Category: Forties

Jeffrey Randa-48

Name: Jeffrey Randa
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 December 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

First, thank you Brian for your Herculean effort in putting up this wonderful site.

I will keep my story as short as possible, assuming that any reader either had, or is close to someone who had an AD.

December 6, 2011, in my Office, I felt a rather painless “pop” in my chest. At the time, I fixed it as my esophagus. Came home, and didn’t feel well through dinner, but made it through the night without incident. The next day, I awoke feeling like I was coming down with a rather bad respiratory infection. I told my wife I didn’t feel like going in to the Office, so I dropped my daughter at school, and spent the day on the couch, and took an anti-biotic, sure as I was that I was coming down with something. I felt no better, but not much worse through the day. Waking the next morning, I told my wife I felt unable to take out daughter to school, so she did, and came back and said “if you’re not feeling any better and are getting worse, we need to get you in” to the Doctor. This is huge. Had my wife said spend another day, or the weekend on the couch, I’d have said “sure.” Instead, we made it to the Doctor that afternoon. Then all hell broke loose….

Within minutes of my arrival, the wonderful PA who I credit with saving my life sent me to a room for an EKG. Next thing I knew, I was in an ambulance, being rushed to William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak (Suburban Detroit), MI. Fast forward about an hour, and I was told I need emergency open heart surgery NOW! Before I had time to take in the gravity of what I was about to undergo, I was “under.” The only thing I knew was that there was a 10% chance I might not be revived, and the cold comfort I took with me was that I’d simply never know…

I woke. Curiously, and although my faith has not been anything more than strengthened by this, when my heart was stopped, I never saw any light, never met any dead relatives, or had any kind of “near death” experience. I’m lucky to be able to ponder such things….

The next week was spent in the hospital. I know I had gone trough a lot, but without the ability to really learn anything, I just had to take the cues from my rather sore body. We all know about things like getting out of bed, and coughing and sneezing…..

Follow up a few weeks later was encouraging, all things considered. The ascending tear seems to be well, and I’m due soon for my first CT to look at the descending. I was also an avid weightlifter before the dissection. talk about a lifestyle change….

After discharge, I never took anything more than OTC Tylenol for chest pain, and am only on 50 mg. Lopressor 2x per day, plus one baby aspirin. I observe a better, low salt, low fat, more vegetable than anything else diet.

I am on the treadmill (not as much as I should be),walking and sprinting, but am limited, at least for now, to a heart rate of about 135 bpm. I feel like I can run well past this, but I back down when it spikes above 140I was back to work in about 4 weeks (I run my own Law practice, so necessity can sure spur one on…). I gained strength.

I have, like most of us, made inquiries via the web. I have been both encouraged and scared to death. I had no idea how lucky I was to have survived. I literally thank God every day when I wake up. Had I known, before the surgery, but a fraction of what I have since learned, I might have died of fright. At least I went from Doctor’s waiting room to ER to OR in a short period of time, and figured this all out later.

Like so many others, I sometimes feel my heartbeat in a most profound way, most often at night in bed. I’m learning to adjust.

Most days, I feel like none of this ever happened. I feel like I could go back into my weight room and life away, but I know that will never happen again, except that I may be allowed to use light weights for “toning.” My heavy lifting days are over, but that’s a small price to pay for a second chance. Yet I know that I am a different person now, and am reminded of that every time I sneeze!

I have found many encouraging words on this site. Before, I was planning on doing all I could to live well into my 90’s, as my grandfather had, and dad will late this year, when he turns 90. At first, I felt compromised, because I had asked my surgeon if this could affect my life expectancy, and he observed, rather correctly, that “it can.” I then asked my Cardiologist if I should invest for the future aggressively, or conservatively. He told me to stick with the slow growth, and seemed rather encouraged.

I plan on living past that 90 year mark. I understand that many things are out of my control, and there is a certain amount of luck involved. This is why I count every day as a gift. Yet I am committed to do those things that will enhance my health and maximize my life expectancy. Between what I am hoping for and what will be lies each new day, and I do need to realize that if any one of them is my last, I had better have made the best of each of those days for my family and myself.

Thus, I submit this with a healthy dose of optimism and a dash of fear – normal emotions, I think, for any AD patient. I wish all my fellow AD survivors the best. We are indeed a very elite and lucky group. Were it not for our wonderful Doctors, we would be but a memory right now. I am grateful to my Doctors, and my family, and also to anyone who stops by this site and shares their story.

God bless.


Victor Alvarez-44

Name: victor alvarez
Age at time of Dissection: 44
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 March 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Hello friends well my story I have to say the Lord is with me I came home from work Feb 29th feeling o.k on the first of march I started feeling slight chest pains. mind you I have high blood pressure that I was not really taking care of for the simple reason I felt OK.

Well the next day I started getting sharp pains in my chest my wife was at work so I was home alone. when she got home at 5 I was in bad pain so I went to beaches hospital by this time I was losing my mind of the pain. they put me in a room I stood in that room in agony for 3hrs they told me I was having an anxiety attack but I knew it was more than that I started screaming in agony they closed the door on me.

I couldn’t take it no more i walked out came back home by this time I was slowly blacking out I was in and out ,the pain got the best of me my wife threw me back of the car and we drove to st Vincents hospital the last thing I remember was pulling up to the hospital getting out of the car and that was it.

I woke up 1 week later a 17 inch scar on my chest a6 inch scar on my collarbone and 2 stents in my kidneys. this operation changed my life I feel so fragile now I worked as a mover all my life now what do I do its a blessing I am here today my doctor his name is Dr Lee saved me I could of died but today I am healing i exercise everyday all day hopefully I will get back to normal thank you and bless all you guys who know where i am coming from

Anne Moisan-48

Name: Anne Moisan
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 April 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My wife is 48 and had an aneurism to the aorta on Thursday April 5th, before they transfer to the biggest hospital of Costa Rica, it was Friday and they didn’t have the personnel to do the emergency operation because of Easter holiday.

She made it through the week end and the surgery was made Monday from 8;30 to almost 5pm. When they started the procedure they noticed two other artery clog so they had to do 2 bypass as well. Now 4 days after the surgery, she is still in a delicate stage but stable at intensive care.

She is starting to awake and i can communicate with her by asking her to close her eyes to answer me. the doctors are happy with the surgery but say that the abdominal aorta is in bad shape too. they feel confident that it might start healing by itself do to all the change they had made in the operation…. If not they will have to go in again to change it as soon as in 3 weeks…She is a warrior woman and I know she will go through all that….

Alan H-48

Name: Alan H
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 5 January 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Tam one of the newer members to the “dissection club”. It was 7 weeks ago today when my dissection occurred. I was at home doing 25 pound dumbbell curls and on my second to last repetition something felt very wrong. I felt an atypical severe pain in my upper chest, mid back neck and jaw. I considered doing my last repetition, but thankfully put the weight down. I was hoping this would go away, but seemed to get worse. I called my wife and told her “something is wrong” and she could tell that I didn’t sound good. We both called 911 and I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital within about 20 minutes.

Many people have not heard of aortic dissection and/or ignore symptoms, but it is important to get to the er promptly. This was the first time I had ever called 911. The initial evaluation was to rule out a heart attack, but a cat scan was ordered as well. In my work, I am quite familiar with dissection, and even though I was thinking/hoping that I was not having one, I did think that I had the classic symptoms for this. I knew the radiologist and she came up to me at the ct table with the news that has changes my life. “Alan, you have a type 1 dissection and we are contacting the university hospital to send their helicopter to get you there”. Within about 2-3 hours from my dumbell curl, I was in a helicopter heading to have emergency surgery…as all of you know here, this can cause some anxiety.

I had 10 hours of surgery and spent the next 5 days in icu and then 3 days on another floor. Those 8 days in the hospital were tough – a lot of pain, not eating or sleeping much. The next 3 weeks were also quite painful but more comfortable at home. I have begun doing my elliptical 35 minute exercise each day at about week 4 with low resistance, walk for 20 minutes every morning, monitor my bp each day. ( of course, check with your cardiologist/doctors about what you should do for exercise) The first several weeks it seemed like i wouldn’t be able to do anything in the future due to the pain, but now I feel a lot better and improve each week. I do think it is funny what 1 poster here wrote about rather breaking their finger than sneezing – we all can relate to that. I also feel my pulse and heary rate now , especially when laying down, although that seems to be improving as well.

I have been trying to read more about what to expect in the future. Most of what I read states that with very good bp control and limiting activity a little, we should live long lives. The home bp monitors can be variable – I have found Omron to be a good one. Get a good cardiologist to closely monitor your bp. I am on metoprolol and lisinopril and have had these adjusted over the first few weeks to be optimal. Although dissection is relatively uncommon, there are a lot of us out there and it is nice to hear about other people’s experiences at this forum.

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 Shop Amazon’s Gift Cards – Perfect Anytime

Cheryl Devine-41

Name: Cheryl Devine
Age at time of Dissection: 41
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 18 November 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

It was a Tuesday, Late evening after my daily workout at the gym, shower, and I was preparing for bed & work the next day, I had major heartburn, the burn got so intense that Tums, Rolaids and water would not help it subside. I was alone and I made a call to a friend to catch up on our day, but she suspected something was wrong by my voice. She dialed 911 from a second cell phone while keeping me on the phone. Paramedics arrived in minutes, spent 4 hours in the ER (by now its 2:00am) and essentially felt fine other than BAD heartburn.

Suddenly I start to vomit blood….the ER doc rushed me to CT scan and within minutes I was on a life-flight helicopter ride to the Cleveland Clinic hospital (Ohio) for surgery. They repaired the Ascending valve. 5 weeks into recovery i’m back in the ER for similar symptoms……they discover a descending dissection. Back to Cleveland Clinic in the ICU for 3 days. I stabalized not needing a 2nd surgery, spent 5 more days in Cardiac floor, then sent home to recover. its been 2.5 years since my initial surgery and I still have health issues.

I don’t have the stamina or energy I used to. Walking up a flight of steps is exhausting when i used to do aerobics 4x a week! the lack of energy caused me to become inactive as a result putting on 30+ pounds. I still have occcasional diahrrea which was a serious problem during my first 3 months of recovery. Extreem cold air still effects my lungs, so I moved to a warmer climate. I don’t sleep well and i have chronic soreness between my shoulder blades making it uncomfortable to sleep or sit long periods. Doctors don’t seem to think its Aortic related……buy I scratch my head since this all occurred after my initial attack & recovery.

I still get scans & recently had an ultrsound of the aortic valve both Ascending & Descending. They found a small leak in the descending valve but I was told it was such a small leak I could exist this way for 30 more years without trouble. Really? I’m going in 4 days (feb 6, 2012) for scans and follow up. I hope to get some answers.

P.S. 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 Shop Amazon’s Gift Cards – Perfect Anytime

Sheri Rolles-49

Name: Sheri Rolles
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 15 January 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

I am writing cuz I am in need of advice. I had a head on collision, going appx 35 mph a week ago. My knees are pretty banged up but my chest really hurts. The Drs kept me in the hospital for 3 days, saying I had an aortic dissection, and was waiting for the specialist to see me. I finally came in and literally saw me for less than a minute. He pushed on my stomach and asked me if it hurt. I said no.

At the time I was on intravenous pain killers. It didn’t hurt at all. He said I could go home. I did. He said it was probably there previously when I had a blood pressure spike. But, the truth is I have very low blood pressure 90/65 and always have. I am in shape and am very active. Now, since being home I continue to have a sharp pain between my shoulder blades, on my back and a twisting pain just below my sternum.

I am worried. this is not the same chest pain that I experienced right after airbag. During the accident, I pulled my knees up and I think they hit my chest instead of the bag. the inside of both of my knees are pretty banged up and swollen. So, I am worried. I have made a Dr appt with my gp for this coming Wednesday, but wonder if I should wait. The pain seems to be getting progressively, but slowly worse, especially when I lie down. Can you give me advice?

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Kevin Talkington-43

Age at time of Dissection: 43
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 May 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

Routine day at my office reviewing files. I was sitting in my office chair with wheels and reached about 5 feet from the chair an grabbed a twenty pound stack of files to put on my desk to look over. I only got the file up about 10 inches when i got a pain in my neck that felt like a large gorilla was choking me with pain radiating into my chest.

I first thought I had a heart attack and went straight to the doctor i usually see for health problems. He ran blood test nothing showed up. He ran an EKG and said nothing showed up. heart rate was like 92 bpm. blood pressure was 168 over 52. The first diagnosis was the doctor thought I pulled a muscle in my chest. I went home and laid in bed for 2 days. I finally woke up at 3:30 in the morning an put a digital blood pressure cuff on and my heart rate was 130 bpm.

I couldn’t take it any more an drove to the ER. At first they said i had congestive heart failure, but it was a symptom. They said there has to be something causing it. They ran xray, CT, MRI and finally a ultrasound. Within 10 seconds of starting the ultrasound the tech dropped the equipment and ran out of the room. He found it my aorta had dissected about fifteen inches and tore out my aortic valve. With nine hours surgery with an amazing surgeon, Dr. Christy from Praire Heart replaced my aortic root and installed a St. Jude valve.

The surgical team saved my life. I hope that more can be learned an taught about the symtom of dissections so general doctors can identified some of these tell tale sign earlier on, so they can get right to the treatments sooner. I feel to many people are dying during that time of trying to figure it out.

I am have great difficulty with my workers comp case trying to get a causation report explaining how my aorta tore while lifting files on the job.

Thanks for letting me tell my story!

Kevin Flynt Talkington

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Mark Kelnhofer-46

Name: Mark Kelnhofer
Age at time of Dissection: 46
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 December 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas working on a vending machine (I own a vending business). I suddenly felt a pain in my chest and back. I laid down, got up,and apparently told my buddy helping me that I’d never felt so sick in my life. I was sweating profusely. I immediately knew I was having heart attack and started driving to the hospital. I called my wife and told her to meet me there. I know how this sounds as one reads, but hindsight really is 20/20!

I became too lightheaded while driving, the back pain was worse, and I knew I had to pull over. I called 911, and they were there in minutes. God intervened here because they took me to the Wisconsin Heart Hospital. If I had gone to any of our local hospitals, they say I would have died because they can’t do the surgery I needed.

During the ride in the ambulance, my back pain was horrible. It would go back and forth from my chest, to my back, to my neck. The back pain was by far the worst.

I remember seeing my wife in the ER, and the nurse trying to stop me from hyperventilating. Still, we were both sure it was a heart attack. My wife heard the ER doc make a phone call saying “the EKG was normal, he has all the signs, you better get the team here now.” My wife was confused, but she is a nurse, and she started putting it together… and our greatest fear started coming alive.

You see, my dad died at the age of 49 from an aortic aneurysm. It happened 2 days after Christmas, and I can still remember my dad walking down the hall yelling about his back pain. It was 1968, and he really didn’t stand a chance. I was always warned to have my heart evaluated because there could be a genetic link. When I saw my primary physician 2 years ago, he told me my dad’s type was not hereditary, and not to worry. My wife and I still can’t understand why he told us that.

So when they did the echocardiogram, it was evident my aorta was enlarged and my valve was leaking everywhere. The cardiologist told my wife that “the good news is that it wasn’t a heart attack, but the bad news is that its much worse.”

I’m forever grateful to my heart surgeon. As they were prepping me for the cardiac cath, he stepped in and said “absolutely not!” Our research since this, indicates that many aortic dissection patients die in the cath lab because of the catheter damaging the aneurysm. He saved my life.

They had me cut open by 7:00 pm, and was closed up at midnight. Apparently the nurse prepared my wife that many don’t make it through surgery, and if it completely ruptures, there will be nothing they can do to save me.

I made it. I was on the heart-lung machine, my aorta was “extremely diseased,” and my carotid artery was also torn. I had the ascending and descending dissection. My valve was damaged, but ok. I also had a partial rupture of the aneurysm. I was in the hospital for 5 days. Apparently I’m lucky because my heart is otherwise healthy, and my cholesterol is low.

I’m very unclear of my future. They aren’t giving me clear answers regarding my prognosis, or my specific risks. I own a vending business, and we move the machines as part of it.

I’m glad I’m alive for my wife and young kids. We’re working on diet modifications and exercise. They called me a New Years’s miracle, and I believe that completely. I believe God wants me here for a purpose, and I will live my life trying to figure out His purpose for me.


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Joe Segreti-43

Age at time of Dissection: 43
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 October 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My husband died quickly due to an aortic dissection. He was NOT followed and we had no idea he had it. He did have a kidney problem and high blood pressure but never was told about this problem.

Now that I am investigating his sudden death I have discovered HE did have it last year and doctors never told us. Isnt that sad? Now me and my daughter are left alone…i am so angry

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!)

Henry S-45

Name: Henry S.
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 14 January 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

On January 11th 2011 I had an ascending/descending Aortic dissection. I had no prior indication of an oncoming problem nor was I aware of a family history of this type of problem.

My dissection occurred on Jan 14th and as one might imagine I collapsed to the ground. I was out for only a few seconds and found my way to my wife in my bedroom. I refused to go to the hospital as I was up and cognisant of what was going on around me.

So to not upset me my wife left me alone until morning when she stood her ground and took me to the Doctors office. I was placed in a patient care room of a general practitioner and my wife spoke to the Dr. prior to him coming in and meeting me.

It got exciting from here.

They did an EKG and asked if i had a history of heart murmers etc. (I later found out they were trying to keep me calm and get me to the Hospital Emergency room).

My Dr. advised me to get to the emergency room (My wife decided at that point my vote no longer counted and i lover her all the more for it)(I also later found out the Dr. had flight for life ready to come get me) But to keep me calm the Dr. and my wife decided the best course of action would be to drive to the emergency room.

After making it to the emergency room and having a CT scan I was informed of my condition. That evening I spent over 10 hours on an operating table and the next 11 days in the ICU wing of the Cardiology wing at my hospital.

The surgeon repaired my ascending Aorta with a Graft, and decided to install a new mechanical valve while he had me open.
He removed an aortic aneurysm and my descending dissection is being controlled by BP meds.

At the time I write this it has has only been 4 months since my dissections & surgery and i feel better than I probably have a right to.
I realize I am in an elite club of people whom have survived a dissection, and am happy just to be able to tell my story.

My Cardiologist says I can survive to a ripe old age as long as I keep my BP in check and I hope he is corrrect.

I have looked on the web for people with my condition and have found very few???
So if you are in a similar situation that I find myself in please feel free to email me.

Contact Henry

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Viktorija Srdinšek-47

Name: Viktorija Srdinšek
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending Date of Aortic Dissection
s26 February 2008
Tell Us Your Story: Hello!

My name is Viktorija, I am from Slovenia. I was operated urgently in February 2008. I have artificial aortic valve, changed ascending aorta. Dissection reaching to iliac arteries. After a operation I was in coma six days, I had many problems later (sleeplessness, depression, breathing, high blood pressure). I still have high blood pressure and I live in fear before new operation on descending aorta.

Please tell me about your problems.

Sorry for my bad English!

With regards,


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Claudette Hooper-46

Time has been good to me. Almost 8 years have passed since my “near death experience”. I honestly cannot believe I am still here, able to write about it.

My symptoms began a few weeks before the “event”. I describe the sensations in my chest as “knitting needles, poking and poking”. I wouldn’t really say I was in pain, but, rather, curious and minimally concerned… concerned enough to make an appointment with my primary care doctor. The appointment was scheduled for July 22nd.

Upon my arrival at the doctor’s office, I was informed that my doctor was not in and I would have to see the P.A. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. In any case, the doctor “examined” me (without even listening to my chest) and hooked me up to an EKG machine. I passed this test with flying colors! I still felt weird, so I insisted on a CT scan. I think he agreed to schedule one just to shut me up, but, nonetheless, a CT was scheduled for the morning on next day. The radiologist, (whom I knew well) promised to read them as soon as he could, but insisted I should not worry.

I still was not feeling well on the morning of the 24th of July, so I stayed in bed. My 10 year old daughter was also feeling sick, so my husband agreed to take her to the doctor. The “knitting needle” feeling was continuing and I also began feeling light-headed. Well, when my husband and daughter returned, I stood up, and had the “attack” I though would kill me. It really felt like someone was ripping my heart out of my chest! I screamed that I was having a heart attack and my husband then called 911. My poor daughter was freaking out! Unbelievably, I was able to call my sister, Paulette, who is a nurse; my eldest sister and my brother-in-law to tell them what was happening. Paulette asked me to look at my toes to see if they were white. Just then, the EMT’s arrived, and after many stupid questions, determined I was having an anxiety attack. Being that I was on summer vacation, I told them they were crazy and that I was not anxious. I also told them what Paulette h ad asked…my toes were white even when squeezed.

So, off I went to the ER at our local Heart Hospital. Of course,the ER staff asked me the same stupid questions and performed cursory exams. The ER doctor, who knew my sister, didn’t seem too concerned. She kept telling them to look into aneurysms (my dad had abdominal aneurysms which ultimately let to his death at age 53), but they refused to check. A gastro-enterologist, pulmonologist and psychiatrist came in to see me, and could not agree on what was wrong. Finally, after several hours of not answering his pages or his personal cell phone, my primary care doctor (and family friend)came in,and ordered a CT scan with contrast. I managed to drink a little contrast and off I went. I was later told that the radiology tech came back, white as a sheet, and informed them I had a 9 cm. aneurysm on the ascending aortic arch. That diagnosis only took 15 hours!

I was air-lifted to Houston, into the care of Dr. Joseph Coselli. He performed the aortic repair surgery and saved my life. He is my angel! I now have a Dacron graft… huge tubing that I still can’t believe is inside me. Unfortunately,I also have a total dissection of the descending aorta and 2 aneurysms, 1 thoracic (4.5 cm) and 1 abdominal (4.3 cm.)

Four years after my surgery, I had to have the left carotid stent removed because it was traveling into my brain. I also have a stent on my left femoral artery that should be in my right carotid artery. Weird! Dr. Coselli was perplexed, to say the least when he read the scans.

So, that brings us to today. I am still alive, working full time and surrounded by my family. My daughter is now 18 and wonderful. She and my other family members have been so supportive. I am so grateful to them. It is such a gift to be here, 8 years later.

However, not a day goes by without a mix of concern and fear. Knowing I have the total dissection and aneurysms weighs heavily on my mind. Whenever I have chest pains or back “twinges” I worry about them bursting. I wish…I wish… My next CT is in October, and we’ll check the status then. I pray there is no change and that I can continue to live and work and watch my daughter grow.

Thanks for “listening”. I have waited a long time to get this off my chest.

God bless.

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!)

Cathy Mordecai-46

Personal Stories: Cathy Mordecai

I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am for this site. Because of the information you have presented here and the people I have had contact with, I am able to walk through this unusual course of events in my life. I am still recovering and not sure how long or what the final outcome will be. And even though I am physically limited in activities, my emotional state, my attitude and my hopefulness is far better than it was just a few weeks ago. As a result, I am now able to tell my surreal story.

It all began when I went to have a TEE in search of reasons why I have been having bouts of double vision. Since the test is an outpatient procedure, I had planned to go home that day and get right back to my regular routine as I never expected the doctor would discover anything. Next thing I know is I wake up in ICU. I am told that I have an aortic arch dissection which is more often than not–FATAL. The date of the tear is unknown as there are blood clots around the area, with a flap moving every time my heart beat, which also has blood clots in the shape of a hammer head on the end of it. The doctors fear is the blood clots will break off; the flap will tear more or tear off, or the site will aneurysm and/or rupture. The location is very rare making it inoperable. The prognosis is very gloomy. However, I am thinking the doctors and nurses have me confused with someone who is really sick. In fact, I ask the nurse “Don’t you need this bed for someone who is really ill?” It took them 5 days to convince me I had something very serious.

The 5th day the doctor came in to tell me the only thing he can do for me is to keep me on the medication to slow down my heart, lower my already low blood pressure, lower my already normal cholesterol, and thin my blood. “Don’t do anything strenuous, no lifting, and don’t get your heart rate up. My hope is that the blood clots will slowly dissipate, the flap will lie down and the place will heal itself even though in my 15 years of practice I have never seen this. Since the location is so rare and the mere fact that you have survived this long, I don’t know of anything else I can do for you.

Since I live in a very small town in Texas I asked the doctor if we should move closer to the city so that if something does happen I will be close to a hospital familiar with this condition. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “If anything happens, there is nothing we can do for you even if you are here.” I turned to my husband saying “take me home.” The next statement from the doctor was a suggestion I get my affairs in order. Oh my God! I know I am going to wake up any moment from this horrible nightmare. I am in the Twilight Zone. This cannot be happening. So many unanswered questions, so much life not lived. I am confused and dumbfounded.

Of course, the emotional trauma was stressful in and of itself. I feel like a walking time bomb, not to mention all the medications slowed me down like a snail on valium. Know when this all started I had been tired, but did not feel as if I were about to die any moment. When I returned home, I begin to update my will, write letters to all my children (5), my husband, father, and friends, telling them all those things I hadn’t told them and contacted a Pastor friend planning my funeral. However, through the process of getting my affairs in order I felt an overwhelming peace everything would be alright. I was not afraid of dieing, but I was more afraid of having debilitating strokes that would incapacitate me to the point my family would either have to put me in a nursing home or nurse me at home. Like all of us, neither scenario was one I wanted for my family.

Each day was long yet so short. Emotionally, I was wiped out. And, out of my need to understand exactly what I had, and my desperation to survive, I began to search the internet for everything I could find. I searched and read everything possible from case studies to articles written by doctors, and research data. All the while comparing the information I read with my reports and films. Still, not finding anything that was exactly like my “sub-acute aortic arch dissection beginning in or at the base of the left sub-clavian artery I kept searching. I even listed a medical dictionary on my favorites for quick reference so I could understand the unfamiliar medical terminology.

After a month of searching, crying and agonizing, I found this site. Thank God, more information and others who have similar situations. Links explaining things I could not find anywhere else. Thank God again. What a relief. And thank God for Brain who promptly wrote me back with encouragement. He forwarded my email to Doctors who have experience with dissections who were willing to write me back with encouraging information and information of who to contact for other opinions. As a result, I sent my records and films to Mayo Clinic in MN who set an appointment in one month. Dr. Liang wrote to me explaining things I still did not understand, along with making a recommendation of a couple of different doctors. He also told me he would see me the next week in CA if I could not get in to see Dr. Coselli at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas. Since I live in Texas I preferred to stay closer to home because it would be easier on me and my family logistically and financially. Dr. Cosellis office scheduled me an appointment within 2 weeks.

In the mean time, while waiting for my visit with Dr. Coselli, the doctors still did not have an answer or explanation for the double vision which was the reason I had the TEE test in the first place. So, my neuro-opthomaligist scheduled me to have a MRA of the brain, which resulted in detecting a possible dissection in the “Right Supraclinoid Intracranial Artery” Just when I thought my condition was hopeful, I received a set back. Now things are more complicated than I could have ever imagined. Along with the MRA, Dr. Coselli wanted me to have another CT scan before I saw him. So, with all my many reports and films in hand I headed for Houston.

When I saw Dr. Coselli he said, the Aortic Arch dissection in the arch was “slightly improved” but before we do anything, we need to find out about the suspicious place in my brain. So he wanted me to see Dr. Mawad, Chief Radiologist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. He worked me in that afternoon. He did not understand why I was on some the meds the first Doctor (who admitted me to the hospital had prescribed.) So, he took me off Zocor, gradually removed the Coumadin, and then added Plavix( my teflon pill). His recommendation was to have an Arteriogram for the arch and the brain in 10 days.

I thought the last 2 months passed slowly, well the next 10 days were even slower. I made it through with the encouragement of others from the site, family, friends, and Dr. Liang. Now I have a big Valentine’s date with Dr. Mawad February 14th! When I went in for the arteriogram, the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me, I was confused because I had not known anyone who had general anesthetic for an arteriogram. I realized Dr. Mawad wanted me to be very still, no chance I would move. Four (4) hours later when I woke up in Surgerical recovery, the nurse would not tell me what was found, nor could my family come in to see me. It was another hour before I was sent to my room. My husband and father came in with tears running down their cheeks smiling saying “He could not find anything.” “What? Nothing.” “Nothing” my husband said. A couple of hours later, I was released from the hospital to go back to the hotel to go home the next morning.

So what does that mean, I thought. I am healed, healing, never had a dissection or a miracle has happened? On February 18th I was finally able to talk to Dr. Coselli’s nurse who hesitated to answer my question. She then responded with “Probably all the above. You need to stay on Toporal, Plavix and Ecotrin, have another CT scan in 6 weeks, no strenuous activities, and continue to keep your heart rate down. Now what does that mean? I take to mean there is no explanation of the miraculous results. Which I choose to believe it is just that–a miracle. Remember just two weeks ago the dissection in my aortic arch was only slightly improved with the possibility of another dissection in my brain.

Usually for me so many situations in my life become clear when I look in retrospect. The signs and symptoms were there, I just did not know what it was at the time. So in retrospect, I know the day the dissection happened. One day around the first week in September I was sitting at my desk, typing on my computer when my left hand went limp, simultaneously a severe pain in the left side of my chest began, my neck was hurting, a sharp pain under my scapula (under the left shoulder blade) joined the pain in my chest and began slowly moving down my left arm. It was absolutely one of the most excrutiating (sp) pains I have experienced, as if a baseball was ripping through my arm tearing everything in its path. I moved my left hand from the computer board onto my lap, I stood up, bent over with my left arm hanging down, intentionally rubbing my left arm with my right hand. I stood up, walked to my office doorway to get the attention of a worker in the building to call 911 as I was sure I was having a heart attack. I could not see the worker in the hallway. With the same quick onset of the pain, the pain just stopped. I knew something strange had happened, but since the pain quit as quickly as it began I ignored the episode. After all, I had been moving file cabinets and redecorating my office, so I discounted the pain explaining it to be a pulled muscle or tendonitis.

For several weeks I had bouts of nausea, persistent pain in my left arm, exhaustion, the ability to sit down and fall asleep anywhere–anytime, restless sleep at night, forgetfulness, and irritability. Not to mention I was just plain tired all the time. The double vision was happening longer and more intense about every 8 days. Much more often and longer than ever before. FYI–We still do not know why or what is the cause of the double vision.

Brian, I have written my story in such detail because it is my prayer that someone else may not have to go as long as I did before realizing and accepting the life threatening event of dissection. Also, it is my prayer for others to get more than one opinion or at least get the opinion of an experienced Cardiovascular Surgeon who is familiar with dissections. There are many great Cardiovascular Surgeons and Cardiologist but unless they have experience with dissections their treatment could be more harmful than good. In addition, I pray my story will give hope to those who are hopeless in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Brian, again thank you for providing this site. Fortunately, I have met Deb who also has an ascending aortic dissection that has not been operated. Like me, it seems her dissection is healing. I am thankful for our new friendship. I pray others will find the same. God Bless you. And God bless all who have experienced a dissection or had a loved one with a dissection. May God’s healing power touch those families who have lost loved ones from dissections. And God Bless those doctors who treat dissections.

Furthermore, to all of you, remember to tell your stories of triumph or tragedy, as your story will help someone else and bless you beyond your imagination.

May the grace of the Lord be with you all.

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