Category: Sixties

Barry Willis-65

Name: Barry Willis
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 30 March 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Barry Willis. I am a 66-year-old retired industrial chemist, living with my wife in Sydney, Australia. I have three adult children and two grandsons.
Last year, I suffered an aortic dissection and my life hung in the balance for more than three days, although my family and I were completely unaware of this at the time.

This is my story.
On the afternoon of 30th March 2015, at around 4:00pm, I was using the computer when I suddenly felt dizzy and experienced severe, sharp pain in the chest. I lay down and after a few minutes of the pain persisting, my wife, Penny, rang an ambulance, which took me to Concord Repatriation General Hospital in Sydney, Australia. I was initially treated for a heart attack by the ambulance paramedics and doctors in the Emergency Department.
During my admission, the pain persisted, with limited relief from morphine. Following a number of tests, including ECG, a chest x-ray and blood tests, I was advised by a doctor early the next morning that I had not suffered a heart attack, but that they were unsure of the cause of the ongoing pain. The doctors advised that I would be sent for a CT scan later that day, Tuesday 31st March. This did not happen.

Following inquiries by my family on the morning of Wednesday 1st April, a doctor informed us that the CT scan had been cancelled. The doctor also advised us that the CT scan machine was being serviced and I could not receive a CT scan that day. I’ve since been advised by Concord Repatriation General Hospital that they cannot explain why the CT scan was cancelled, and that contrary to the information provided by the doctor, there was an operational CT scanner available that day.

Nearly three days after presenting to hospital, and after experiencing constant, migrating pain which was never completely relieved by morphine, I underwent an abdominal CT scan on Thursday 2nd April at approximately 2:00pm. Soon after, I was visited by another doctor, who told me that I may be suffering from a Type B aortic dissection involving the descending aorta. I underwent the second CT scan, a CT aortogram at approximately 8:00pm, which revealed that I not only had a Type B aortic dissection, but also had a Type A aortic dissection involving the ascending aorta. I was then rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA) for emergency surgery.

The following morning, after a longer than expected operation, my wife received a call from the surgeon to say that I was out of the operating theatre. He and his operating team then met with my family and informed them that it had been a very difficult operation. He explained it was “touch and go” as to whether I would survive and the next 24 hours would be crucial.

During the operation, I had to be returned to cardiopulmonary bypass due to uncontrolled bleeding and the surgeon had opted to delay chest closure until the medical team was sure the bleeding was controlled. Over the next two days, I was in an induced coma, while my family waited to see if I would survive. The bleeding slowed over the next 48 hours and on Sunday 5th April, I was returned to theater for the chest closure procedure. After the surgery, I gradually regained consciousness and commenced the long road to recovery.

For the rest of my life, I will be taking medication and undergoing regular scans to monitor my aorta which continues to dilate.

Tricia Monico-65 (Husband’s Story)

Name: Tricia Monico
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 20 April 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

Background info: my husband was a 65, seemingly healthy man. He was not over-weight. He golfed and played tennis regularly. His high blood pressure was controlled with meds which he took religiously. He was a non-smoker and drank socially 2-3 drinks per week. His father died at 86 of heart disease. His Mom was 99 and living on her own. (She died recently at 102.) Genetics seemed to be in his corner. Not so much.

In April 2013, after a busy/stressful day and a long weather delayed flight to Naples FL my husband experienced extreme pain in his chest. He immediately went to the ER. At the hospital he had the usual tests for a heart attack which turned up nothing. Still experiencing pain, (luckily!) he was given a CT scan which determined that he had an AD ascending and descending ~ from his carotid artery to the top of his legs. He was rushed in to surgery. After a 11 hr successful surgery, we were told he would be awake in approximately 12 hours. Five days later he was still unconscious.

The stress on our family was unbearable. After three weeks in intensive care and another week on the floor, he was released from the hospital a shell of the man who went in. What began as a long weekend in Florida didn’t end until June when we were able to fly home to Chicago. That Summer was a blur of doctors appointments, numerous scans, physical therapy, speech therapy. He slept 18 hours a day.

We took walks through the Botanic Garden which not only has beautiful flowers but more importantly many benches to rest on. At his six week check-up, we were told that he had an aneurysm which had to be “watched”. We were shocked … almost as much as we were when he had the AD. Would this nightmare never end??!!! By August he was at the Cleveland Clinic having his second open heart surgery of the year . In December he had the second part of the Elephant Trunk Procedure to repair his aneurysm. We celebrated Christmas at the Cleveland Clinic. It took him another 5-6 months before he was well enough to go back to work. We watched his salt and fat intake and be began to exercise moderately in addition to walks at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Fast forward 3 years. He’s doing great. Says he’s 90% better ~ perhaps the 10% could be because of natural aging. He works full time, plays tennis 2x/week, golfs as much as Chicago and Florida weather permit. He exercises moderately. Yoga once a week for mind and body.

Surely he is one of the lucky ones. If you are reading this, no doubt you are desperate for hope ~ just as I was 3 years ago when I read these blogs while my husband was in surgery ~ wondering what life had in store for him/us.
Stay strong. Be patient. Sleep as much as you like/need. This probably the one major carry-over my husband has experienced. On weekends he’s known to take 2hr+ naps.
Good luck!!!

I pray you are as lucky as my darling. God bless.

Lieve Daelemans-Kopp-64

Name: Lieve Daelemans-Kopp
Age at time of Dissection: 64
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 February 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Lieve Kopp, age 64, living with my husband near Leuven, an old university town in Belgium. When having an AD problem it is useful to be close to a university hospital.

On the first of February 2014 I suffered a B aortic dissection. I felt a sudden sharp pain in the sternum region, which after two hours radiated to my flank; it was worse than childbirth labor (I have had three natural childbirths). This happened at 1:00am as I was preparing to go to bed. We called our GP; expecting a heart attack she took an ECG but it was quite normal. After an initial painkiller injection, the pain did not substantially subside and an hour later a second shot followed, which helped somewhat. Being at the maximum dose and for lack of a proper diagnosis our GP told us to go to the university hospital emergency department.

A series of tests there did not produce a conclusive result, perhaps because I declined a CT scan of my chest because I had just two weeks earlier had one to control for the full recovery from pneumonia. The following two days I went through a few more tests; the gall-bladder was not an option because it had been removed many years ago (at age 33), leaving the stomach as alternative suspect. A gastroscopy was planned but not carried out. Finally after three days I was diagnosed with AD-B, and told that I would stay in hospital for some time, to start conservative treatment.

‘Some time’ turned out to be 10 weeks. My kidney values were poor, probably because of the B dissection; moreover I have three kidneys and a history of related complications that date back to when I was twenty. I had little appetite and was losing weight lying in bed almost all the time. On the basis of several CT scans, which showed an aortic inner wall with a tear that over time had progressed all the way up to the aorta arch it was decided to schedule an operation to insert two endo-prostheses into the upper part of the vein. Before going into this operation my general condition had to improve – I was using a wheelchair to move over distances beyond my room – and more specifically my kidney values (creatinine levels) had to come down considerably. This took weeks, and the numerous CT scans that use contrast liquids often worsened the situation. For weeks my arms and face were swollen because of kidney insufficiency, and perhaps (?) because of the various drugs I was given.

A fine balance between blood pressure control and kidney function had to be maintained, which was a very slow process.Ultimately things improved enough for me to continue recovering at home, with my husband present at all time, and by mid-June my condition had improved enough to schedule the operation, which was performed by Prof. Dr. S. Houthoofdt. It lasted some 7 hours and she ran into some complications because the subclavian artery was apparently of poor quality. The operation started with a caritido-caritido subclavian bypass, and subsequently a TEVAR endoprosthesis was inserted via the groin arteries. After a few days in intensive recovery, I returned to a standard room. I was hoping to recover enough to attend the our youngest daughter‘s wedding. Also, to my great delight the fluid in my swollen face and limps had suddenly disappeared after the operation, which might not be a critical result but I greatly appreciated getting back my looks.

However within less than a week the situation got worse again. One day I felt weak, had no appetite and at 10:30 pm started vomiting with my blood pressure was rising again (17 systolic). In another CT scan I was diagnosed with a full-fledged A dissection, from the trunk past the arch, – the inner wall tear had progressed all the way to the aortic valve, which was not functioning properly (1/3 only) as a result. My situation was deteriorating rapidly; the pericardium was filling with fluid and I had only a few hours to live. All this fortunately happened in the university hospital, and by 9:00 am I was told that a second operation was scheduled by 10:15am.

The cardiac surgeon was Prof. Dr. Rega.He later explained that he started the procedure without exactly knowing what he would find. After re-placing the ascending aorta (the A section) with a prosthesis, the shape of the aortic valve was largely restored and it did not need to be replaced with a synthetic one. This was an open heart operation; the blood circulation was taken over by a heart-lung machine, and my body temperature was lowered to some 12°C. The end result of the two operations was that apart from a few sections most of the upper aorta was replaced by, or reinforced with synthetic material. The second operation lasted 8 hours and it was not without risk. I suffered (and am still suffering) some short-term memory loss as a result, but things could have been considerably worse (paralysis of the legs, e.g.).

While in recovery in intensive care and still unconscious I suffered a cardiac arrest, but with 20 minutes of hard work I was successfully reanimated. After two days I was awake, talking to the children who were visiting, but I cannot remember anything. My son showed me a 15 minute video of the wedding, but I could not even recall having seen it.

However all in all the recovery went well. It is a slow process though; the first few weeks I could hardly step out of bed; I had lost 20 kg (45 lbs) of weight. I was extremely weak; my rib cage was hurting like hell (cracked ribs, a by-product of opening the rib cage for the cardiac operation and the subsequent reanimation), and I could not even move or turn around when lying in bed. By July 20th I was well enough to return home, with my husband taking care of me. I was moving from my bed to the bathroom in a wheelchair, and most of the time I slept – probably the best thing that could happen to me at the time. Nurses came in to check the sutures, and weeks later a physiotherapist came by to get me walking again. The muscles in my legs were wasting and weak, and I was losing a lot of hair, apparently a typical conse-quence of the long anesthesia, weight loss and my deteriorating general condition.
The recovery process was to take a year, and it did.

By January 2015 (11 months after the initial dissection) I was driving my car again, but only for short trips because I could not turn my head sufficiently, something that even today after another 10 months is not without its problems. The first major improvement was that my rib cage and sternum were healing and stopped being painful. Two months after the operation I could move through the house, and after some 7 months we went to visit friends for the first time. Today I can spend an afternoon with a friend, doing some shopping and enjoying a coffee after two hours of walking around. We go out and spend an evening with friends, but the next day I need to recuperate. The worst remaining problem is that my left upper arm is still hurting; I cannot move my elbow to shoulder height, which makes combing or drying my hair a problem.
I am taking morning and evening pills to improve blood fluidity and control blood pressure levels:
– Bisoprolol 2.5mg morning and 2.5mg in the evening (blood pressure control)
– Clopidogrel 75 mg in the morning (anti-coagulant)
– Coversyl 5 mg in the morning (blood pressure control)
– Amlor (Amlodipin) 2.5 mg in the morning (blood pressure)
– Total IP 80 mg in the evening (cholesterol)
– Metaformine 500 mg (blood sugar level reduction) – gives me acute diarrhea, looking for an al-ternative.

The combination has been changed quite a few times over the last 18 months; at times my blood pressure was too high, and more often too low. Adjusting the doses and combination of drugs has proven useful. When my feet are too swollen I take Burinex LEO 1 mg (a diuretic) which helps, and also lowers the blood pressure.

We have bought a blood pressure monitor, which I use with some regularity. In the meantime I can feel my blood pressure going up or down, even before taking a measurement.
The main problem is that my overall energy level is still low, and unlikely to improve much going forward. Most people do not understand or appreciate my condition, particularly because my looks have improved substantially over time, having gained weight again (+11 kg) and with (new, darker!) hair growing again. Their implicit assumption is that my physical condition has improved in line with my looks, but this is not so. I get tired quickly, and some days are worse than others. Moreover I was and still am suffering from painful knee joints. Before the dissection I was due for a knee operation, but it got cancelled. The problem kind of disappeared while laying down over extended periods of time, but returned when I started walking again. I do not think I will have a knee operation, at least not anytime soon.

Attending (noisy) receptions is tiring because it is hard for me to speak loud enough, and to stand for longer periods. Two months ago I attended a wedding party, and this was ok.
The warm summer temperatures tend to lower my blood pressure and during the summer months I pre-ferred to stay inside and out of the sun. Travel is limited as well; to avoid quickly changing blood pressure levels I was advised not to fly during the first few years. Long trips by car are probably also not a thing to do; I have not tried trips beyond 100 km.

At a psychological level I was seriously depressed during the months following the operation. I attended cardiac physiotherapy classes organized by Leuven University, and this helped somewhat. I went to see a psychologist who tried to lift my spirits. Overall I am ambivalent about surviving this perilous incident; the good news is that I am still alive, the bad news is that I do not have a real life, at least not by the standards I was used to. A mixed blessing. My time horizon is statistically limited, and I know that. Besides, other people’s time horizon is also limited, but they prefer not to know. I love to cook, and after starting to cook again, I felt better. The food improved too; my husband tried hard, but I prefer my own recipes.

This summer I experienced a minor thrombosis of a vessel that made me loose vision in my right eye for a few minutes. After that everything returned to normal. Subsequent testing concluded that this was a minor temporary clogging of a vessel near the visual nerve. Scary, but without consequences.
I did not have a history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or elevated blood sugar levels. I have smoked for 40 years, but my lungs were in ‘amazingly’ good shape. A genetic analysis concluded that there was no genetic predestination, although a far relative (a cousin of my mother) also suffered a dissection. My children were advised to keep an eye on their aorta.

Ted Knight-67

Name: Ted Knight
Age at time of Dissection: 67
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 27 July 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

Late afternoon on July 27, I was struck with a tremendous, searing pain in my chest, the kind that clearly says, “something terrible just broke”. I went to the floor of my living room with my startled wife asking, “what is it”? She called 911, and moments later paramedics arrived to whisk me off to a small hospital nearby. I am fairly well read about cardiac maladies, having just had an aortic valve replacement 7 weeks earlier.

I pleaded for a CT scan, feeling confident I had not had a heart attack. A heart cath had been performed several weeks previous, and coronaries looked good. After a CT was done, the doctor on call came in looking rather pale and told me I had suffered from an aortic dissection, and I needed to get into an operating room immediately or I would die. My recent, previous AVR surgery was done at Methodist, Debakey Heart Center in Houston.

I live in Dallas. I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so a blood transfusion was out of the question, placing me in an extremely precarious place. That is why I went to Houston Methodist in the first place, because of their world class bloodless surgery program, and surgeons second to none. No hospital in all of Dallas would touch me, as the on call doctor discovered with frustration and dismay. I simply asked him, “please help me get to Houston”. He looked at me for a moment, and said ‘OK, I will help you”.

My doctor in Houston was on call, and I was flown by CareFlite to Houston. I arrived at the hospital in just over an hour, and after seeing one of the sweetest faces I’ve ever seen, my doctor, I was whisked into the operating room, where for the next 7 hours I was as close to death as a living person can get. I later slowly awoke in ICU, realizing with utter gratitude, and amazement I was still alive.
5 weeks have passed, and I am recuperating at home in Dallas.

I have a lot of pain, which is reasonable considering I had my chest opened 7 weeks earlier for AVR surgery. Once is tough enough. Another one right on top of the first will let you know what you are made of. I am 67 years old, active and in good shape, but I met my match with this. Deep, hypothermic circulatory arrest is nothing to overlook lightly either.

I believe it has profound, lasting effects, as does simply enduring the super – shock of having an aorta removed, and replaced with a graft.I am well aware that very few people survive the catastrophe of an aortic dissection, and I will dignify the heroic efforts of all the people and
circumstances that coalesced to save a life I will live with renewed gratitude and awareness.

Mother 68

My name is Michael Olson and I am 39 years of age and this is my first encounter with aortic dissections. My Mother who is 68 years of age is the patient that has been diagnosed with the dissection. My Mother has never been one to go to the hospital for anything and avoids them like the plague. She is from Chile and legally came to the United States in the late 1960’s. She lives alone and is in fairly good health by staying active, eating healthy, and watching her weight.

This past Christmas Eve she called me up complaining she had trouble moving her left leg. She previously went to her general physician and they diagnosed her with having some high cholesterol and did an MRI on her legs to see if there were any problems. Nothing was found with her legs and my Mom was getting frustrated that there was obviously a problem that would come back every so often. Some recent conversations on the phone with my Mom sounded as if she was slurring words and didn’t make sense and I questioned her on this and she brushed it off that she just woke up or it was nothing. She also had a recent fall in the last year where she split her knee open on a cement walking block in the front yard requiring numerous stitches. Another item I noticed of the years was a slightly drooping eyelid that I attributed to older age.

With all of these symptoms in my mind I went to pick up my Mother and take her to an urgent care clinic. They weren’t able to help because they required authorization from her GP. They recommended we go to an Emergency Center at a hospital and the one they recommended in the area was San Antonio Hospital in Upland, CA. We spent Christmas Eve in the Emergency Center and my Mom checked out fine and they were about to release her with no findings until I provided them the symptoms I have noticed with my Mom over time. They one item that caught the attention of the doctor on staff was the slurred speech. He sent my Mom in for a CT scan and discovered she was having TIAs or mini-strokes. He referred us back to her GP for immediate follow up to try and locate where these TIAs were coming from.

A trip back to the GP and my Mom was then referred to have a scan of here carotid arteries to see if there was any blockage. None was found and the next step was for my Mom to have an angiogram to examine the other arteries. She was referred to a Dr. Nabil Koudsi ( and he scheduled the angiogram for my Mother on 1/29/2013. My Mom didn’t want me to miss work and insisted a friend would take her to the hospital for the procedure that day. I live about 55 miles away from my Mother and have a younger brother that lives in Portland, Oregon. After the angiogram was complete I spoke to my Mom on the phone and she sounded fine and was recovering. I went to the hospital that evening and discovered she had a stroke at some point. The doctors told me it occurred after the procedure they suspect.

The stroke wasn’t a major one and she recovered from it physically in a couple of days fortunately. My Mom ended up staying in the hospital until 2/9/2013 because of all of the complications she encountered. She has an elevated heart rate they had to control, fluid filling into her lungs that they had to drain once with a needle to the back, and some concern from her kidneys with the dye they used for the angiogram I’m told. After they had all of the items under control, they focused on my Moms blood pressure because it was high. The results from the angiogram weren’t encouraging and initially I don’t believe I was given very clear findings. They informed me that my Mom had an aortic arterial dissection that started in the lower descending aorta and extended to the middle of her chest. The internal medicine Dr. Bilal Reyas ( informed me that surgery was likely for my Mom and it was going to be 2 ways to go about it. One way was similar to the angiogram process and a stent would be applied or the other way was going to be more invasive and equivalent to open heart surgery. The vascular surgeon would make the call and it might be a good idea to call my brother down. We held off on telling my Mom the news until we heard from the vascular surgeon because she was weakened at this point and would not have been up for a surgery. In fact she kept asking to go home and wanted to know why she she was being kept in the hospital for so long since she though this would have only been a 1 night stay initially.

The next morning (2/2/2013) the drive to the hospital was a dreaded one because of the news I might have to share with my Mom. Fortunately another vascular surgeon was called in to review my Moms case and his name was Dr. Joseph Vanderlinden ( He discussed his findings with my Mom and myself and had some interesting information. My Mom didn’t quite understand everything and i did what could but he stated there were some complications from the angiogram but thought my Mom was going to be able to heal on her in time with medication and there was no need for surgery. It was great news and I pulled him aside to get some reassurances and ask a couple of questions. I asked what he meant by complications from the angiogram and basically he said that my Mom had a lower dissection before the angiogram but was extended to an upper dissection because of the angiogram. He said the radiologist that performed the scan was experienced and this was not like him. He was very informative and gave me his personal cell phone number and has called and texted me several times with status and results related to my Mom.

My Mom was released from the hospital on 2/9/2013 with blood pressure medicine she takes daily to keep her blood pressure in the range of 90-120. She is to rest and not do anything that can elevate her blood pressure. Tomorrow she has an appointment with her vascular surgeon Dr. Koudsi and I’m going to be taking her to this appointment. We aren’t sure what to expect and can only assume it is for a follow up. She also is scheduled to have a scan of her mid section this week as well as a follow up to her GP (

My Mom is religiously taking her medicine, eating healthy, and documenting all of her blood pressure readings 5 times a day. She hasn’t been sleeping to well at night and complains of pains in her chest and back. She says its equivalent to a stabbing sharp pains that tend to go away when she rubs the area. These pains are more prominent at night and started a couple of days after coming home from the hospital.

My Mom has numerous questions such as:

What is the pain she currently is experiencing?

How long will she be on meds?

How long is the healing process?

Will she return to “normal”?

Will this reoccur?

My Mother is very scared, pessimistic, and has probably had high blood pressure for some time but never did anything about it. This is all new to her and me and very worrisome because I lost my father about 10 years ago to bladder cancer and my Mom and brother is all I have for family. I’m the closest one to my Mom location wise and she has numerous friends and neighbors checking in on her. She has refused to come live with me because she thinks she will be an added burden. I work two jobs so my Mrs. can look after our 2 year old son and have limited time. Your website has been a relief to find and any recommendations you have would greatly be appreciated. I discovered your site at work today and will read more of it as I get a chance. Thank you and all the best!



Briefly here are the answer to the questions:

Not sure about the origin of the pain, but the combination of recent type B aortic dissection and body pain is always a red flag and need evaluation by knowledgable aortic specialist.

Likely that she will be lifelong on blood pressure medication, because once the dissection happens, there is no return to “normal” status. The remaining aorta is always abnormal.

Chance of reoccurrence is there but not very high if she remains compliant with blood pressure medications and is followed up by an aortic specialist.

Those are all very good questions and your mother should definitely ask her vascular surgeon to address them for her since he will have all of the information regarding the case. You should accompany when she discusses these issues with the surgeon to make sure you both understand the answers. Don’t be afraid if the explanation is not clear to ask for a clarification. As a physician we often forget that knowledge we take for granted is not something the usual patient ever thinks about.

I can try to answer the questions but they will have to be general answers since I do not have details of your mothers case.

1. Chest and back pain are always worrisome after a dissection as signs of extension of the dissection or enlargement of the weakened aorta. There are of course other sources of pain and muscular pain certainly come to mind if they are relieved by rubbing, but I would keep a low threshold to do a CT scan to monitor the progress of the aorta and dissection.

2. Blood pressure control will always be important for you mother going forward. If she had hypertension that was not being treated then she will likely need medications for high blood pressure from now on.

3. The aorta is at its weakest in the first 6-9 months after a dissection. In that time the dissection can heal completely if the flow in the false lumen(space between the layers of the wall) stops and the blood clots and is reabsorbed or if the blood flow continues int he false lumen the body will put down fibrous tissue to try to strengthen the aorta. During this time it is particularly important to limit the stress on the aorta by keeping the BP tightly controlled and avoiding strenuous activities. Close monitoring is also important during this time with imaging such as CT or MRI to make sure the aorta is not expanding too rapidly and at risk of rupturing. If the dissection does not heal completely can still stabilize and enter a phase where it may grow very slowly and can be safely monitored for many years if not decades.

4. I don’t know if she will ever be “normal” again, but there is a good chance she will return to a near normal quality of life, but she will always need medications for her blood pressure and regular follow-ups.

5. A dissection can occur again most commonly in another portion of the aorta. The most important steps in preventing that are controlling the BP and identifying the factors that lead to the first dissection and addressing them


Just an update, I took my Mom to her first follow up appointment today to her Vascular Surgeon. He was the one she first consulted on having the Angiogram and met with her daily while in the hospital. he had some interesting and good news for us. He stated my Mom was completely healed. I questioned him and said I thought she was diagnosed with an aortic dissection? He said yes your Mom had a dissection but it has healed, otherwise we wouldn’t have let her leave the hospital. I again stated that the dissection was from her groin area and extended to? He said it extended to her upper chest. I then asked if any part of her dissection was there before the angiogram? He responded with a “No”.

So I guess we can assume the angiogram was the cause of the dissection and it has completely healed? We were happy with the news but told him my Mom was having some chest pain and some back pain sometimes. My Mom said she would usually ‘burp’ and it would go away. The doctor was still concerned and ordered my Mom to have a scan performed in the coming week.
We have some more appointments with her GP and a cardiologist this week and we will have to see what they say. Thanks for your ear and support and we will likely get a donation out to you later this week. All the best and we will catch up come more later.

Vito Grimaldi-66

Name: Vito Grimaldi
Age at time of Dissection: 66
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

It was 10:30 PM on April12, 2011 and I was just getting ready to leave work. I own an ice cream shop in the northern suburbs of Chicago. As I was headed to the door I had this severe pain in my chest. It felt like my chest was being ripped from the inside. The pain subsided almost as fast as it started. Up until that night I had been in very good health. I had no medical issues and was taking no medication. My first reaction was that I was having a heart attach. I called 911.

My wife met me at the hospital where they were treating me for a heart attach, but none of the test showed a heart attack. When I told them my left leg was completely numb the entire staff went into action. The CAT scan revealed a major upper and lower dissection. They were not equipped to do the surgery, but rushed me to their affiliate, Evanston Hospital, renown for their cardiac surgery. The surgeon, Dr. John C. Alexander, told my family it did not look good, but he would do everything possible.

After the approximately 6-hour surgery Dr. Alexander told my family I was in very critical condition. A few hours later I was back on the operating table. I was in a coma for 11 days, in intensive care for 17 days, in the hospital for a total of 20 day and in rehab for another 19 days. It was 39 day after the dissection before I returned home.

I was doing great and life was pretty much back to normal when I went in for a follow up visit about eight months after the surgery. The doctor was very pleased with the progress I had made but there was a problem. Due to the damage the dissection had done to the aorta I had developed an aneurysm. Just to make things a little more interesting the aneurysm was in the aortic arch. The aortic arch is where the right and left carotid arteries and the right and left subclavian arteries originate. The subclavian arteries are the arteries for the arms. It took four surgeries to repair the aneurysm. The first was relatively insignificant.

A stent had to be placed in one of the left renal (kidney) arteries because the artery might be blocked by the false lumen as an unintended result of one of the later surgeries. The next surgery involved putting a graph in the original Dacron patch in the aorta. The Innominate artery that feeds the left carotid and subclavian arteries was attached to the new graph. The incision for that surgery was on the left side of the neck. Next was to attach the right carotid and subclavian arteries to the new graph. For that they had to go in through my chest like open-heart surgery. This was just the preliminary work to prepare the aorta so the aneurysm could be repaired. It had been determined that the best way to repair the aneurysm, strengthen the aorta and minimize the false lumen was with stents. In the next surgery two 6-inch stents were inserted in the aorta starting at the point of the graph put in when I had the dissection going all the way to the diaphragm.

The last surgery was seven months ago. It took a few months, but I feel pretty much back to normal again. I recently visited the surgeons and everything looks great.

No one knows for sure what caused my dissection was it a genetic issue or it could have been caused by high blood pressure. No one knows for certain. As a precaution, several of my relatives had CAT scans just in case it was a genetic issue. It turns out one of my brothers had a very large aneurysm that, as is usually the case, had gone undetected. He had surgery to have it repaired. His surgeon said it would have most likely ruptured soon.

Bill Bay-61

Name: Bill Bay
Age at time of Dissection: 61
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 April 2008
Tell Us Your Story:

My life style is active. I spend a lot of my time outdoors doing work on my weekend farm. For years I’ve had problems with hypertension. Meds prescribed by my GP didn’t bring my BP to acceptable levels.

One day while at my desk talking on the phone (with no warning) I felt something pop inside my chest (like a balloon popped), followed by pain in the middle of my chest and back. I immediately knew it was something serious. I had my assistant call 911. I was taken to an area hospital by ambulance. The ER did all the typical tests thinking heart attack, i.e., blood work, ekg, etc. All results came back normal. The ER doctor was thinking gall stones… I knew that couldn’t be right. Finally it was decided to order a CatScan… Result showed the dissection (ascending).

I needed to be moved to Houston’s Methodist Hospital by Helicopter, however, we were advised that there were no rooms available. The ER doctor expressed the urgency of the matter and a room suddenly was available. Dr. Joseph Coselli was waiting as I arrived at Methodist and he assured my wife that he could repair my aorta.

During the course of surgery it was discovered that I also had a dissected descending aorta, however, the severity did not require surgery at that time. I have annual tests monitoring my aorta and at this time there has been no change to justify additional surgery.

It has been 4 1/2 years since my surgery and I am doing great. I have returned to most all my activities.

I had a wonderful team of doctors and assistants at Houston’s Methodist Hospital.

Arne Sudlow-65

Name: Arne Sudlow
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Decending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 26 December 2009
Tell Us Your Story

I was a healthy, thin 65 year old male with no medical hospitalizations or medical treatment. I had two CAT scans on my chest during the past two years, the last on only six weeks before my event.  The radiologists never even glanced at my heart, even though the aortic aneurysm “stuck out like a sore thumb”.  My mother died of aortic dissection fifteen years earlier; I was not aware that this could be inherited.  My ex wife was recovering from pancreatic surgery and wanted to see my youngest son.  I decided to drive him to surprise her for Christmas.  After driving all night through driving rain, sleet and snow, I also surprised my son and granddaughter. The next day, Saturday, December 26, 2009 I finished a BBQ lunch (Memphis, you know) and settled down to watch football.

At 1:47 I felt one sharp pain in the center of my chest (I also heard it “snap”) and nothing else.  My son offered to take my EKG (he is a medical equipment salesman) but I didn’t think we had enough time.  He drove me to the Memphis VA hospital (after my mother’s death, I heard they did aortic surgery).  When we arrived at the ER, I was unable to move my right leg and was lifted into a wheel chair.  The next thing I remember was February 3rd after I asked for the date (for three days I thought it was January 3rd, only one week after surgery!).  The rest of my journey is too long for prose, so follow the high points below:

December, 2009;

Aortic dissection surgery ~5% chance if survival.  I was an estimated 15 minutes from my aorta rupturing.

Aortic valve “pinched” at the 28 minute mark of the 30 minute time limit for heart stoppage resulting in ~40% blood backflow into the heart. 

I was deemed too weak to go on so repair was postponed for a second surgery.

January, 2010

Liver and both kidneys failed.  Given 24 hours to live.  Chance of survival ~5%.

Reverse osmosis was successful.

Family called to bedside.

Treated for pneumonia.

February, 2010;

Moved from ICU and began PT

Moved to PT ward (limited medical attention) where lasix treatment was discontinued.

Developed severe breathing problems and felt I was drowning.

Discovered on floor with 240 pulse; three shocks from the defibrillator steadied my pulse.

Awoke in CCU with congestive heart failure and pneumonia; family called to bedside. 

Chance of survival ~ 10%.

March, 2010

Swollen heart was approaching the size limit for valve replacement.  Scheduled for valve replacement surgery in two days, but was told the surgery was “extremely risky” and was postponed every day for ten days.  Heart stabilized.

Began PT.

Furloughed to friends home in Virgina for recuperation before necessary valve replacement.

30 hours later was admitted to the CCU in the VA hospital, Richmond for extreme breathing problems.

Had “umbrella” stint inserted to prevent blood clots from getting to the heart.

Had heart scoped for artery blockage; none found.

Scheduled for immediate valve replacement surgery.

April, 2010

Valve replacement surgery on April 7.  Chance of survival ~5%.  .Surgeon’s statements:

“Would not have operated if I knew it was this bad”

“I don’t think he will make it, but I’ll do the best I can”

“Worst looking liver I’ve seen outside of a cadaver”

I had three valves replaced.

Emergency aortic dissection had partially delaminated and was repaired.

May, 2010:

Continued recovery

June, 2010

Developed pneumonia.  Chance of survival ~10%.

Family called to bedside

July, 2010

Released on July 22 and returned to Ft Lauderdale.

August, 2010

Found unconscious on bed; EMT transferred to Lighthouse Point Hospital.

Fluid buildup addressed for the first time with drainage tube inserted into my chest.

Over 2500cc of fluid drained.

Released to PT conversant home,

September, 2009

Went blind in left eye twice (white background) during PT. No cause found and vision returned in minutes

Released to home.

Visiting nurse came twice

Admitted to VA hospital Miami (I have no recollection or treatment or procedures).

October, 2009

Went blind in right eye twice (black background); no cause found and vision returned in minutes.

Second drainage tube inserted into chest: over 3000cc drained.

300cc of a Talc solution (yes the powder) was injected through the new, larger tube to “inflame the chest wall “possibility sealing if from fluid intrusion,  IT WORKED!!!!!

November, 2009

Released on November 3. HORRAY

My recovery is steady.  My meds have gone from blood pressure lowering to blood pressure elevating.  I can walk for over a mile and drive in the interstates (bold move).  My full mental facilities came back three weeks ago…hence writing this post.  The only residuals left are lack of stamina and numbness in both legs.  My heart efficiency has gone from ~15% to its present ~35%. I am currently exploring experimental stem cell treatment for congestive heart failure at the University of Miami School of Medicine (all of my physicians at the Miami VA are faculty members there).

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God, my surgeons, my physicians, all the health care workers, and my friends and family who prayed for my recovery. But, it is only through Gods intervention that I am alive to compose this post.  Thank you for reading.

Arne Sudlow

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Cynthia Lin-68

Name: Cynthia Lin
Age at time of Dissection: 68
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 14 January 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

I’m not sure of the type of dissection I have but I’ll find out. It does go down through the entire aorta.

The afternoon of January 14, 2011 I got a sudden, tight flash sensation in my shoulders and neck. I knew instinctively that it was very bad and, driven by terror, I called EMS.

By the time EMS arrived I had lost all use of my right leg and I felt sure it must be a stroke. I was slightly encouraged by the fact that as we approached Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, MI feelings had returned to my leg but it was fools gold. By the time I got to Beaumont Hospital everything was a state of emergency.

What I actually had was an aneurysm in my aorta (which ruptured before surgery), an aortic dissection, shredding of the lining of the aorta near the heart and the value between my heart and aorta had become dislodged and dropped into my heart. To quote my surgeon, I was dying and I was taken to surgery with no promises to my husband that I would live.

My body temperature was lowered to 30 degrees in order to stop all activity. While the actual surgery in my heart took 15 minutes, my heart and body were clinically dead for over an hour. The surgery and repair was performed, my heart restarted and another 2 to 4 hours were used to warm my body back to life.

Oxygenating my lungs became another problem. The number needed to adequately supply oxygen to my body was 500. The doctors couldn’t get the oxygen level above 80. They were considering sending me to University of Michigan Ann Arbor Hospital when the number started to rise.

I awoke in the intensive-intensive care unit, a surreal futuristic area made of all glass walls and doors with etched and sketched oval shapes that provided privacy and view. It was the most silent place I have ever experienced. A nurse never left my side. I had no idea what happened but I saw the beautiful faces of my children (who live in Boston and Dallas) and my husband.

As my vascular surgeon later told me, ‘I did the surgery but God saved your life’. I am overwhelmed at the implication. I have never experienced His presence as deeply as I have since the 14th. I don’t know where this will lead, what it means, but when I review the facts and realize I was in a state of death I am humbled beyond words.

And as if the miracle of life wasn’t enough, I appear to have no residual issues. To the amazement of the staff, doctors and my family I left Beaumont one week after the surgery (5 days after pulling out my ventilator and anything else I could rip off which apparently isn’t all that uncommon with patients. I was sent to Evergreen Rehabilitation and released after 10 days. I never needed a wheelchair (except for transportation) or a walker.

I did need to rebuild my strength. I was very, very weak. I’ve always had excellent balance and it appears I still do. And I feel my strength growing every day.

The doctors say this was a result of hypertension and / or high blood pressure though I never had high readings but I did experience a kind of hypertension this past year.

They also say it can be inherited or run in a family. Often the first instinct is to think ‘heart attack’ and when no evidence of a heart attack is found people have gone with the real problem untreated and died. From the reading I’ve done it appears some where between 40,000 and 50,000 people die a year from an aortic dissection that goes undiagnosed. John Ritter died after being misdiagnosed and treated for a heart attack. It has also caught my attention that a key recommendation for a person having a heart attack is to have an aspirin. I couldn’t find any aspirin. I was told at the hospital during my recovery that if I had taken an aspirin it may well have escalated the chances of my death by accelerating bleeding.

I have a dissection of my aorta that travels the entire length. I will need to keep a close eye on this (I have a cat scan scheduled in three months) and according to my surgeon I may need surgery again in the future but it will be planned, managed and not part of a death crisis.

It has become my mission to make sure my grandchildren experience the power of God, the power of prayer and that they realize this as a real life access they have impacts life, the big of it and the small of it!

That’s my mission from the point of view of my family but so much is yet unexplored. I don’t yet know my larger mission. I know that the hospital that I went to had a grand opening January 28, 2011 for their new aortic aneurysm and dissection of the aorta center with a staff of 7-9 vascular surgeons. I knew nothing of this condition and most of the people I know vaguley connect it with John Ritter. I’m happy to have found this site. It’s only been a month and I get overwhelmed with emotion when I realize how close I was to death. And of course, while this is not a religious site, I’m still in the arms of God’s presence.

I thank you all. May you be blessed for your goodness.

Much love,


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!)

Michael Johnson-60

Name: Michael Johnson
Age at time of Dissection: 60
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 1 June 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I’m a long time Boulder resident, before that Eugene, where my family still lives. At sixty, I had given up on controlling my blood pressure. One clinic would try this, another that, drugs which didn’t help much. Often it would be around 200/140, and I wouldn’t feel much like working. I took atenelol and Tikva.

So one fine June morning, as I was driving by Boulder Community Hospital, my chest started to explode with unbelievable pain. I drove the 1/2 block to the emergency room and stumbled through the entry door bellowing “I’m having a heart attack right now”. Luckily they didn’t believe me, and my excellent cardiologist, Dr Nelson Trujillo, figured out that I was having an aortic dissection. They watched it progress down my aorta all the way to the iliac junction (arteries to my legs). (Is this too wordy?)

I was lucky that a cardiac surgery had been made ready for a scheduled bypass operation. The cardiac staff was all assembles, and they were able to get me on the table very quickly, and saved my life.  Tamponade had begun and I had only a few minutes to live.

Now seven months later, I am recovering well.  I feel so lucky to have retained nearly all of my facilities, and my biggest physical problem is reduced blood flow to my hips and balance muscles, which makes walking a block a real challenge.  I am getting back to work a few hours per day.  Often I come home in the mid afternoon for a long nap.

A quote from the ICU nurse who came by every few minutes–I croaked out the question–“Do you think I can have a normal life after this?”.  She replied “Well Mr Johnson, these bodies aren’t made to last much more that sixty or seventy years,  I suggest you enjoy every day you get!”  Then “That’s my words of wisdom for today”

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!)

Vincent Fioretti-61

Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 May 2006 Tell Us Your Story


Well I am told I am supposed to be dead. You see Mine broke. I was In a parking lot at the time. Someone noticed me and called an ambulance. They took me to a hospital that did not do open heart surgery. So i had to be put in another and taken to Broward General In Fort Lauderdale. Now I was passed out all the time everything was happening. So the story I am telling is what I have been able to piece together. But it was at lease 4 hours before I was taken into surgery.

Well at sometime I was taken into surgery. The Doctor opened me up and look around . when he moved my heart he saw the damage. He then has his partner come in. 10 hours in surgery.

I ran out of room.

Well after the operation I went to intensive care for 50 days.

And then 90 days in rehab. I did not have any muscles left in my body. The rehabilitation was very hard. I was left with a drop foot with a lot of pain. So now I was called by my doctors a living miracle, and if I lived I would be a vegetable because of the medication keeping my in a coma.  Oh also never be able to walk.

Mentally I am fine and even have my memory. I can walk and have the pain under control. It has been four and a half yrs. and at 66 I feel great. I am on a blood pressure pill and pain medication.

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

Larry Leason-66

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

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

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

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

Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of (please book mark the link once you get to for future purchases!)

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