with a 10 foot pole, they want an open and shut – easy money case
Also, there is no “standard of care” when it comes to administering a CT Scan….John’s initial tests were not conclusive for a heart attack and his Troponin levels were also giving false readings.

I wanted to email you and ask if you have any feedback for me…? Not sure what I’m hoping for… but, I was happy and sad at the same time to find your site; happy to read about so many survivors and sad that their common theme was a quick CT Scan shortly after arrived at the hospital.

I pray every day that the ER would have just given John a CT Scan…

Kindest regards, Amy Ley

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!)

Larry Leason-66

Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Decending Date of Aortic Dissection: 15 June 2010 Tell Us Your Story: I was on my 6th treatment in the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber 75 minutes in…They were 90 minute sessions at 41 foot deep…There were to be 20 treatments. The reason for the treatments was because I had so much radiation treatments for the cancer that I was at high risk of Mandibular Osteoradionecrosis….The goal was to get the 20 treatments in so that I could have Oral Surgery and get Dentures…The radiation had deteriorated my teeth. I had been diagnosed with an Aortic Aneurysm…The Doctors were monitoring it…My next yearly visit was on June 16th 2010…

On June 15 I began having extreme pain in my lower back radiating to the front of my Chest…The Doctor brought me up slowly and got me out…We sat in his office for 15 minutes or so and I told him that we know it was not the Aneurysm that blew or I would be dead now…I was still in a great deal of pain but managed to drive 1 1/2 hours home …My wife saw how bad I looked at took me to the ER …The cat scan revealed I had an Dissecting Aorta…

I was life flighted to South Crest Hospital in Tulsa Oklahoma upon where my Surgeon met me and said ” I am going to be straight with you…this is not good…you can die or be paralyzed if you make it through the surgery”…. Doctor Carabello had to send off for a # 38 graft…South Crests largest graft was a 36…. To open me up through my chest was a Death sentence so they opted to go through the groin where they had repaired my Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm one year prior…

It has been right at a month since the surgery and I am still in a great deal of pain…My lower back will began hurting and radiate to my chest…I twitch and jump all night long..My wife say’s I look like a fish out of water… I have been hallucinating for the past week and it is getting worse…My family Doctor has ordered at MRI tomorrow July 14 2010 of my head and chest…Looking for clots…. My wife found your web site and was trying to see if anyone else has had these problems after Aortic Dissection repair…I believe that the blood supply has been cut off of my spinal cord…guess the MRI will tell……

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!)

Pamela Myer-62 & 30

Personal Stories: Pamela Myer’s Family

Brian, It is very hard to read these stories because I have lost my husband and my daughter within six years. My story starts when my husband had his first heart attack at 38 yrs. old. It was a mild one not much damage to his heart. His family has a history of heart.

He had his second heart attack at 43 yrs. and again not much damage but 2 stents put in. He was told if he had anymore problems he would probably have to have open heart. He never made it that far. We were married for 29 yrs. and he went to Arizona for a Zane Grey Convention to relax from a lot of stress with work in June of 2003. I had to stay home that year and it was the only time we weren’t together. He was in a hotel lobby with friends and I was told that he stood up from the couch to leave the hotel for a party and took one step and went down.

There were two retired doctors at the convention who just happened to be right there but he didn’t make it. Since he had previous heart problems they didn’t do an autopsy. Oh how I wish I would have requested it now. On October 9, 2009 my 30 year old daughter who was 38 wks pregnant called me at work and hour before she died. I work at a hospital. She was crying and I could tell she was scared in her voice. She had took a shower and laid down on the bed and stretched and felt like she had pulled a muscle in her neck. She said it felt something like a pulled muscle but different. She was really scared about the H1N1 and was hoping to get the shot before she had the baby.

Her husband said she was on the computer looking up the symptoms right before she left the house. She had asthma and I asked her if she was having trouble breathing? She said she was and had taken her inhaler. She said it had helped a little. I told her to go to the ER if she felt like she should. She said no that she had called our family doctor and had an appointment at 1:20 p.m.. I told her I would call her back in about 15 mins. to see how she was doing. I got busy at work and never got to talk to her again. I looked up at the clock and it was 1:15 p.m.. I knew she was probably already there at the doctors office. Ten minutes later my son-in-law called me at work and said he got a call from the doctors office that she had fainted and they were taking her to the hospital. I started to cry because I had the same strange feeling in my heart that I had when they called me and said her father went down.

They took her to our other hospital campus about 10 mins. away. I was out the door crying and made it to the hospital before the ambulance got there. They were doing CPR on her and it is a painful picture of my daughter that I will never be able to erase from my memory. I just had to be there with her because I should have been with my husband. They were able to save my beautiful granddaughter and she spent two weeks at Children’s hospital and is just perfect.

No brain damage….they kept up CPR for her baby even though they knew my daughter was gone. The not knowing what happened to this beautiful healthy pregnant woman was so frightening. Was it her heart? What could have caused her death? The next day we got a preliminary autopsy report. A small tear in the ascending aorta. An aortic dissection. My family doctor feels that my husband died from this also. We will never know for sure about my husband but we do know about my daughter. Since then my 29 yr.old son has been checked and his children are being checked. He checked out ok for now. He will have to be checked every 3 to 5 years. My husband’s sister and her children are also being checked.

My daughter’s children will be checked at age five or six. The “what ifs” are hard not to think about. What if I would have ordered an autopsy on my husband. It could have saved my daughter. This thing must be able to take people fast. My daughter saved her child. She didn’t wait for her husband and four yr.old son to take her to the doctor. She left the house without saying goodbye and if she hadn’t we would have lost the baby too or worse she would have died in front of them in the car if she would have waited for them even to get in the car. If she would have went to the hospital it was further than the doctor’s office and we would have lost them both and she could have hurt someone in a car wreck. My doctor told me she walked into the office and they took her right back.

The nurse checked her vitals including blood pressure and everything was fine. They were laughing about how she looked like she was ready to have that baby and she reached for the nurse and said there was that funny feeling in her neck again and she died. Maybe the doctors should do an autopsy on every heart patient especially when they have already had a history of heart. It could of saved my beautiful daughter. I have read online the percentage of woman under forty that die from AD and are pregnant with there first child or second.

The percentage is high. I to got on line and started reading about AD nd it scared me so much I had to quit reading anything about it until I talked to my doctor so he could explain some things to me. I has so scared for my son that I was going to lose him next. I just wanted to share my story of my husband and daughter so that maybe this will help save someone else. I want to show you pictures of them and my granddaughter but I can’t get them to copy on here. Thanks for letting me tell you my story.

Pam Myer

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!)

Dennis Rathman’s Wife-60

Personal Stories: A loving Wife=she will be missed!

Hi Brian,

Less than two weeks ago on May 21, 2009, my wife (60 years

old) passed away of “hemopericardium” due to “dissection of the

ascending thoracic aorta” according to the medical examiner of the

state of MA. I would like to give you as much as I know of the

details in hopes that you could render an opinion as well as tell me

what , if anything, I should ask about as well. I would like you

to refrain from using this story for the time being but hopefully it

will help to complete your present mission once it is revealed. I

have only read a very small portion of your website but I can see you

are already an expert. It is typical of what can be accomplished

when someone is truly motivated and for this I admire you. I also am

praying for your personal battles with this condition. Two weeks ago

I knew nothing of this illness.

On Thursday morning around 6:15 AM of May 21, my wife had an

“event” while at work. She described this as “like a sudden

shock” (some took it to mean electrical in nature but I truly believe

she meant this descriptively) at which time she became woozy and

disoriented. She does access some electrical-use equipment but not

high or dangerous voltage. She was helped outside the building where

others helped her walk around and sit down and relax.

The companyacting quickly did dispatch emergency vehicles to the

scene. The

EMTs did an onsite EKG (by the way no de-fib or irregular heart

rhythm that might be associated with electrical shock were detected)

and checked her vital signs which were all good at the time. In fact

she wanted to return to work but they insisted on taking her on the

gurney to the hospital for test and observation. Later, at home at

around 7:00AM I received the call from a rep of the company about the

situation and that her vitals were ok.

At this point I planned to dress and head to the hospital about

an hour or more drive to the hospital during morning rush hour.

Before leaving I called the hospital, they said call back in 10

minutes as the doctor is with her. I did so and asked how is she

doing and a nurse said “she is very sick” which I could not

understand given what I was told previously. I said is she

conscious? Unconscious , what ? She said, “she is unresponsive” at

which point I lost it. She also asked at that time, “is she allergic

to aspirin or anything else ?” I took off for the hospital and did

not make it before she was already dead.

What I learned of the sequence of events at the hospital with

very little detail to date is this. She arrived at the hospital

feeling ok as she asked to get up from the gurney to go to the

bathroom which she did and then came back to a room in the ER. I

assume she had an immediate EKG somewhere close to that time. She

was treated with aspirin as far as I am aware, possibly something

else. I assume this might be done if one was suspected of having a

stroke from blockage or possibly a heart attack. After asking the

nurse if her husband was on the way, within only a few minutes of

taking the aspirin her eyes rolled into the back of her head and I

assume a Code Blue or whatever was issued but she died quickly

without being revived.

The doctor made two strange comments when I arrived while he

talked to me inside the “quiet room”. He mentioned an electrical

shock from a “faulty plug” that he was aware of- I have no idea where

this came from except a misinterpretation from the EMTs. He also

said the “EKG” showed a “massive heart attack”.

Question: Now with a minimal understanding of aortic

dissection, it would seem to me that giving aspirin which enhances/

causes internal bleeding would be strongly contra-indicated.

Is that correct ?

Do these circumstances that I describe appear to be a case

where the doctors assumed something far removed from aortic

dissection and thus were unable to apply the correct procedures that

might have saved her if applied immediately ? I don’t want to put

you on the spot but please be candid.

thanks sincerely,

Dennis Rathman

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!)

J.H. Layne-61

Personal Stories: J.H. Layne

January 8th. 2004, I had a triple “A”, Dissection of the Ascending Aorta, brought on by “Anger”. Anger over a conversation on the phone with an insurance agent. I had been thoroughly check out just a month earlier, stress tested, compare to the heart through a blood vessel in the groin, etc. It took 6 1/2 hours to determine what was going on within me, and 14 plus hours on the table, clinically dead for one of those hours, but frozen stiff so I’m told, a human popsicle so to speak. There have been a few speed bumps to become accustom to over the years since, like memory loss, a disabling pain that moves throughout my upper body from time to time (much like a cramp-but much stronger) it will be in a shoulder, center of my chest, base of my neck, under my heart,. There’s no warning, it happens day or night, resting or working here on the ranch and there are “Dizzy spells” that like the migrating pain will put you on the ground or leave you helpless and vulnerable. 5 years a survivor

now, still ranching, breaking horses, raising cattle, maintaining, an African goose, Chicken, Turkey and Miscovy duck populations, not to mention 3 dogs and 12 feral cats. Ranch work is ranch work, Cowboy’n no longer a option had my spine fused 6 months prior to the triple “A” ( Hence the argument with the insurance agent/ and/ tipple “A”) Well, its looking like iv developed an aneurysm on the scar tissue from the original operation, its 6 centimeters in diameter, it was discovered a year ago on a follow-up visit to the Doc, Just did a cats can yesterday and will be headed for his office Tuesday the 24th. to see if its enlarged anymore then the 6 centimeters. A year ago they were saying surgery was a must, had to be done, the sooner the better. (so why did they wait so long ? ) To be honest, I’m not sure I want to go through it all over again, I’m 66 years old, seen and done a lot more then a lot of men, ridden some good horses and some bad. Learn early on during Nam that

“Through the grace of God, I have this very moment—the next is not promised or guaranteed) I put my boots on this morning, but have no idea who will take them off tonight ? I’ll keep you updated after Tuesday— God bless each of you who have survived, “There’s a reason you have, don’t forget that, your here because your not done, not yet. % years ago when I first logged on to this site, I did so as AAA (tipple A) so I’ll log off for now as “AAA”. God Bless………….

Contact J.H. Layne

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!)

Dennis Francis Lavita, Sr.-60

Personal Stories: Dennis Francis Lavita, Sr

Hello Brian,

I happened to come across your article on the internet.  Thanks for the informative information.  I am a 34-year-old female whose father (best friend) just passed away recently from Aortic Dissection.  He was 59 years old.  I am having a very hard time dealing with his death since it was so sudden.

He was taken to a local hospital in Somerville, Massachusetts in the evening of January 2, 2008 complaining of very severe chest, abdomen and back pain.  After being there a few hours, he was transferred to Massachusetts General Hospital upon reviewing scans they had run.  They came to the realization that his major blood vessel had a tear in it.

He arrived at MGH around 10p.m. that night.  They were supposed to perform the surgery that night and they put it off.  They were then supposed to perform it in the morning, and again, was delay.  They finally took him back about 4:10p.m. on January 3, 2008.  They pronounced him dead at 5:41p.m. without performing the surgery.  He passed away from a cardiac arrest

I am so hurt and angry right now. I am left to wonder why surgery wasnt performed when they had the chance.  My father literally bled to death internally.

Reading your article has made me more aware of just how serious this condition is.  I will be contacting you shortly to get some more information regarding this.

Michelle La-Vita


Bill Witterschein-64

Personal Stories: Bill Witterschein


Back in 2005 on Labor Day weekend my husband Bill was working out at a Physical Therapy Facility in NJ. He had a double knee replacement in June. He was showering after the workout and felt a spreading feeling in his chest. He wrapped a towel around himself and went out to where there were people around.

He started to feel dizzy and an ambulance was called. He was taken to Monmouth Medical Center where the head ER physician realized after reading his Cat Scan that he had an Aortic Dissection. They transferred him to Jersey Shore Med Ctr where he underwent a 7 hr operation which saved his life.

We followed up in NYC @ Columbia Presbyterian after hearing about a Dr Craig Kent who is the Chief of Vascular Surgery. Dr Kent advised Bill to see him every 6 months for a check up which includes either a CAT Scan or MRA.

This Dec Bill had his usual Cat Scan on 12/18 and we visited Dr Kent to discuss the results. Dr Kent immediately.called a Cardiac Surgeon Dr Alan Stewart and we went right to his office.

The CAT Scan showed that there was a leak at the sight of the original repair. Bill had a 11 hr operation on 1/2 . Dr Stewart explained that Bill’s Aorta was bulging and that he probably only had 2 weeks to live.

When the original procedure was done something called bioglue (spelling ?) was used they are no longer using that procedure and the reason is what happened to Bill can occur.

We are back in Fl the surgery was successful Bill can go back to normal activities after 2 months or so.

The advice I want to give is that all Dissection Survivors must be faithful to follow up check ups.

Kathy Witterschein

Joseph Wos-61

Personal Stories: Joseph Wos

Hi Brian,

I finally got set up with my own e mail address. It was so great to hear from someone who experienced what we had.

My operation took 13 hours. I was taken to one hospital on june 14.

Spent appx 14 hrs there and they could not figure out what was wrong, so they took me up to Lenox hill hospital after my son had diagnosed from San Diego’s Scripp Hospital.

He was finishing his last year of  internship as an EM doctor. He spoke to my wife from there and told her to get me a CT asap.

I was at Lutheran Hosp,they couldn’t do anything there so up I went …Arrived there and had another CT taken…found the ascending aorta and was operated on that night by a thoracic surgeon who had finished his fellowship appx a year before…….

GOD WAS WITH ME…AND STILL IS ……well I am on my lunch hour and must get back to work.


Contact Jo

Susan Huenefelds Father-63

Personal Stories: Susan Huenefeld’s Father






HOW OFTEN DOES THE COMPLICATION OF A RETROPERITONEAL BLEED OCCUR?   THANKS FOR YOU TIME AND EFFORT, AND I’M CERTAINLY GLAD TO HEAR OF ALL THE SUCCESS STORIES ON THE SITE!                                                                 THANKS,                                                                                   SUZETTE HUENEFELD M. D.

Dr. Liang’s Reply:

When a dissection extends toward the heart it can sometimes propagate down the coronary arteries; most commonly right coronary artery – the RCA. It can certainly complicate the surgery. Most surgeons in this situation will try to repair the right coronary and at the same time place a bypass graft further down the right coronary past the dissected portion. I don’t know exactly how much more risk it adds to the situation. it really depends how long the flow has been interrupted in the right coronary before the heart was stopped for the surgery.   I’m not sure that I have seen a retroperitoneal bleed in the setting of an acute type A dissection, but it certainly makes sense that there is the potential for such a complication. It can of course also simply occur spontaneously with the anti-coagulation that is necessary with bypass surgery.   I doubt that the scuba diving was a major factor in the dissection. He almost certainly had an underlying risk factor for dissection. The diving may have been the straw that broke the camels back, but it was probably not a big factor. Although you mention the hypertension and the cholesterol, it would be a mistake to attribute the dissection to the blood pressure. Very few 63 year olds with well controlled hypertension will suffer dissections. You need to make sure you look into possible underlying weaknesses in the aortic tissue, particularly given the surgeons description of the tissue. Many of these conditions can be inherited, so all your father’s first degree relatives should be screened for possible aortic disease. Since many of these inherited conditions are not well characterized, it is important to know as much as you can about your father’s condition as you can, so that the appropriate markers can be searched for in the remainder of the family. The information I would want if you were to see me would include; 1) Was you father’s aortic valve normal – bicuspid aortic valve disease is a major cause of dissections. 2) Was the aorta enlarged and how much was it enlarged – this tells me whether looking for aortic enlargement with an echo, CT or MRI will be useful in screening other family members and also tells me if enlargement is found at what stage it should be considered for prophylactic repair. 3) Where was the initial tear in the intima and what was the appearance of the intima in that region – if the initial tear is at an atheroma, then we can guess that the dissection may have initiated as a plaque rupture and then atherosclerosis, even if mild becomes the primary suspect. 4. If tissue/blood is available – make sure the aortic tissue, especially adjacent to the dissected region is examined for degenerative changes. Blood if available should be kept for possible future DNA analysis. It’s probably not worthwhile blindly checking for all known mutations associated with dissections, but in consultation with a geneticist or cardiologist familiar with genetically medicated aortic disease which if any syndromes should be investigated can be determined.   I know it is hard to think about some of these issues at this time, it is important to address it now. Tissue may not be available and the findings at surgery are still fresh in the surgeons mind, but will fade as time goes by.


Ramon Pierson-66

Personal Stories: Ramon Pierson

About 3:30 on the afternoon of 3rd December, 2004. My wife and I were walking along the shore near our home in West Sussex. The tide was in so wed been trudging through deep shelves of flint shingle high on the beach. It was strenuous going, but on previous occasions Id kept up a good pace through the shingle in spurts to get the circulation going, as it were.

Suddenly I felt a burning in my throat and down into my stomach. At first I put this down to heartburn from the exertion after a full lunch, but it was worse than any Id experienced before. I told my wife Id have to hurry home to my stash of antacid tablets. She was content to hang back and continue clipping twigs from bushes to force into leaf in a vase.

My fast walk quickly turned to a headlong lunge. Ive since roughly measured the way home. Just over 600 meters, but that day it seemed like as many miles. The burning grew more intense and then began a ripping pain in the middle of my back that spread out both sides. Breathing became more difficult and I was only able to sip air and let it out in spasms. Some part of my brain was working. By this time Id discounted dyspepsia and I wondered if I was having a heart attack, but I was experiencing none of the signs Id heard about. At last I reached home and headed for my Rennies (antacid tabs).

When my wife arrived shortly after, I was crouched at the edge of the bed and clinging to the radiator which was rattling to my spasmodic breathing. She called the emergency services who said an ambulance would be along soon and I was to lean back and breathe steady. This was hard to do but it gave me something to concentrate on.

The paramedics found me slipped down on one knee and wedged in between bed and radiator. When they couldnt get a wheelchair around close enough, I tried to stand but couldnt. Neither could I roll across the bed. My legs wouldnt work. In the end they had to lift me across the bed and set me in the wheelchair. They hooked me up to oxygen and we went off in the ambulance. Breathing was a bit easier and I could speak more than single rasped words, enough to give the paramedics some idea of what I felt. Strange was the loss of the use of my legs. I could feel them but not move them. As we drove, the paramedic continued to stroke a pencil over the soles of my feet, but there was no reaction.

In the A&E I was breathing better and the sense of panic diminished. I was x-rayed and questioned about what had happened by several doctors who were puzzled by my inability to move my legs. Even after movement slowly came back, they returned with questions, and with shift change a couple of hours later another lot started. They called me the enigma. When, by about 9 p.m., it looked like Id be kept in over night, my wife left for home.

Not long after, I was told that the x-ray showed that my aorta looked a bit enlarged and I was taken for a CT scan, which revealed an aortic dissection. The doctor said this might be treated with blood pressure medication, less likely that surgery would be required. A while later another doctor stopped by to ask me how much effort they should put into resuscitation. This seemed a bit extreme, but I played along. I told him, well, its my life, so give it a good shot.

Just before I was moved to the cardiac ward I was shown the CT film and saw the dissection for myself. I was just getting settled in for the night, when I was told Id soon be transferred for surgery to either Southampton or Brighton, whichever had a slot. In the meantime they had to get my blood pressure down to 100. In the small hours of the Saturday morning I was bundled into an ambulance and trundled off to Brighton about 35 miles away with a young doctor in attendance and an automatic blood pressure check every 15 minutes. In the meantime my wife had been alerted and was heading the same way in a taxi.

On arrival in Brighton my wife and I were told that my condition was life threatening. I needed immediate surgery and the surgeon had been woken up and was hurrying from home. They described the operation (theyd pack me in ice to slow my heart rate, stop my heart, patch the aorta with dacron and then restart my heart) and the risks (not surviving surgery, kidney failure, the chance that Id lose the use of my legs, plus a few more dire possibilities). None of this sounded great, but without surgery I could expect to live about ten days. Tops. I signed the consent form and was quickly prepped and wheeled off to the operating room.

I woke up several hours later in a morphine fog to see my daughter and my wife floating near my bed. My daughter had driven down from London very early that morning when she heard what was on. They stayed that night in the hotel that the hospital had set up for such purposes and when they came back the next day I was slightly more clear headed.

Two days later, Tuesday, I was moved from ICU. I could walk about and a physical therapist ran me through some simple exercises. On ward rounds Thursday doctors said I could go home next day if an echocardiogram showed that my aortic valve was OK and if I could pass their stairs test. That meant walking down one floor and back up again. I cleared both tests and late Friday afternoon, a week after the dissection, my daughter was driving me home.

Recovery over the next couple of weeks was flat. We started with the advised 10-minute walks twice a day (more of a shuffle at first) and gradually increased time and distance. The first week in January I had a bout of shingles, which set me back a bit. On hearing about the dissection, the substitute GP who diagnosed the shingles kept looking at me in an odd way that suggested shed never seen a live one. I figured shed love to take me on an exhibition tour.

By the time of my six-week checkup Id got past the shingles and soon afterwards the recovery curve eased northwards. Walks gradually increased to a mile round trip to the shops. On Valentines Day I started driving again, though daily walks continued, and around Easter we took our first longer walk into the hills (with several stops for a breather on the way) to see a field of wild daffodils and primroses. In mid-April we managed a steeper hill where there were broad expanses of bluebells, and as summer progressed we were walking everywhere we used to go. Since June 05, after my six-month checkup, Ive been doing aerobic and strengthening exercises twice-weekly in the Phase IV cardiac rehab scheme set up for those with heart attacks, shunts and bypasses. Ive never met another who has had a dissection. On the anniversary of the dissection repair I had my latest visit with my cardiologist, who had checked my August CT scan, echocardiogram and all the rest, and declared me fi t. Next visit in a year.

So Im a long way from where I was 18 months ago. Physically. Even so, I still experience phases where my energy suddenly flags, and Im frequently cold, perhaps due to the beta-blockers and blood thinning tablets. The Phase IV sessions have restored a good measure of lost confidence.

Mentally its another story. The 10-inch zip in my chest is like a watershed mark. Partly as a joke early on, my wife and I took to referring to the time before surgery as BZ (before zipper) and since then as AZ. At first I wasnt sure that the dacron graft wouldnt blow any time I sneezed or coughed. The thought of being a few miles from home was daunting, so trips wed planned were cancelled or put on hold. Short-term memory has been a concern. I heard it might be from being so long on the heart-lung machine. It could also be from inattention; since the dissection I know I dont focus as well: things dont matter quite so much. Or it could just come with being over 65, or letting my mind go fat and flaccid since retirement.

The biggest thing to get my head round is how close I came to not being here. It was luck that the ambulance was nearby. I was lucky, too, that the doctors in A&E kept worrying me with questions until they knew what was wrong and didnt just send me off with a handful of antacid tablets after a superficial examination. About every day I think of how close the edge of the world is and how easy it can be suddenly to step off.

Contact Ramon

Ken McDowell-62

Personal Stories: Ken McDowell

I am writing this on behalf of my husband Ken, who was the picture of health and exercised every day for years, but suffered an aortic dissection on December 4, 2003.

By the Grace of God, he is still with us today.  We had one miracle after another the day it happened.

This is what happened when I received a call at work to get to the hospital immediately (which was only 2 blocks away) as my husband was having symptoms of a heart attack.

My first thought was probably indigestion – my immediate second thought was that he had one brother die at 58 suddenly with a ruptured aorta and his other brother had a similar situation.

My first comments to the ER Doctor were to tell him about these two brothers.  He said he did not think that was what was happening to my husband and that Ken had already mentioned that to him.  He said the morphine they were giving him had helped a lot and his vitals were good and showing no signs of a heart attach so they might let him go home in a little while.  (It was about 12:30 when he arrived at ER and this was about 1:30).

As I was making a few phone calls and feeling a little better about the situation, the ER Dr. came by and said he had changed his mind – that since we both had mentioned about the two brothers he would order a scan just to be safe.  Thank God he did!  He came running up to me within a matter of minutes and told me Ken was dissecting as we spoke and he had to get him to another hospital immediately.  I have never seen a Dr. move so fast or be so concerned – ever!  Within a few minutes they had him (and they allowed me to ride in front with the driver) in an ambulance on the way to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro.

They took him straight to surgery with my son and son-in-law arriving right behind us and in time for them to speak to Ken before they told him (and us) he might not make it through the surgery.  One of our two daughters had been in China on business and was due to fly back in to Greensboro that afternoon.  The other daughter was home with our two little granddaughters.

He was in surgery about 7 or 8 hours as family and friends gathered and we were much in prayer during the long wait.    Our daughter s flight arrived and her husband brought her straight to the hospital as well as other daughter arriving so we were all there for the long wait.  The surgeon finally came out and told us of the repairs he had made and that it would be touch and go for a few days.  He had replacement of the ascending aorta and St Jude aortic valve with reimplantation of the coronary arteries because of type 1 aortic dissection extending from the aortic valve down to the entire thoracic aorta and into the femorals .

He really fought the life support while in intensive care and finally pulled everything out himself not realizing what he was doing (and while even being restrained!)  That gave all of us a real scare but he started breathing on his on!  Again so many miracles..He was in intensive care for a week and then in hospital about 3 more weeks.  He had a lot of complications while in intensive care and also after getting out into a coronary care room.  He had to have a second surgery because the incision that was made in his groin would not close and fluid kept draining out profusely.  They tried everything but finally had to go back in and take care of that.

And finally he got to come home very weak and on many medications!  His recovery was very slow but he has really come a long way.  He still has a lot of ongoing problems but has come off some of his medicines others he will be taking the rest of his life.  And of course, he continues seeing his cardiologist (and even his surgeon) quite often as well as having different test done on a regular basis.

And for encouragement to others, all doctors that have seen him say he is a walking miracle, that very few survive what he did and live to tell about it.  He is able to work (but doesnt travel as much on his job as he use to) and actually there are even times that I can forget all this ever happened (if only for a few minutes).  He really looks good and seems to feel pretty good most of the time.  Of course, he has to pace himself and he does have a few bad days but overall, he is doing great and we thank God for that.  The children and I had a Celebration of Life party for him with lots of friends and family on December 4, 2004 as it had been exactly one year since we nearly lost him.

It is beyond comprehension how often this is misdiagnosed!!

Contact Ken

David Loder-63

Personal Stories: David Loder

Your story and mine are so similar, I must write and thank you for doing this website. We have so much in common, I feel we are brothers.   On August 16, 2005 early in the morning, around two, I couldn’t sleep. Knowing I had only several hours to be on an assignment 50 miles from home at 7, meant leaving at 5:30 and going to the office locally, taking my limousine and driving to the client’s house and back to Reno airport.   Around 4, I became aware of a slight pain on the right side of my throat, not unlike some I have experienced throughout life from difficulty swallowing. By 5, I had already realized I couldn’t be on duty at my site and although the pain had spread further across the right side of my upper chest, began migrating over and down the back of my shoulder, I kept calling for a replacement driver. No luck after calling everyone everywhere I could get, I finally reached another driver who was leaving for the office to pick up her client, and who in turn “saved” my client from desertion.

By now it was a little after six, and my condition kept feeling like something definitely was wrong. My legs had broken into a sudden sweat from the thighs to the ankles, and only for a few seconds. I was beginning to feel nauseous, but still hadn’t realized I was probably dying.

Calling the local hospital closest to me I was lucky to get a nurse who told me to come in right away and offered an ambulance. Being aware of how long they can take, I told her I preferred to drive myself, as they were only a few blocks from home.

Arriving at St Mary’s, rushing into emergency, I was immediately given  attention, and was being given a scan, which showed “something” was wrong….they didn’t tell me for a few moments, until conferring with the Dr.who was present in the room, and just happened to be on emergency duty…a Dr. Athan Roumanas. Informing me (only half awake) in my groggy state of the need for surgery due to an aortic aneurysm, I asked him “are you a cardiologist?” His reply was “Cardio SURGEON” and I immediately knew this was no ordinary situation, thank God.

I was told only 20% chance of surviving the surgery, and I hesitated a few moments before consenting and then being wheeled into the ER, as I called my Sister-in-law on the cell phone, I briefly told her the situation. (She is the family’s “Town Crier” who keeps tabs on everyone, informing the rest of us when anything happens). Her husband, my younger brother, has had a history of heart problems, with subsequent surgeries, beginning in his late 40s, and is now in his late 50s with a pacemaker, a bypass and, I believe, an angioplasty. I am 64, and have never ever been in surgery since my tonsils were out in 1945.

Coming out of anesthesia, some hours later, a man standing over me, was surprised I came to so soon. The on-duty Dr. said most people don’t regain consciousness for much longer, usually remaining in a coma several days. I’d not been aware of where I was until seeing him where I had been, and was surrounded by the curtain in CCU and very aware that I had come to the hospital. When I asked him “when do I get my surgery?” he informed me that it was over. I still hadn’t felt the impact, although tubes and electrodes were everywhere, including a catheter.

The next 2 days were kind of a dream state, where you know you’ve been through something, but haven’t yet grasped the importance of what has happened. I live alone, and my only nearby family lives out of state hundreds of miles away. My son, fortunately was able to leave school, where he teaches in Southern California and came to my bedside a day or so later. The boss, Margot from the Limo Company also came, as did Andy from the courier service I also drove for, and both left me with balloons and good wishes for recovery.

In the ensuing 4 or 5 days after being moved to “telemetry” on another part of the building, I spent hours in bed for what seemed forever. The care given was absolutely everything one could expect, with constant monitoring, meals served, and round-the-clock attention from all the nurses. Everyone was so attentive, and caring, that I had mixed feelings when the time to leave came. They definitely spoiled me and I was given a big stuffed heart for everyone to sign, including the staff.

Finally being discharged, another chauffeur from work and his partner came to pick me up, she driving me and he driving my car back home. I felt like a freed slave, an although I had been confined, it was as if the dream was now over. My work had been so demanding, lots of laundry remained to be done, which I immediately began doing. Living in a 3 story apartment the laundry room is on the ground floor across and behind the courtyard, meaning I was carrying the load down the stairs without feeling any problem, the weather was very warm and sunny, and I felt just like the guy who got out of the slammer, and glad to resume life.

When I met a neighbor at the bottom of the stairs, I let her know why I had been gone a few days, as everyone here is close to their neighbor. She couldn’t believe I had gone through heart surgery only days before, and now was carrying the basket down a flight of stairs. Somehow I know, others were concerned and caring for me, as well as my family, and our God.

Since that time not quite 8 months ago, I’ve lived as if this is my chance to begin life over. Being unable to drive, carry luggage, and doing anything physically demanding, I know I will probably never drive the many people who come through Reno, including dignitaries, celebrities, and billionaires who were some of the most memorable of passengers. Eight years here in the limousine business gave me an opportunity to be of service to virtually every walk of life, and then some!

I know somehow, that the future is always indefinite, but look at every day with open eyes, and as another step to life’s journey. Being an outdoor type, and loving the sunshine and crisp air, I walk most everywhere the bus doesn’t go. I am now two weeks into my first work activity, handing out goods at our local St Vincent’s Food Pantry, which has been enjoyable, as most everyone there is a volunteer. AARP was instrumental in the placement with them, as they are a great resource for finding all types of help for us “older” people. I’m not really that old, having grown up in the 50s, and living through all the decades we’ve traveled to the present time. Our world is still beautiful, and it’s good to be alive.     Most sincerely,   David Loder

Jim’s from Australia-64

Personal Stories: Jim from Australia by Monica Knight

Dear Brian, This story is about my husband who is 64 years young, he had a Triple A that burst. On the 12th March 2003 at approx. 11pm Jim was struck down with an excruciating pain in the bottom of his stomach. This pain was in the same place that Jim had felt a pulse beat about 10 days before this situation occurred. The pulse he felt lasted about 30 minutes and was gone, with no problems until this pain happened as he was leaving a meeting at Williamstown, a suburb near the city of Melbourne Australia.

An ambulance was called and he was conveyed to the Western General Hospital at Footscray some 15 minutes away and admitted to the Emergency Dept. The pain was so fierce that during the trip Jim asked the paramedics to push him out in front of on coming traffic to eliminate the pain. He said later that he did not know that the human body could take so much pain.

Jim was medicated and under observation and told they were waiting for his condition to stabilize to enable x-rays to be taken. The doctors suggested that it could be kidney stones or even renal colic. There was no mention of an aorta problem.

Suddenly Jims condition worsened and he was rushed to an intensive care area, all at once they were trying to put in an I V. give him oxygen and take x-rays. There were now quite a few nurses and a couple of Doctors attending Jim, one Doctor came in that was dressed for theatre. After examining Jim for a minute or so he turned to me and asked if I knew what had happened. He told me Jims aorta had burst and that he had to be taken to theatre but he would be lucky if he made it to the operating table. This was about 2 am in the morning.

I was asked for phone numbers of relatives that should be contacted. There were 4 Doctors in attendance at that time, rather unusual I think to have this amount of specialists at the hospital at this hour but would you believe that there were 2 other patients with emergency aorta operations done that morning. One was an 85 year old lady.

The surgeons in attendance were, Messes A.Chan, Frydman, Lovelock, and Beiles. Jims operation took about 4 hours and as I waited for him to come up from theatre one of the doctors came to speak to me. I was told that Jim had a blood clot the size of a football and had lost nearly all his blood into his body cavity. The doctor stated that things had gone as well as could be expected.

A few hours later I was told that it might be necessary for Jim to go back into theatre and again to prepare for the worst. They were worried that his kidneys may have suffered some damage during the operation and were not functioning properly, it seemed as though opinions were divided as to the necessity of returning him to the theatre and it wasnt until 5 oclock that afternoon that Jim was again taken back. This procedure lasted 2 1/2 hours. Jims kidneys were ok but the doctors removed another 1 litres of fluid from his body cavity.

Jim was in the Intensive Care Unit, in a coma, for the next 12 days. During that time all his bodily functions were being carried out by machine, including his breathing. After a few days he underwent a tracheotomy, this was to lessen the chance of infection. From the minute Jim woke, nurses were checking to see if he had any physical disabilities or problems. He had been given some physio in the last couple of days and the only thing that seemed to worry Jim was a numbness down his left thigh. What annoyed Jim was that he could not communicate with the nurses, all he wanted to do was to tell them everything was alright. He did comment later that he was happy to see the smiles on their faces.

Not being able to communicate easily, was something that frustrated Jim greatly. At first he didnt even have the strength to hold a pen or pencil. When he did hold the pen to write he became very annoyed with me and could not understand why I couldnt read what he had written. When Jim did write, he stacked one letter on top of another. It seemed alright to him. It took couple of days before he realised what he was doing.

Jim had been out of the coma about 4 days when he was transferred to a private room in a general ward. Not a good move. We did not realise until some time later that Jim was still suffering after affects from the morphine that he had been given. He was awake and communicating, he seemed ok. We would realise later, a lot of what went on in the first few days Jim would not remember. His first night in the room Jim buzzed for assistance to go to the bathroom, no one came and he tried to get out of bed. Jim still had a catheter inserted and a couple of I V lines . These were all ripped out as he tripped and fell.

Two or three days later tests showed that it was safe to complete the tracheotomy. The next day after physio tests etc., Jim was given the OK to go home. This was at his insistence not the doctors idea. We did not know what to do in the way of rehabilitation, how long it would take for recuperation, as the only advice we were given on leaving the hospital was for Jim to take it easy, not lift anything heavy and there could be times of 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. The first couple of days at home Jim seemed just as he was before the operation. Then crash.

For the first few weeks home, Jim couldnt sleep through the night. He would wake after about 3 hours sleep and be wide awake for an hour or more, he would then try to get back to sleep were ever he felt comfortable, the bed, the couch, even the floor. Anything to get some sleep and all the time I was with him to keep him company. There days when Jim would get up and shower then need to sleep again.

During the day our calendar was filled, sometimes on a daily basis with appointments for doctors, hospitals, rehab. Etc. In the beginning, one problem was that no one really told Jim what he should be doing for rehab.

He was then given literature for those recovering from heart surgery this really helped. He progressed to walking 20 minutes each day but then it seems that even the slightest stress, upset or frustration completely devoided Jim of all energy, he became quite pale and felt sick to his stomach. No energy to do anything, Jim felt the walking was not helping, that it was making him worse. The walking stopped.

For his 6 month check up, Jim was referred to a local cardio vascular specialist named Mr Alan Saunder. (This was to save time, over 1 hours each way, to and from the Western General Hospital) On that visit, the doctors first comment to Jim was you should have some of your energy back by now. He was so right, as Jim had only recently felt he could go back to work. He explained that what Jims body went through was trauma similar to that of a heart transplant patient but with probably more trauma because of the time that was necessary to complete the work. A comment that was
good for Jim was that he should let his body tell him when and how long to walk or exercise etc., dont try to be a hero and push to hard and to fast. Do only what you can. Let your body do the talking. Start slowly and when you feel able you can build up the time you walk each day. When you do exercise, walking or what ever, do it in moderation. DONT OVER DO IT THINKING THAT YOU WILL GET BETTER QUICKER, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Jim has visited Mr Saunder 3 times and he has said that after Jims last echo cardiograph he doesnt have to go back for 12 months. His next echo cardiograph will be in 3 years. Mr Saunder did say the doctors that preformed the operation, had done the perfect Stent-graft repair job. It is now 14 months since the operation and everything is just about back to normal.

Here are some of the main things that we have noticed.

(1) Jim was prescribed the drug morphine while in the coma, and he had the most horrific dreams that evolved around his family. When he woke he was not sure of anyone or anything.

(2) A natural therapy that helped Jim enormously was Kinesiology. Our massage therapist who had given Jim some relief from the numbness in his left thy recommended that Josepha van Rooij maybe able to be of more assistance. She helped Jim enormously, both physically and mentally. Jim says that what she does seems like hocus pocus when you try to explain it to others, but in the end it was the results that counted.

(3) Since the operation Jim has been diagnosed with sugar diabetes. Doctors say that this condition could have been brought on by the trauma of the operation.

Jim has control over his Blood Sugar now by drinking the juice of Bitter Melon (Bitter Gourd) (momordica charantia). Every day I remove the seeds and pith of the bitter melon and juice what is left. What a taste. Jim says you do get used to it.

This was recommended by Jims GP who practices integrative medicine which has been a great help as he looks at natural therapies to help with different problems rather than just prescribing pharmaceutical medicines. It all seems to be working well. Doctors should encourage all people to have a simple ultra sound test. This can save all the pain and drama if done early enough. Advice from the doctors seem to be at 50 years of age. Truly Yours Megan Knight.

Contact Jim

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Linda Fesler-60

Personal Stories: Linda Fesler

Hi Everyone,

I was diagnosed with Marfan’s Syndrome at age 23 so I read everything I could about it from that time on. There was not a lot of information available but I found enough to understand that our son had a 50/50 chance of having it and further children were at high risk so we made the decision to not have the basketball team with one sub I had always wanted.

My husband was relieved just a bit! The more I read led me to believe that our son, Reece, had marfans too. I was right but it took us a long time to get a firm diagnoses on him. One day I will tell you our Reece’s story but not today.

I was very aware that I could have a dissection of my aorta but it was not something I expected to happen to ME. I have to say that because I live in rural Arkansas I had thought that I had better be ready because I would probably not make it to a hospital that was capable of handling that situation. Nov. 17, 03, I was in my kitchen and had just gotten off the phone with a friend and felt this odd feeling in my throat.

I knew deep down what it was. I walked to the phone in the entry, I had a phone in my hand but I don’t know what happened to it. I dialed 911 and when a lady answered I told her my name and address and that “I have marfan’s syndrome” and hung up and immediately dialed my sister’s number and left a message on her machine “Ruth this is Linda. I’m in trouble. I have called 911.

Curtis (my husband) is at Ozarka college in a computer class. It is 1:08. I hung up and the phone rang, it was 911 operator she asked me something and I don’t remember much else. I did hear a neighbor come in my back door and say my name, (a mutual friend of ours had been listening to the scanner and called her to tell her someone at the Fesler’s called for an ambulance) I told her I was on the floor in the entry.

She must have opened the front door so she could hear the ambulance because the next thing I heard was my other neighbor’s voice and I said “that’s Miss Alice, don’t let her see me she will get upset”. I don’t remember anything else clearly until I woke up as they took the tube out of my throat when they took me out of icu. I think that was 4 or 5 days later…

My sister is an RN and she says that the EMTs that arrived at my house had full training in heart procedures. That was the first miracle, they got me to our very small local hospital (Mtn. View) and Dr. Nick, who has known me and my diagnoses for years.

He knew he had to stabilize me and get me to the next hospital that could do the next step to get me to LR. I am sorry that I don’t even try to remember the names of the procedures that were done I just know that Dr. Nick did stabilize me and sent me on to Batesville, there was a thunder storm and they could not air lift me and I needed some other procedure to stabilize me further so Batesville did that and the weather was worse so I continued the two plus hours to LR by ambulance and was met at the doors of St Vincent by Dr. Tom Rayburn and he did the surgery immediately.

He rebuilt my valve and fixed the connecting first part of the aorta dissection and left the top dissection to heal on it’s own. I think all of this is correct. I just know that I was well taken care of and my sister feels that the right people were at the right place at the right time to save my life.

May 17th was my six month anniversary and I had a cat scan last Tuesday to see how things are going. I hope the doctor connects with me to tell me the results. I have felt really rough for these six months with a few good days here and there but in the last 2 days I have felt so much better and my husband says yesterday I was my old self all day. (I wonder if he would like me to stay the sweeter, quieter Linda I have been since surgery?) Mtn. View hospital had a cat scan and echo cardiogram on me from a few years ago and I knew that I should have echo cardiograms at least yearly and that I should have kept up with my heart doctor visits.

If I had followed through with those tests I would have had surgery before the dissection occurred and I would have faired much better, probably…..Our son kept telling me to get myself checked out regularly but I did not listen to him. Thanks for listening. Linda Fesler

Thank you brian!  My son had an aortic dissection in 94 and I had mine 6 months ago. (Nov. 17, 2003)  The following Feb. 10th our son died.  We did not have an autopsy, his doctors agreed to call it a heart attack….. He turned 38 on Feb 19, o4…I turned 61 on Jan 15th, o4. I was glad to hear that your surgeon told you that you could return to your normal activities…..mine did too and that was such a lie.  I have taught aerobics since the 70’s and have a class going in our place of retirement for almost 12 years.  Needless to say I am unable to participate in the class to any great extent…much less teach it.

I know that the death of our only son has set me back on all levels…life will never be the same for us.   He left a wife that is like a daughter to us and two great kids.  He had the children after his aortic dissection.   Long story there.  I am encouraged that I have found this connection to you.  I am in rural Arkansas so I have to go to LR to my doctors.  We lived in Los Angeles for almost 40 years and that is where our son was living.

I hope to follow your forums and gain knowledge I need to move forward without over doing it!  I have always pushed myself to get things done.  Because of the surgeons pep talk to me before leaving the hospital I expected much more out of my body than it could give.  My son was the one to tell me that I needed to take my time and learn more about this…he reminded me that he was unable to go back to his normal ‘life’.

Thanks for listening Brian and God bless you for giving so much of yourself to us who need you. Linda Fesler

Contact Linda

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!)

Barb Yoho-61

Personal Stories: Barb Yoho

My mothers (Barb) aortic dissection story:

The end of 2003, my mom (Barb) had been having high blood pressure, which was uncharacteristic for her.  Her family doctor dismissed it as no big deal, so I encouraged her to switch doctors.  Thank God she did.  The new doctor heard a heart murmur, sent her for tests the next day, and she was admitted to the hospital for surgery immediately after the test.

She had a complete dissection of the aorta, starting at the heart and going down the whole length of the aorta, into both arms and legs.  Her valve was replaced and the aorta was wrapped at the top (I think), and now shes on medicine (beta blockers) and will be following up with the surgeon and the heart doctor on a somewhat frequent basis.  This was late January of 2004.  Oh and the kicker to this whole story, is that she probably had started her dissection about a year and a half ago or so it is thought.  In October of 2002, she had very sever chest pain (front and back), and went to ER, thinking she was having a heart attack.  But when they took her blood pressure, her hand went numb, so they figured it was a stroke, and never tested her for heart problems (they checked for gall bladder, ulcers, stroke, but not heart).  But now the doctors think that was when the dissection started.  God kept her alive for some reason she really should be dead by now!

Anyhow, its now a few months after the surgery, and my mom is still recovering.  She has been told that she might have to have more surgeries down the road, but no one knows for sure.  She was told by one doctor that it was caused by hardening of the arteries, but by the surgeon she was told that no one knows what caused it.  Im hoping its not a hereditary issues, because its not something I would like to go through, and I have 3 small kids (1,3,5) and I dont want them to have to go through it either.  But they just keep telling her they dont know.  Anyhow, shes goes back to the surgeon in about a week or so, already had another test of the aorta, (and she wasnt admitted right back into the hospital, which is good), so we just keep thanking God that she is alive, and appreciate each day!

I also want to add that I am so glad I found this website.  Im big into checking the internet for resources, and was getting rather frustrated that I couldnt find information.  And its great to have a place to go to talk with other people who have had this happen (and are STILL ALIVE!!)!  I hope I can get my mom reading and posting, but if not, then Ill pass the info on to her.

Contact Heather Kronheim (daughter and author)

Contact: Barb Yoho (patient and mother)

Dave Wallace-60

Personal Stories: Dave Wallace

Brian, You asked for my story so that you could keep tabs on the other survivors. Here is my story. I am 60 years old and work as Corporate Director for Business Development for a large and medium caliber ammunition manufacturing company.

This is a very competitive business both internally among all the type A execs and externally in a very tight market place. I was becoming less and less resilient to the various pressures brought about by the job. Our corporate secretary noted after one interaction on the phone that I was beet red. She advised me to see a doctor. I did and he found nothing. During the week of 21 March I was detailed to Hamburg, Germany to shepherd a contract thru some negotiations with one of our foreign partners.

The flight was a disaster from the beginning: Sitting up all night in coach, followed by a whirlwind of mutual entertaining between the companies, up at dawn to bed at midnight each day then another return transatlantic flight of thirteen hours from Hamburg with tight connections in Amsterdam, a fall down an escalator, then trapped in the airplane to Memphis for ten straight hours. Lost luggage to top everything off. Finally, home on the 26th of March, my wife and I had scheduled a firearms course on Saturday the 27th because I leave her alone at our rural home so frequently.

Attending that course was a guy from Switzerland named Ray Vetsch. He drove a Hummer and had a beautiful brace of pistols. We liked him immediately. We finished the 8 hours course and my next task was to wrap up things at home and get ready for a flight to Atlanta on the 29th. The 29th didn’t happen. On Sunday morning, 28 March I went out in the rain to make sure some french drains I had had installed on our house were draining. I bent down to clear one of the drains, felt something like a violent flutter in the middle of my chest. I thought “what the Hell was that?” I headed for the house and went down on my knees.

My stomach felt like I had eaten something rotten, it ached terribly. I got on my feet and headed into the house. Instinct told me if I didn’t keep moving I would not be able to get up. My wife was busy trying to do her bit with the Income Taxes. I got her attention and told her to drive me to Freeman Hospital. I jumped out of the car at the ambulance entrance and banged on the glass doors. The nurse let me in, and I told her I thought I was in bad trouble.

She summoned the doctor on duty, Dr. Ray Vetsch. I said good bye to my wife, assumed I was toast and placed myself at the mercy of Dr. Vetsch. He saved my life. That was three weeks ago, ICU and tubes sticking out of everywhere seem like a bad dream. Dr. Vetsch build an aortic stint, replaced my aortic valve with an artificial one that I can hear at night, and did a single bypass. I get stronger everyday. I am grateful to people who squeezed my hand, kissed my forehead, sent me flowers and prayed that I would recover. I won’t let them down.

Dave Wallace 417-782-6884.

Email Dave.

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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