Name: James LeClaire
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 18 April 2016
Tell Us Your Story:
I‘m a recent survivor of an Ascending and Descending Aortic Dissection. I worked full time as an automotive technician, and had just recently switched shops so that I could be closer to family members. I started the job on April 1st and was looking forward to working there, because they are a great crew, and the insurance benefits that I would qualify for would take effect on May 1. I had gone in on the Saturday, previous, to fulfill my weekend obligation, which happened once every month. I had, absolutely, no symptoms that were apparent on that day. My wife had left for Texas to visit relatives, while I stayed behind, because I hadn’t accumulated any paid time off, yet.
The following day I had my 5 year old Granddaughter over for a fun day at the park and we were out, together, for about 5 hours or so. On returning home, I was exhausted, and asked her if she could hang out with her Great Grandpa while I took a short nap. While they played in the other room, I noticed a very slight pain in my abdomen and back that I attributed to, possibly, pulling a muscle in my previous days work (It happens quite often in this business.). My Stepdaughter came by at around 5pm, after her5 work shift, and picked my Granddaughter up. I continued to sleep.
That evening around 8pm, my wife called from Texas and we chatted a little, but the pain was a little worse now, and I told her that I wasn’t feeling well, and that I would call her the following day.
I went to work the following morning after eating a light breakfast and felt okay, except for the pain that hadn’t changed from the previous night. I brought in my first vehicle of the day and had to pry on a part with considerable force to make the new part fit properly. I dropped the vehicle down from the lift and proceeded to finish some other repairs that were needed on the vehicle.
The pain from the previous night was intensified, and I marked it off as probable indigestion from my breakfast, when, suddenly, the pain intensified incredibly. I also began to feel dizzy and somewhat out of breath. I still debated whether this was a true medical emergency, however, which was very dumb on my part. I finally asked a co-worker to call 911 as I suddenly felt very weak, and thought, finally, that I was having a heart attack.
Surrounded by co-workers, the ambulance finally arrived and I was shipped off to a local heart hospital. Nitro and an EKG were started and IV lines were set. The pain was incredible… it felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest while I was still fully awake. I remained conscious throughout.
Arriving at the ED I was given another EKG and a series of blood tests, that, basically, told the staff that my heart was fine. I was pulled out of the triage and moved to the hallway (The ED was incredibly busy that morning, around 9:30AM), to await an X-Ray of my chest. I assumed that my case wasn’t dire, as the staff had moved me out into the hall and seemed far less urgent, than when I had first arrived. I did remain uncomfortable and in a lot of pain, but figured I would get a shot of something, and be told to go home and rest for a day or two. I called my wife and told her that I was in the ED and might have had a heart attack.
I went for my X-Ray and was pushed back into the hallway and noticed that there were a lot of people who seemed more critical, than I was, at the time. I waited and waited, until the Hospitalist came over and told me that I would stay overnight for observation, and have a stress test the following morning. Cool, I thought, maybe a blockage or something and I would possibly miss a little work, but nothing major.
The PA on duty looked at her triage board and my case had come up in the rotation and she came to discuss, with me, how I was feeling. I told her I was in pain and she ordered some morphine and told me to sit tight and relax while she discussed me with her colleagues. I was then visited by a Cadio-Thorassic surgeon who asked me where my pain was and he promptly went away. The Hospitalist then ordered a CT Scan and I was returned again, to my previous hallway location.
Within a half hour or so, the PA returned and brought along a few more people, and I was suddenly back to the head of the line and was being prepped for surgery. I had had many more injections of Morphine and Fentanyl and was pretty much still in the same pain. I remember my step daughter and her fiancee asking me how I felt as everyone around me was feverishly working to get me prepped. I asked the PA to please call my wife, in Texas. I was told that I was going to have my chest opened and I was suffering from an “Aortic Dissection”. I had no idea what that meant, but figured it was “Serious!”. Where was my phone? I need to look that up.
The next several hours (7 or 8, I’m told) vanished, while I was in the ER as the hospital staff worked to save my life. Unknown to me, Te PA contacted my wife, and told her that she needed to get here as soon as she could and that I probably wouldn’t survive the surgery, and prepare to have me removed from life support.
I woke up and noticed that the ICU nurse was sitting beside me and that my Stepdaughter was reading her textbook, from the nursing course she was taking. I remarked that it was awful bright, still, at 8PM in April, and was amazed at how long the day had become. I was informed that it was the following morning.
I made it through the worst of the mess and my wife arrived, to find, to her amazement, that I was awake and doing pretty well, considering. I was in the ICU for a couple of days and was then sent to the Cardiac Care ward, with the intent that I would be soon released to rehab.
Toward the end of that first week, the pain returned and my wife noted to the staff that something was still seriously wrong (I thought I was merely constipated from the pain meds), and she relayed that information to the Cardiac PA who ordered another CT scan. They found that I also had a descending dissection and that a TEVAR procedure was needed, so they brought me back to the ICU so they could administer Lobetalol intravenously to keep my blood pressure below 120 Systolic. The TEVAR was scheduled and I waited. I was, also, informed that the TEVAR procedure may result in the loss of a kidney, and, even worse, could render me a paraplegic.
Unfortunately, the blood thinners they had prescribed (Assuming that the second dissection didn’t occur), had a long half life and my scheduled surgery was pushed back a week. Finally, on May 2nd, I had a successful surgery and spent the following 2 weeks in the ICU and Cardiac care ward.
I am going to lose a Kidney at some point in my life, but it will be a slow degeneration. I still have the use of all of my facilities, and count myself extremely lucky to have, not only survived this killer, but also with virtually no serious complications!
I have to thank all of the people who got me through this, because without them, I wouldn’t be here typing this story.