Category: Fifties

Brad Padgett-50

Name: Brad Padgett
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 3 August 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Brad Padgett I am from Corpus Christi Texas. Prior to my aortic dissection on August 3, 2012 I had been diagnosed with a thinning area in the wall of my aorta. Over a two year period I was put on blood pressure medication and went in for CT scans every six months. On August 3 2012, I felt a rip in my chest, stood up and felt very faint. I went to the ER and after a CT scan was informed that I would need immediate surgery to repair my dissected aorta. I was stabilized and was prepped for surgery, while a graft and valve were being located. The procedure was 8 hours and a graft was placed on my aortic root and my valve was replaced.

The following morning I flat lined in ICU due to a blood clot and the attending nurse and ER doctor made a life saving call, they cracked my chest open and Robert Galbreath saved my life by massaging my heart. all of this was done in ICU in the bed. Once the surgeon arrived I was taken to the operating room to remove the clots. I spent the next 30 days in Bay Area Hospital in Corpus Christi Texas.

Over the 30 days my life changed spiritually. I truly believe that faith had everything to do with my second chance at life. After I was released from the hospital I made the decision to change my life style, I stopped drinking, started eating better and exercising more. I was sent home with an oxygen tank and was very weak it took several months for me to get back on my feet. Two months later around the beginning of 2013 I was told by my surgeon in Corpus Christi that I would need more surgery.

In February 2013 I went for a second opinion in Houston Texas. Dr. Joesph Coselli confirmed that I would need a stint and a full dacron sleeve over the arch and ascending area. On March 22 2013 I had the prep surgery for the big procedure, April 10 2013 I had the stint and sleeve surgery.

I spent a week at St. Lukes and was released. In the last 17 months I have had my chest opened three times, spent 40 plus days in a hospital bed, and still have a flap in the abdominal area that could need repair if it does not heal itself. I still have aches and pains, my chest is sore ie.. stiff. I exercise each day, started playing racquetball last month, go to work each day and have a positive attitude about life. I hurt and I am concerned about what might happen down the line, but I am alive and I realize know that GOD has been with me my whole life, I just never knew it until the dissection.

That’s my story…. I have never met or spoken with anyone that has had a aortic dissection. I am very positive and strong, but I am scared at the same time. It is something that is with me 24/7. Best regards Brad Padgett Corpus Christi Texas

Lynn Erwin-57

Name: Lynn Erwin
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 July 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Lynn Erwin and I am 57 years old. On July 8, 2012 at approximately l:30 p.m. I had a Type 1 aortic dissection. It started after lunch with a sharp pain in the back of my head that lasted only seconds. I walked into the family room, sat down on the floor and told my wife that something in my chest did not feel right.

My wife called 911 immediately. The EMT’s got to our home quickly and decided to take me to the emergency room even though the EKG that they did looked good. I felt no pain at this time and I told them to just go on and help someone that really needed help, but they convinced me to go with them to the hospital. As I was riding in the ambulance my left leg began to feel like it was going to sleep and became very painful. The EMT’s began to check to see if I had any feeling in it and I did not. I knew they were concerned because they began whispering to each other and started driving much faster.

I got to our local hospital and they quickly confirmed diagnosis after doing a CT-scan. I only remember about 20 minutes of my emergency room visit, but I was there for 5 hours as they searched for a specialized thoracic surgeon in our area. I was told to lie as still as I could–which was hard to do because I started throwing up; this lasted for several hours. I do remember telling them to please cut off my leg because it hurt so badly. While I didn’t know anything about the aorta at this time, I did know that it was serious.

Finally they found a surgeon and I went by Care-flight to Plano Heart Hospital. I do remember the flight, but nothing after they pulled me out of the chopper. I was in surgery for about 8 hours and the doctor told my wife that my aorta was hard to repair because it was almost completely shredded and that it was like repairing wet tissue paper. They could not close me up until 2 days later because I was still bleeding.

They said there was a possibility that I had suffered a stroke, but that was never confirmed. They told my wife I would be in the hospital for weeks, which I was. They kept me pretty sedated that first few days by giving me Propofol (the nurses called it the Michael Jackson Drug). That first week was pretty stressful for my family. I had daily challenges such as blood pressure spikes, kidneys not working properly, fever, and now weighed about 40 pounds more than I did when I arrived at the hospital. The weight did come off as my kidneys started working properly.

After days in what I called “La La Land”, (man that Propofol is some good stuff), I remember hearing my wife and realized I was in a hospital, but I did not know why. It had to be explained to me several times over several days before I finally understood. I did end up staying at the hospital for 23 days and then went to a rehab hospital for 5 days. I went into the hospital taking 2 pills a day for cholesterol problem and now take 16 pills a day–most of those pills to keep my blood pressure low. I did go back to work 7 weeks after surgery, which amazed everyone. I still have dissections in my carotid arteries and I have one long dissection in my descending aorta, but the doctors say they are manageable. They remind me that I am a “Miracle” and I believe them.

Prior to this event I thought I was bulletproof. I would grapple with my sons doing Jiu-Jitsu and submission wrestling. I did MMA type workouts and feared nothing and no one. Now I have been told to not lift anything over 30 pounds and to keep my blood pressure less than 120/80. Most days I am able to keep that blood pressure or even lower. At first I felt like an old man, frail and weak, but now I realize while I will never be the man I was, I will be the best I can be with the limitations I have to live with. After my last check up my surgeon said that all dissections are bad, but mine was very, very bad. He said that I was blessed to be here and he stated that prayers must have been said on my behalf.

I am not sure why God spared me, but I now have a deeper love and appreciation for my wife and children. I am fortunate to be alive. I hope my story helps someone else who has gone through this–reading the stories of others has certainly helped me.

Update 8/15/2014:

this is just an update to my previous post. It has now been just over 2 years since my dissection and am wondering how others are doing years after their dissection. I am currently working but am planning to retire within the next couple months. I overall feel well except i am always tired, was told this is because of all the medicine i am on and that will be how it is the rest of my life. My left leg still has numb spots and the bottom of my foot feels like i am walking on rolled up socks. After i walk about 100 yards my hips and legs get heavy and hurt and i have to get off them. I am on work restrictions and am wondering if others are having issues. The mental part is still the hardest for me because i was very active before and now i spend most my time resting. Any responses would be appreciated.

Sharyl Marcella-50

Name: sharyl marcella
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 7 December 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas sitting at home about 9;30 pm and suddenly felt a pop in my chest not sure what had happened I decided to just lay still for awhile until i starting losing the feeling on my left side so my husband insisted on going to the hospital. We live in a very small town so the hospital we went to was not prepared for me nor did they know what was wrong I was there from 10:30pm until finally they put me in an ambulance at 4:30 am and sent me to Hamilton General hospital about an hour away when we arrived they did a cat scan and immediately told me i need open heart surgery now or I was going to die and my chances of surviving on the operating table were very slim also.

I had an extensive Type a Dissection. It was repaired and I survived. Well being watched for the next few months I had developed aneurysms so on Oct., 13/10 I was brought back into the general hospital for a hybrid open endovascular repair archand thoracoabdomanl aortic aneurysm with a great vessel transposition cardiopolomanary bypass. I had ongoing dilation of my descending thoracic and visceral aorta.. I had persisting flow into my false lumen. Well I survived one more with not sever complications. I was led\ft with severe nerve damage from my waist down and my left eye droopy but survived which I only had a 5% chance.

Then on Oct.,13/11 I once again was admitted have a endovascualr repair, thoracic aneurysm right ilifemoral repair with interposition graft and once again I have recovered and not paralyzed! I am very thank full to be here I have escaped death 3x. Since all 3 surgeries I still have been left with some issues but am grateful to my doctors and our heavenly lord! There has been a lot of sadness and questions like why and anger which I am trying to get past.

I have to be monitored at all times and hoping and praying that as my last surgery it will be 1yr on Oct.,13/12 since the last surgery and I have another cat scan coming up so i hope and pray that was the last and I can continue to heal physically and mentally.

Thank you for hearing my story

Alfred Moore-52

Name: Alfred Moore
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 15 August 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas playing golf early on a Saturday morning. When teeing off on the first hole, I felt a slight tightness in my chest that I thought was caused by the coolness of the air and the lack of warming up.  The tightness persisted and I felt lightheaded when picking the ball up out of the hole.  After the fourth hole, I told my playing partners I wasn’t feeling quite right and had my wife pick me up and take me to the  ER.  Within 20 minutes, I walked into the ER and all of  my symptoms had dissipated by this time. Nonetheless, they performed many tests including blood work which showed some internal bleeding.  This led to the ER Doctor ordering a CT which showed the dissection.

I was immediately transferred to the the larger local University Hospital  for an emergency  replacement of my aorta including the arch.  The dissection had moved up through my carotids and down the descending aorta.  The surgery went well and I was home by Friday and back to work full time in six weeks.  Within six months, the recovery was full and my life back to normal. Walking 18 holes of golf is the majority of my exercise and I eat and drink like I did before the surgery.  I take 10 mg of Bystolic (Beta Blocker) and 10 mg of Amlodipine each once a day with no noticeable side effects.  I know I’m very fortunate in many ways after reading many of these of these other stories.

A lot of people were responsible for my positive outcome particularly since my symptoms were not overly severe given the extensive nature of the dissection.  Consequently, I felt compelled to tell my story in hopes that it may aide someone in the future.  My only savior was to trust my instincts.  I could easily kept playing golf or gone home and taken a nap.  I know in either case, I wouldn’t have made it to the next day if I had chosen those paths.

Linda Ainslie-56

Name: Linda Ainslie
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 February 2000
Tell Us Your Story:

I am a wife, mother and grandmother of three. I am a teacher, but, like many people today, was between jobs. While I was looking for work, I spent as much one-on-one time as possible with my two grandsons, 10- month-old Parker and 8-year old Ashton, and 2-yar-old granddaughter, Kennedy. I had planned to take care of Parker and Ashton that day and then visit my mother later. December 2 is my mothers birthday.

I remember waking up before sunrise, feeling pretty normal–maybe on the gloomy side. I chalked that up to the blizzard raging outside.

As soon as I stood up, my sense of well being changed.
I collapsed back into bed. It felt like something inside me was being ripped apart. I have never felt pain like that before. It was excruciating. Despite the pain I was able to dial 911. The ambulance arrived in minutes.

A lot of the day is a blur to me. I was in so much pain and so much was going on. Still I remember being rushed to the local hospital and undergoing a series of tests. I needed to be transported to a larger hospital, where I could undergo specialized surgery to repair the damage to my aorta wall. I was flown by helicopter to a larger hospital. When I arrived, I was immediately prepared for surgery.
I underwent a 6 1/2 hour surgery that day. The next thing I remember is waking up in a different state at a strange hospital. This was caused by high blood pressure.

It has been a long healing process for me. I was very active before the surgery, and it took quite a while to get my strength back, and I became a little depressed, I was so afraid of dying.
I now take high blood pressure very serious. I am jogging 15 to 20 miles a week. I take my medications as prescribed and follow a diet that limits salt and foods that could cause my blood pressure to spike. To reduce stress, I practice yoga and Tai Chi.

I believe that on December 2, 2009 I was given a second chance to live life at its best. I will never go back to old habits, eating well and exercise are just a actual part of m life now.
I thank God for each day I am given.

Larry Gregory-53

Name: Larry Gregory
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 January 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi. I am writing this story on behalf of my step dad. January 9th 2012 4:30 pm is threat his (our) life changed forever. While at work He called my mother saying thought he was having a heart-attack.

She went to the job site and found him laying on the floor. Then took him to the ER where he sat for 3 hours in excruciating pain after his EKG came back normal. I still think there should be some type of protocol for his symptoms. He was sweating profusely, feeling of passing out, diarrhea, numbness in legs and sharp pain in back and chest. That would all state more than we aren’t sure what’s going on to me.

Finally, CT scan spotted an aneurysm and helicopter was called to fly him to Indianapolis for emergency surgery. I’ll never forget how they kept telling us to be sure to staying him until he left on the helicopter because he may not make it. Before this Larry had absolutely no underlying conditions. About a year before this happened he had dizzy spells a few times but went to the Dr and nothing came of it. After a 9 hour surgery he pulled through. The surgeon of 32 years says his wax the worst case he had ever seen. His was through his carotid, aortic arch and through the abdominal to the femerol artery.

He told us he may never wake up. Sure enough 2 days later he did. Truly a miracle. We are now told he still has dissection and is very vulnerable to have another aneurysm. It has almost been 5months now and we feel he has come so far but are still scared.

They finally got a good antidepressant for him. The drs do not want him to have another CT with contrast until August because of kidney insufficiency from the dissection. They say we will go from there. We just do not know what to expect. Such a hard pill for him to swallow. He was such a hardworking man that has lost his pride. In the works of trying for disability. Anyone with any advice/hope for us would be great. Thank you! Heather Ison

Marilyn Farley-50

Name: Marilyn Farley
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 11 May 2007
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi, my name is Isaac, I am writing on behalf of my mother. My Moms first aortic tear was noticed in May of 07. She had 7or 7-1/2 inch tear above her heart. She was 50 years old, petite, never smoked, never drank alcohol, and physically very active. She has had high bp (blood pressure)all her life.

She had the surgery, an 8inch stint put in, and survived, the doctors weren’t sure if she would because of the size and the very high bp. They only gave her 25% odds. She made it, it’s been 5 years, and she recently went back for a 5 year check-up. They found another 1/2 inch tear along her spine below the last repair. They said that she would not survive a second surgery because of her current medical issues mentioned above. They said that even if she were to survive the surgery, she would be completely paralyzed.

Not an option for my mom. She is go go go, and we have to make her relax, or wait till she is to sore to continue. Last winter she tore a tendon in her arm that they can’t repair because of these issues. We are all very concerned, and don’t know what to expect, or how long she has left. My sister is over seas and wants to be able to spend time with her before anything may happen; the problem being, due to the nature of her work and location, it’s very difficult to up and come, almost impossible. She only has a small window she can stay home so wants to use it wisely. She can’t just stay home or she would.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

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Terry Stiles-50

Name: Terry Stiles
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection:9 September 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Stacy (Terry is my husband). On September 9th, 2011, I called the ambulance for Terry after noticeable signs of what seemed to be a heart attack. Terry was suffering from shortness of breath, excruciating chest and back pain, chest discomfort, cold/sweaty/clammy skin, as well as an onset of leg cramping and weakness. After the ER in our small town examined him, took blood tests and performed an EKG, they ruled out a heart attack, however had stated that they compared a couple of older EKG’s and believed Terry had suffered a heart attack some time back in 2008. He was admitted to the hospital and monitored overnight, and released in the morning. I was still very apprehensive to take him home, but did so after further persuasion from my husband AND from the hospital. They told me that since my husband was a retired Army Veteran that he needed to be seen by the Veterans Administration, who was his primary provider.

That weekend I watched my husband’s health deteriorate and immediately on Monday morning (3 days after Terry was taken by ambulance to the ER) I took him to the VA Urgent Care. AFTER 5 hours of waiting time, a brief exam AND one test, which was an EKG, he was again released into my care again. All the while I had to push him around in a wheel chair because he had no strength to walk. He told the VA Doctor that his heart didn’t feel like it was pumping blood correctly through his body, his chest still hurt and he was experiencing “heaviness” on it. He also was short of breath, very pale, almost ash in color and cold and clammy. But nonetheless, the VA sent him home. I was furious! I knew I was literally watching my husband die! I immediately picked up the phone and called a hospital in one of our bigger cities in WI, which was about an hour away from us, and set up an appointment with a Cardiologist. The soonest they could get Terry in was Thursday; another 3 days
of waiting.

I took Terry to his appointment on that Thursday and the Cardiologist admitted Terry into the hospital for “further testing and observation”. The Doctor wanted to do an MRI immediately on Terry, but because of an allergy to Shellfish, they would have to wait a day for medicine to prevent a reaction to the dye used. Instead the Dr. did an ultrasound on his heart and saw a tear. She then did an ultrasound by going down Terry’s throat and confirmed her suspicions that Terry had suffered from a large Aortic Dissection. Emergency surgery was performed and Terry pulled through it and is getting stronger and healthier with each passing day.

The Doctors told me that he shouldn’t even been able to walk through the door for help. His dissection was vast, and that 80% of people die immediately…..Terry’s dissection happened a week before they found it. It took someone who cared enough and who had the medical experience to recognize the signs and symptoms needed to diagnose my husband and save his life. I am forever grateful for the Dr. who diagnosed him and the surgeon who masterfully worked on him for over six hours. Had I left my husband’s fate in the hands of the VA, he probably wouldn’t be here with me today. The VA failed him miserably.

This has been the scariest thing I have ever been faced with in my entire life, and I can only imagine just how scared my husband must have been. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful site. I find myself coming to it more and more and reading all the stories, and my heart, as well as my prayers goes out all of you and your family members! Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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Ben Jones-53

Name: Ben Jones
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 13 September 2011
Tell Us Your Story: I just went through the surgery and I’m posting the entire story with great detail on my blog at Feel free to share the link. Thanks! – ben

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Robert Proost-58

Name: Robert Proost
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 September 2010
Tell Us Your Story: Only in February 2010 I wrote about my mother, who survived an aorta-dissection at 89 years of age.
She is still doing fine as of today (92 years).

Now the following has happened.

On September 17, 2010 my 58th year old brother fell down on the street in the morning on his way to his work.
He took NO medications at all and had NO medical record where so ever. He was healthy, busy and happy.
The ambulance who picked him up, saw he had some foam around his mouth and took him to the emergency of the nearby hospital in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), and delivered him with the prognoses: epileptic seizure.
He was very busy waving his arms and legs and told the nurses he had pain in his leg; they gave him a drug (dormicum)to keep him quiet.

This all happened around 8.15 AM.
At 1 PM, he was transported to the neurology ward, he was still seduced by the drugs given in the morning, laying with his eyes closed and stil busy with his arms. He did gave normal answers when I asked him questions.
Also his left leg was cold and red/blue-ish coloured. No response on this leg!
I asked the nurse to give him blood-thinners because I was thinking of tromboses, but they told me that they were waiting until he was awake so they could ask him what happened in the morning!!!!!!
Also the doctor told me it was ‘normal’ after having an epileptic seizure.

At 4.45 PM, my brother started to snore and breath heavy and his face swoll-up and was getting all purple!
I immediately pushed the emergency button at his bed and the nurses came from all over the place.
They asked me to leave and stay in the hall.

Approximately 45 minutes later a nurse came to me and told me that my brother would be transported to the Intensive Care Unit. She also told me not to get in a shock when the bed with my brother would pass by me, because his face was all white.

To make a long story short, after waiting in the special room at the IC, the first doctor told me they would take a picture of his brains.Then after 1 hour another doctor came and told me they had given – Robert – my brother again a heavy drug and that I could go home. Then a 3rd doctor came to tell me that Robert’s situation was very critical and that he was brain dead!!!!!!
At 10.45 PM they unplugged him from the breathing machine and Robert died.

Can you believe that I could not believe what happened that day.

At 11.30 PM the neurologist came to talk with me. I told him that this particular IC-unit already brought BAD MEMORIES to me.
That only in 2004 my mother was laying there (in the same room as Robert!) and that the priest gave her the last blessings at her bed, because they told me that she was going to die.
The doctor asked me why my mom had been laying at their IC.
I told him: for an aorta dissection!
Then he said, oh, maybe your brother had the same thing???????????????

We gave permission to have an obduction by the pathologist.
His report came this week and yes, Robert had died of an aorta dissection.

At this moment I am still very busy with Robert’s papers, bank, house etc.
But I have a terrible feeling that the hospital did not treat Robert the correct way when he was brought in at the emergency-unit of the hospital.

They kept on focusing on the epileptic seizure. But I told them Robert NEVER had an epileptic seizure before.
At this moment there are still pieces of his brains, liver, kidneys etc. in research.
When I get the results I will take a lawyer to let him get into this case.


When I have more time, next month, I will go to the doctor and ask him for an echography of my aorta. I heard it can run in the family.

I hope this story is clear enough to understand, because my English is not that good and I am emotional while writing this too.

Francis Proost
Lisse, The Netherlands

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Ronald Simms-54

Name: Ronald Simms
Age at time of Dissection: 54
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 May 2008
Tell Us Your Story:

Iam writing for my husband of 43 years. He is a father of 7 and grandfather of 7. He suffered a 80% dissection of the aorta after being sick for 5 mos. He was in BMC in March of that year for 4 days being treated for a heart attack. But sent home.

In May he suffered acute pain in his chest and was taken to Fairview hospital treated for pain and sent home he went back the next day so very ill and in pain. The doctor in emergency treated him for pancreases. 13 days A nurse helped and got a cat scan ordered and he was air lifted out to Bay State Hospital they kept him 4 days and said he was going to die…..He was 54…I fought and Mass General took him. It took another couple of days to get a team together.

We are Jehovah’s Wittness’ and do not accept blood. He was so ill from not eating that open surgery was not and possible. Dr. Christopher Kwolek did 10 hrs. surgery placed 7 stints I took my husband home after 2 days in a nursing home in a wheel chair….The medications we beyond my imagination and shots. He was perhaps going to be blind unable to walk etc.. He walks talks and works part time.

The 45 year old doctor who treated him at Fairview died that November of brain cancer. I later found that BMC in Pittsfield Ma. who had him in May had overlooked two reports from radiology. Twisted aorta…He had GCA…We did not sue.. We were glad to have daddy home. We still are.

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Michael Moyer-51

Name: Michael Moyer
Age at time of Dissection: 51
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 September 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

Istarted The Day with a 4 mile walk on trails through a local forest preserve. In the late afternoon, I played 18 holes of golf, walking and carrying my clubs. The exercise regime was consistent with my usual 4 days of the week schedule.

That evening, I attended a fund-raising raising event at a local ice cream parlor for my neighbor’s daughter’s high-school swimming team. It was at this event, as I pulled a sip of milk-shake through a straw, that I experience what I thought for an instant was an ice-cream induced “brain freeze”. In an instant, I said to my table-mates through the haze of intense pain, “Something is Very Wrong”.

I tried to stand up from the table, but the pain was too intense and I was assisted to the floor. Within 10 minutes paramedics arrived to transport me to a local hospital. I was given glycerin in the ambulance and was asked numerous questions about my medical history, cardiac in particular. There is no history of cardiac issues in my family, and just 2 weeks prior I had an annual physical: my BP was 122/80, and the results of extensive blood tests and screens were all normal.

In the ambulance I recall the medics relaying to the hospital that I was experiencing intense pain, “too much for a heart-attack” and also, as I conveyed to the medics, that I could not feel or move my right leg.

I arrived at the hospital at 8pm. At 11pm, I was taken to surgery where I remained for 14 hours. On my way to surgery I was momentarily cogent enough to inquire of the doctor that, “the plan is to see you after the surgery”. The doctor acknowledged my comment in the midst of conversation with nurses and other doctors accompanying us from the emergency room to surgery. I was present in that moment. I was able to reach for the doctor’s hand and ask again of the plan to see him after surgery. He said, “Yes, that is the plan and I am going to need your help”. I had an ascending aortic dissection that required a Dacron graft to repair. My aortic valve was replaced with a mechanical valve, and the descending dissection was deemed treatable with medication.

I was in intensive care for 5 days, and in the hospital for 11. My first recollection post surgery was waking to the sight of my immediate family, all whom live airplane rides away from me, and thinking to myself that, “This must be Serious”.

Recovery is difficult, but most a blessing. I wonder each day, more often than once: “What happened”? I had been healthy and lived for 51 years an active life. I am attempting again to lead an active life, filtered by beta-blockers, Coumadin, awesome scars, an imbedded tympani or cymbal depending on my position relative to gravity, serene acceptance of one day at a time, pursuit of ‘far niete’, abhorrence of majoring in life’s minors, and attempting to do the next right thing for and with those whom I love.I

Contact Michael

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Jefferson Helton-57

Name: Jefferson Helton
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 27 April 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I was in Austin at the Univ. of Texas campus on 4-27-10 showing my daughter my Alma Mater.  She had been accepted to NYU and UT and was trying to decide where to go. I felt an extreme ripping pain in my chest that brought me to my knees. I felt like I had been shot. I got up and my daughter and I walked to her appointment about a hundred yards away.  I told her I had to sit down at that point and was sweating profusely. She said she was going to call 911.  I told her not to, but she disobeyed me, thank God.

I was four blocks from St Davids Hospital which was one of the best hospitals in Austin.  The ambulance got there immediately.  My pain quickly subsided.  EKG and cardiac enymes were normal and the ER cardiologist was ready to discharge me.  I mentioned in passing that I could not move my right leg for a few minutes.  His demeanor immediately changed from joking around to becoming very serious.  He ordered a CT Scan and I was greeted by my CardioVascular Thoracic surgeon within minutes and told I was in a life threatening situation, that I had an aortic dissection that was both ascending and descending. My surgeon described the surgery which involved replacing the damaged ascending portion of my aorta with a dacron cloth. My wife was in route and would be at the hospital in about 30 minutes. I realized that I may not survive the surgery and asked if I could wait until she arrived but I was told the surgery couldn’t wait.

It is now seven months later.  I still have the descending dissection and am taking beta blocker (toprol) and Lisinopril for blood pressure.  (I never took any prescription meds pre-dissection). My Ct scans and echo-cardiac studies have been good and I am exercising, eating right, and managing stress.  (even though the physicians said that none of these factors caused the dissection). I actually feel better now than before the dissection.

I live and work in small towns in northeast Texas.  I drove to see my son in Chicago by myself a week before the dissection.  If the dissection has happened in any of these places, if my daughter had not called 911, if I hadn’t mentioned my inability to move my leg and the ER Cardiologist pick up on that, or if the surgeon who happened to be on call was not an expert on dissections, I have no doubt that I would have died.

Every day I wake up is a wonderful day and a blessing.

May the good Lord bless all (patients and families) who have had to deal with aortic dissections or other health issues.

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!)

Phyllis Cleary-57

In December 2005 I suffered from a severe case of bronchitis. I never had a problem with bronchitis before. My primary care physician prescribed antibiotics to help clear the infection. Nothing seemed to work so Avelox was prescribed. On December 23, after taking the Avelox a couple of times I noted that I was having difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest. I decided to drive myself to the emergency room. After waiting for many hours, I was finally given a ct scan and some breathing treatments. The next day I was released with a new prescription and instructions to follow up with my primary care dr. Two days later I went to see my Dr. and she told be “oh by the way, you have an aneurysm”. It is about 4 cm in size. I was furious that the hospital I went to had not informed me of this life threatening condition.

My Dr. told me, You need to go back to your thoracic surgeon. You seen in 1998 I had a blockage (blood clots) in my aorta going into my kidneys an d legs. The aneurysm had developed where my aorta had been cleared during that operation. I went back to the surgeon who performed my 98 operation. Upon review of the ct scan, he told me that not only did I have an abdominal aneurysm I also had a thoracic aneurysm. I was sent to a specialist, Dr. Hazem Safi, who is one of 2 dr’s in Houston that specialize in this surgery. After a review of my ct scan, I was informed that I needed surgery as soon as possible. The diagnosis T/AAA repair. I had no idea what this meant.

On January 31, 2006 I underwent surgery to repair my aorta. My entire aorta thoracic to abdominal was replaced with a graft. I was in the ICU for quite some time. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I had a pulmonary embolism, fluid around the heart and lungs. orthostatic hypo-tension, and needed intermittent dialysis until my kidney function returned. I was in the hospital for 2 months. Finally I was released. We thought all was well, my kidneys had recovered but were not functioning to their full capacity.

My nephrologist (at the time) was working with me to help keep me from developing end stage renal disease. Each time I went back to him I would complain about severe back pain, I would complain to my cardiologist about the same and he would send me back to the emergency room where I had the surgery. After several emergency room trips and being sent home with pain meds or lidocain patches, a nurse saw a spot on my lungs and thought that I may have pneumonia. Thank god for that nurse, I was admitted to the hospital again in August 2006 and was again put under the care of Dr. Safi. I was scheduled to have exploratory surgery the following Monday (I was admitted on the previous Monday but have no real recollection of that week) when in the early morning of Saturday my graft ruptured.

I had somehow gotten an MRSA during or following my first T/AAA repair. The MRSA was inside me growing the entire time I had been released and recovering from the surgery. I don’t know the Dr’s name that stepped in and clamped everything off to save my life until Dr. Safi could arrive at the hospital but I thank him. Needless to say, I had to have the repair surgery all over again. I also lost my left kidney to the infection. Again, lots of complications, this time renal failure and a deep vein thrombosis to my left thigh. I was in the hospital for 2 months, most of it in ICU. The thoracic surgeon that cares for my fistula now, (is in Dr. Safi’s group) told me she thought she was looking at a dead person. She did not think anyone could survive what I have survived. Today I must receive dialysis 3 times a week, I am on the kidney diet, and I also take blood thinners, since I have had multiple blood clots. I receive 1.5 grams of vancomiacin with each treatment because no one is really sure if the MRSA is gone or not.

My life has changed tremendously. I went back to work after both surgeries, even though I was not ready. It was either that or lose my job, they couldn’t hold my position open any longer. So off I went back to work. In 2009 due to stress and symptoms of ESRD I went out on family medical leave once again. This time I was unable to return to work. I also contracted thyroiditis, which has left me with hypothryroidism and had been diagnosed with multiple connective tissue disorder, which is an autoimmune disorder and may very well be the reason for my problems. All of these things cause chronic fatigue, memory issues, energy issues, depression, etc. So I no longer work. I am learning to deal with my life situation. It has been difficult. Having to get dialysis 3 times a week has left me feeling trapped and dis functional, but I am working on that. I’m alive — that’s all that matters, people tell me. Sometimes, I’m not so sure, but I’m working on that too.

Contact Phyllis

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Steve L-57

Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 January 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

This is my husband’s story as best as I remember it. I submitted it earlier in the discussion board, but can’t find it any longer, so I’m recapping the events for the new site.

My husband was working from home, in the basement, and at around 10 a.m. came up two flights of stairs to tell me I should “probably call the doctor.” Any such statement from my husband is cause for alarm, as he avoids anything but routine visits like the plague. I asked him what was wrong and he said he was having some chest pain and his left arm was numb. He said he’d waited about 20 minutes for it to subside before walking up the stairs to get me instead of just calling me on the other phone. I took his pulse, (am a retired OB nurse, knew next to nothing about dissections) and couldn’t get a pulse on his left radius. It took me a bit to think straight enough to call 911, partly because he kept insisting he didn’t feel too bad and I should just call the doctor.

When they arrived, the paramedics said all his vitals looked good (of course) but I could tell one was very concerned nevertheless. My husband claimed not to be in too much pain, and was in good spirits. Although they wouldn’t tell me, I think they were also missing pulses and/or having differing BP readings on the left and right. Thanks be to God, they didn’t blow him off, and transported him to the hospital, also, thanks be to God, which had just finished a state-of-the-art cardiac care center. It’s a rather small-town hospital, not even a teaching center, so this was indeed a blessing.

When he arrived at the hospital, he had the best of attention. First they did a portable chest x-ray, then they did a TEE (Trans Esophageal Echocardiography) and had the diagnosis within minutes. Thank the Lord again, the whole process took only about 20-30 minutes. It took a lot longer for the surgeon to arrive, and by the time they were completely prepared, they went rather running down the hall with him. He was very apprehensive, as could be expected, but he had been highly sedated and wasn’t even aware of the diagnosis until the TEE sedation began wearing off.

He spent about 2 hours in surgery. The surgeon had warned me of the risks of death and poor recovery, which were very much a shock to me. Especially concerning was when he told me they only had about 45 minutes for him to be on bypass before there was risk of brain damage.

We thank the Lord that he came through the surgery well. It was determined that he must have had an aneurysm, and a week or so earlier, he had decided to go off his BP meds, thinking that they were not helping his BP – huge mistake. The dissection went from the root of the aorta down into his groin, and he received a replacement valve and a stent. The abdominal area of the dissection was not repaired, which made us pretty anxious for a while, despite it was accepted practice.

I was told they would keep him sedated most of the first day, and begin to allow him to wake up the next morning. However, every time they would withdraw sedation, his blood pressure would rise alarmingly, so they would desist. He wound up under sedation all the following day and most of the next. They weren’t happy with the BP readings, but gradually decreased the sedation and increased the meds to a point they were not delighted with, but could accept.

When he first woke up he was pretty unresponsive and I was so worried about brain damage. The only thing he responded to for the first 12 hours or more was when the nurse disturbed his chest tubes. He would get an alarmed look on his face and stare at her. He rarely looked in our direction even when we spoke to him. It was scary. Finally, the third day after surgery, he recognized us and responded a bit, but was, of course, very tired.

By the time he went to the step down unit he was his old self, praise God. They even had to put a bed alarm on him because he was threatening to take himself to the bathroom without help. He did well in cardiac rehab, and was pretty much back to old things within a few months, with no substantial after effects. We know how blessed we are!

The worst thing about the after care was that within about a year, the cardiac surgeon discharged him to the care of a cardiologist, who discharged him to his PMD within another 6-12 months. No one ever told us he would require more surgery down the line until this year. In fact, after the first couple of years of CT follow-up, he didn’t even know for sure that he was supposed to continue yearly CTs/MRIs. The ball was really dropped. Finally, his PMD told him he needed to continue these indefinitely, referred his MRI back to the surgeon this year, and that’s when the surgeon told him once the dissection passed about .5cm, he would require further surgery.

It was also only under further research of my own that I learned he is still not supposed to be lifting much weight ever – something I’ve had to continually fight with him about. If the doctor doesn’t spell it out in writing, he doesn’t think he has to do it!

We are really grateful to you, Brian, for this site. It was the only thing that helped me keep my sanity in the first weeks after his discharge, as I had so many questions about allowed activity and what to expect. Sometimes being in the medical profession is worse than not, as your education doesn’t usually cover much about rarer problems such as AD, most especially in the post-discharge phase.

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!)

Gerald Abbott-52

Hello my name is Gerald A. and at the age of 52 I had an Aortic Dissection. At 6’ 1” and 185 lbs., non-smoker, I thought I was in great health. It has been 4 years since my surgery and I am still trying to grasp the magnitude of the event.  April 23, 1996 was a beautiful April Sunday and a long time friend had come over to help me build a shed, while planning our next move a family member called and asked for help moving a lady into a Senior Assisted Living facility.  I thought no problem we could pick up a tuck load of furniture for her and be back working on the shed in 2 hours.  Well… that was the plan but it did not work out as planned.

The unit the lady was moving into was on the 5th floor and a summer storm had knocked out the elevator.  Not wanting to waste the trip we thought we would walk the furniture up the five flights.  Five trips and we were done the only problem was that I started feeling sick to my stomach on the last trip down the stairs.  My friend jokingly has if I was having a heart attack, I said no just sick to my stomach and my legs felt like they each weighted 200 lbs.

After sitting a few minutes I felt better so I moved the truck off the sidewalk and into a parking place.  That is when I noticed I could not see out of my right eye, my right leg did not feel right and that I was feeling sick on my stomach again.  I told my friend he had better drive.  As luck would have it, I called my wife to tell her my symptoms and she told us to turn around and head to the Carilion Roanoke Memorial Trauma Center, she would meet us there.  My wife was studying for her finals in a RN program, another bit of good luck.

This is where I remember very little. I do remember being removed from my truck passenger seat and my right leg not working, on noon Sunday. My wife and friend tell me that I was talking to the doctors and in a lot of pain. The next think I remember is waking up on a Tuesday evening on a post surgery floor of the hospital. What had occurred was an Aortic Ascending Descending Dissection with a piece of the Aortic Valve torn away. While I was wonderfully unaware my wife had conveyed enough of my family history to the ER staff to lead them to suspect a dissection. A great ER Trauma Team and Dr. Scott Arnold had replaced my Ascending Aorta and sewn back on a piece of the Aortic Valve. After eight days in the hospital I went home and after 12 weeks at home I went back to my desk job.

The only symptoms I had prior to the dissection were pre-hypertensive blood pressure (138/84) and a few times I had a pressure in the center of my back and chest that felt like someone pushing one finger against my body.   I had also noticed that I could walk miles as long as I was not carrying anything. If I were to carry anything over 20 lbs I would get winded quickly. There is a history of heart problems on my father’s side of the family.

Yes, you do change what you consider “normal”.  Life has changed a bit, but the slowing down is a good thing.

I thank God for all of my good luck.

Brian thanks for a great website.

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!)

Bruce Lee-59

I always considered myself as an active person in relatively good health despite poor lifestyle choices.I have abused alcohol for most of my life and was a binge tobacco smoker, i exercised somewhat and had a poor diet.I am thin and in relatively good physical shape with no cardiac problems and no history of aortic dissection in my family.My blood pressure was usually around 140/85.

On Oct. 1 2009 i suffered a stabbing pain in my back and my legs became paralyzed.I was thankfully rushed to N.Y. Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan and by chance was ultimately seen by Dr. Leonard Girardi who informed me that i had 72 hours to live if i didn’t undergo a 7 hour open heart procedure to correct both an ascending and descending dissection.Dr. Girardi and his team saved my life despite great odds and a 4 day coma.

My recovery was slow and i get better a day at a time.I feel great now and i haven’t had a cigarette or a drink since that fateful day in October. I truly believe that my higher power was looking after me and that alcohol and tobacco was a major cause of my condition.

I would love to give back and help others who are stricken with this potentially life threatening event.


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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