Category: Fifties Page 1 of 4

Kurt Zivelonghi -57

Type: Descending

It all started when I was watching TV. I bent over to look at my computer, and this pain felt like someone was taking a knife slicing me up the middle and up into my chest. At first, I thought that I may have strained a muscle because I was into working-out with weights but after a few minutes of this pain I knew something was terribly wrong.

I had this instinctive feeling that I couldn’t wait for a ambulance so I took myself to the hospital which was only a few miles away and I knew exactly where it was, because it was right next to my bank. When I got there they asked me all these questions about my pain, how severe it was and told them it was the worst pain that I ever felt, and if I felt nauseous.

After some tests, they told me that my aorta was splitting apart and I knew that having an aorta splitting apart is a serious situation. They gave me some morphine and prepared me to be transferred to another hospital which had a heart specialty facility. When I arrived at the hospital I was immediately put in cardiac Intensive care unit where I spent a few days talking to the nurses and family members.

After about the second day I fell into a coma and all I remember are these weird dreams . After 3 weeks I finally woke up by prodding by the nurses. Evidently, they wanted to come out of the coma, because what I heard was “Kurt time to get up” and them pulling at me to get me on my feet. They didn’t pull in a hard way, they were gentle with me.

I remember in my dreams was them making me stand up and sitting me in this chair. After six weeks I finally was released from Cardiac ICU and sent to physical rehabilitation for a week where I learned to walk and swallow again.

And finally released to my brothers care where nurse came for two weeks.
the effects were that my left hand is paralyzed, depression and sundry other problems and when I left rehabilitation they gave me about 15 prescriptions yo take for my blood pressure and various other problems.

Vivienne Rumbold-57

Name: Vivienne Rumbold
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 27 June 2016
Tell Us Your Story: Hi Brian,

I‘m finding it very stressful as do not seem to be able to find out if my husband should be like this now.

My husband was rush to hospital on 27 June 2016 with mostly stomach pains and fortunately the doctor took a ct scan and a Dissection of Aorta – type b intra-mural haematoma/Aorta dissection was diagnosed.

He was rush to John Radcliff Hospital Oxford for surgery but fortunately they decided they would not do as they said they would control with drugs to lower is blood pressure.

He was in lots of pain and they said it was due to constipation from the morphine.

Six days later he was sent home 1July 2016 with loads of drugs and we were very happy but it’s been very stressful as he is still in lots pain and I had to get emergency doctor out and his bp was 140/85. The prescribed him ibuprofen as well as paracetamol plus extra constipation stuff.

He is still having bad night’s and not sure if constipation or what and when phone up hospital they say to talk to my GP and then vice versa. I just really want to know if this is normal.

Unfortunately I never saw a doctor at the hospital as they seem to do there rounds when I wasn’t about. The only thing I was told not let his blood pressure go over 130. This seems to happen just before he takes his meds in morning.

He has another ct scan in 4 weeks. Are you able to tell me if tears can mend by themself? Sorry for long e-mail and typo etc so very tired and stressed.

David Griser-56

Name: David Griser
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 December 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

L et me start by saying what a driven and giving person you are Brian this site is full of great info thanks. I have a type b dissection right next to my left sub-clavian artery and so far has not grown into a aneurysm lucky me.

I have had 4 doctors opinions whether to operate open type or stent or just watch it by CT scan. What can i do to keep this dissection from growing besides meds,dieting,light exercise?What are my limitations down the road. Thanks

Marg Venables-59

Name: Marg Venables
Age at time of Dissection: 59
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 20 February 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

Sudden sharp pain in chest and back thought it was indigestion took to hospital very quickly diagnosed and treated in hospital for a fortnight and now on loads of pills for my blood pressure not feeling to bad but lack energy and can’t walk as much as I used to not much info about it given xx

Connie van Bemmel-53

Name: Connie van Bemmel

Country: The Netherlands

Date of birth: 07-08-1961

Dissection descending (type B) December 2012

My name is Connie. On December 17th 2012 I drove in my car to pick up my daughter. I felt great. I do have the habit to drive until my tank is almost empty. This was one of these moments. I decided to go to fill up at the gas-station. This saved my life. I went into the gas-station to pay when I felt a terrible burning pain in my back. I had to sit down and after a few minutes I had to lay down on the ground because I lost all power in my body.

A lady came to me and yelled that they to had to call an ambulance. She also went to my car to get my phone and called my husband. In the meantime I lost the feeling in my legs, I couldn’t move anymore and was scared to dead. In the ambulance they gave me lots of medications to reduce the terrible pain. It worked and I also got back the feeling in my legs.

My husband and children arrived. The ambulance brought me to the hospital where they made a scan (I can’t remember that at all). I saw a lot of serious looking people, who told us what had happened. I had a dissection type B. I had to stay in the hospital for at least 3 weeks. When I reacted well on the medications and my blood pressure would stay low, I could go home. If not I would have a big operation with lot of complications. I heard the story but it didn’t had any effect on my. Was it me they were talking about? Later my daughter told me that I was the only one who was completely calm. They brought me to the Intensive Care.

I reacted great on the medications. They brought me to the nursing department. After 2 days the vascular surgeon came and told me that I could go home. I was very surprised because at that time I was in the hospital for just one week. At the same time I was glad because it was Christmas. I went home without any information from the doctors. After 6 weeks I came back to talk with the vascular surgeon about the second scan, which was made.

The scans raided him. He had not seen them before. We saw that he was uncertain. He had to speak with his colleagues because the situation was complicated. He told us that I had to have an operation and to make a new appointment. For us the situation for was so terrible that we decided never to go back to that man again. We went for a second opinion to Amsterdam.

There the vascular surgeon explained everything to us. I had an dissection type B of my lungs up to my groin + 2 aneurysms, one in my chest and 1 in my belly, just where the aorta of kidneys began. These aneurysms were growing. In my opinion there was no other way than having an operation. The situation could only become worse. They decided to operate me in July 2013.

During this period I have had a lot of medical check ups. By giving me some time the wall of the aorta could become stronger what could reduce the risk of a rupture during the operation. The operation took 11 hours. They called my family that the operation went well but the next morning my family received the call that I wasn’t doing very well. They had to operate again.

During the night I lost a lot of blood. My blood pressure was very low and my belly was swollen. The heart/lung-machine had to run at full power. My family was told that the risk was high that I wouldn’t make it and if I did, the chance was big that my kidneys or other organs didn’t work anymore. Next day they decided to check my kidneys. During this check another artery was damaged, so they had to operate again to stop the bleeding. But I made it.After a week I woke up.

I could move my legs and everything inside was still working. I was frail but I felt pretty well. They brought me to the nursing department. There were ups-and-downs but after 3 weeks I was good enough to go home. YEAH. My condition was zero but every day I walked a little bit more. They gave me something again the pain in my back and ribs. The skin of my belly was ruptured, caused by the serial of operations. It felt heavy and made walking more difficult.

After 6 weeks at home I went working again, starting with 2 or 3 hours, because I was bored at home. At my work they gave me all the space I needed. They watched me carefully. The first year after the operations I had problems with my concentration and I could become very tired from one moment at the other. Even going to a restaurant or talking with friends could make me very tired. In the gym I tried to improve my condition little by little.

In October 2014 I had the operation to recover the abdominal wall. It went well and after 8 days they sent me home. It took another 6 months before I could truly say: I can leave everything behind me. I’m not thinking about it all the time. I’m not searching for answers or information anymore. But most of all I’m not scared anymore.It happened to me. I survived and now I want to live and enjoy my children and all the beautiful things.

The doctor told me that there probably will happen more “things”. I will deal with that when t happens, but now the sun is shining again.

Thank you for letting me tell my story.

Diane Harroff-54

Name: Diane Harroff
Age at time of Dissection: 54
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 April 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I was an ICU RN for more than 25 years. At work in April 2013, I became acutely dizzy, short of breath, and almost passed out. My coworkers took me to the ED and I was diagnosed with multiple acute pulmonary embolism I was admitted to ICU and later in the morning suffered 2 cardiac arrests due to the clots in my lungs. I had a total of 45 minutes of CPR and was lucky enough to survive. I spent 9 days in the hospital and went home. I complained from the time I woke up in the ICU about upper back pain between my shoulder blades. I returned to work on light duty in August, but upper back pain never went away. On September 1st 2013, I went to the ED because I had pleuritis and a rapid heart rate. Because of my history of pulmonary embolism, they did a chest CT, which showed a type B descending aortic dissection from my clavicle down into my right leg.

I spent 4 days in ICU on two IVs to control my blood pressure and again went home. I believe my dissection was caused by the CPR to save my life in April 2013. I have been unable to return to work due to upper back pain which has never gone away after 2 years. Doctors have done many tests and are unable to tell me why I have the pain.

My vascular surgeon told me that he didn’t believe it could be from the dissection, but I see stories here from others who also complain of the same type of pain. My disability organization from my former employer is saying I have to go back to work in a “sedentary” job. I am trying to fight that but don’t know what will happen.

Ken Smolinski-50

Name: Ken Smolinski
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 4 January 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

I had a sudden onset of pain in both of the back portions of my hips. Within 10 minutes I had an added significant pain in the middle of my back. I was driven to the hospital and diagnosed with the dissection.

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome so surgery was not the immediate option. I remained hospitalized in ICU for a few days under intense monitoring. I was placed on Metoprolol Tartrate. I am currently being followed by a Vascular Surgeon, a Cardiologist and my primary care physician. I have returned to work full time.

Michael Shoemaker-50

Name: michael shoemaker
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 3 January 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

I had a type b aortic dissection…went to ER with symptoms scribbled on paper in case I became unconscious. Numb from waist down. At one point I had a ghostly white foot and a purple foot. ER doc quickly ruled out heart attack, then paid attention to my scribble notes. Sent me thru the CT Scan, then to cardiac intensive care. No surgery…dissected both thoracic and abdominal. Stopped smoking. Blood pressure meds keep my blood pressure reasonable. (120/68 or so)….

Marie Fishwick-56

Name: Marie Fishwick
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 31 October 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Marie Fishwick and I was very busy 56 year old working upto 42 hours per week caring for others. I have a back ground of high blood pressure for around 20 years and although I always took my medication I didn’t always keep my checks ups (stupid I know) due to fear of knowing what my blood pressure was. I wish I had now.

On Wednesday 31st October 2012 I woke up at 7am to get ready for work then ten minutes later while still in bed I had sudden severe pain in my lower abdomen at the front, within minutes it went round the back the upwards to my chest. I knew it seemed serious but thought I would try painkillers and indigestion remedies first, after an hour I got myself to the hospital and explained what was happening. I was immediately taken through to a&e and checked for heart problems but nothing was found.

I have never been in as much pain, nothing they gave me stopped it and I couldn’t keep still. After xrays, blood tests and different pain relief I was eventually sent for a ct scan more than 6 hour’s after arriving at hospital. I had moved to the assessment ward by this stage where a sister in charge and a training specialist came to me and pulled the curtains round the bed. They told me I had a descending aortic dissection and it was serious, I knew quite a lot about the body and knew immediately what I had, I was alone and scarred as I had sent my family home to return later at visiting time. My daughter was pregnant with her first child and I hadn’t told her I was in hospital- how could I tell her. I rang a good friend to come immediately and explained I couldn’t tell my family but knew I had to.

At visiting I told my husband and mum and was taken on to coronary care unit, I was put complete bed rest with oxygen, monitors, catheter, drip and various other things and was told it could mean an operation. I could hear them on the phone all through the night talking to other hospitals about me and putting them on standby. The hospital I was in didn’t see many people with an aortic dissection. I survived the night and was told the first 72 hours were critical. I knew I had to try and keep calm due to my blood pressure going up, I survived the critical time limit and was given morphine all the time I was in but it was never enough to get rid of the pain.

After 16 days in hospital I went home with lots and lots of medication and I was petrified of dying, the amount of fear is unbearable and you feel so alone. I knew no one with the condition and knew of no backup on the Internet. I had the worst time over the next few months, couldn’t eat, sleep and lack of interest. I should have had a hospital appointment after six weeks but it turn into 16 weeks, I though I was losing the plot and went to the doctors for an increase in my antidepressants, he was very supportive. I cried and cried for months. Now I am nearing my second year a things have changed so much in my attitude towards my condition, yes I’ve got it but I need to live my life without fear and I do. I have found groups on Facebook with similar and much much worse, I consider myself lucky. Please try to let your fear go or it will eat you away

John Snow-56

Name: john snow
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 18 February 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

My story starts 15 years before my dissection and probably saved my life , my father died from abdominal dissection so I new some of the symptoms and new it could happen to me because they told me then it was herititary . My story starts on a date I’ll never forget . I had judst finished dinner and was visiting with wife and son started to get up and it happened the most terrible pain I’d had in my life and I tolerate pain pretty good but like this.

Wife called 911 she thought I was having heart attack but I new better I had seen my father and right away what was happening god was and still working for me . To make long story short went to er flew me to Houston where in my opinion the best thorasic surgeon in the world they also found an anurism in aorta same location as descending disecction they I endoscopic insertion of 14 inches did well after surgery went home in 3 days two were later had another tear life flight back to Houston had another endoscopic insertion extended another 4 inches need to mention my heroes.

Name Dr casselli saved my life by grace of god and support of my loving wife and son and great friends doing well . The only problems are the limitations I was pretty active but now can’t do what used to but thank god every day that I’m still here with friends and family . The Dr told me I was miracle because I had tear and anurism at same time and survived

Marty Parker-54

Name: Marty Parker
Age at time of Dissection: 54
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 December 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I am female. I was pulling on a board in the bottom of the closet and felt a pain in my back. Pain got worse and spread to chest as well. I went to the hospital and was given morphine which did not relieve the pain but was given nitro glycerin and pain started easing.

A CT scan was done and it was discovered that I had a dissected aortic aneurysm. I was transferred to a larger hospital and was in CCU for 8 days on pain and blood pressure meds. The Doctor consulted over several days with doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. The decision was made that I needed open surgery and repair with dacron graft. The Doctor said the aneurysm was only 4.3cm.

It took about 18 months for me to feel normal again but am very thankful the decision was made to do the open surgery. I believe I would have died if they had sent me home on meds. I am followed closely by my cardiologist. I do have an enlargement of the ascending aorta as well.

Kev Heywood-50

Name: Kev Heywood
Age at time of Dissection: 50
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 April 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

With no symptoms I was sat watching tv with my son at 9.30 in the evening when I felt the most intense crushing pain in my chest. It very quickly spread into my upper back and then knew I was a spot of trouble. After 5 minutes I asked my son to call 999 and the ambulance arrived within five minutes. I remained fully coherent and was able to answer fully all questions by the paramedics and even the ecg gave no indication of my condition. I was taken to hospital after about 30 minutes and even walked to the ambulance!

I was given pain relief enough route to little effect, I think a spray under my tongue and aspirin? The paramedics were brilliant again when we arrived at the AnE (which I believe saved my life) and I was in a bed almost immediately bypassing a pretty long queue, and wired up blood tests taken and morphine orally. Things moved along eventually having a ct scan which finally diagnosed a descending aortic dissection. Pain relief and other drugs were then given to me, and things become a tad hazy at this point but remember being moved by blue light ambulance to QE hospital in Birmingham to a specialist unit and understand I then spent 2 days in intensive care unit and then 17 days in the coronary care unit.

My treatment was to control my blood pressure with medication rather than surgery, which I understand research shows to be the preferred option, although this took quite a while to get me off IV to oral meds.
I left hospital with a large bag of 12 different types of medication and here I am resting and trying to do as I’m told. I have bought a blood pressure monitor and recording readings to give to my gp on our regular appointments.
I realize I am so lucky to have got through this so far and appreciate I have a long way to go, however I’m scared of what the future will bring… I have so many questions on that but will try to stay strong.

Donald Cox-52

Name: Donald Cox
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 October 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I woke about 5am the pain was incredible. I believed I was having a heart attack. I took several low dose aspirin and tried to drive to the hospital, which was about 25 minutes away. I made it a mile, saw a State Patrolman at the gas station, by this time I was cramping and losing control of my legs. he called for an ambulance, within minutes several police vehicles were there and they were trying to keep me calm, which was working fairly well.

The ambulance arrived and I was quickly loaded and the EMA tech started an EKG. Within minutes he told me that it was not a heart attack. But my blood pressure was 297/189 so i was given nitro glycerin. He told me he thought it was an acute gall bladder attack, this calmed me down much more. I was taken to RMC medical Center in Anniston AL, In the emergency room the nurse also said she thought it was a gallbladder attack. But the pain was coming back bad and I was given a shot of Daluded in my IV. within a few minutes.

I was taken for a CAT Scan. When the results were read I was put on a Life Flight Helicopter and flown to UAB hospital in Birmingham AL. I remember being rolled toward the door there and not much after that. I was in CICU for a few days. On Wednesday I was put in another room I remember things after this. I stayed there until Friday and was released. My Doctor was James Daves, he saved my life and whatever time I have left on this earth I owe to him and the staff at UAB. I was horribly over weight, smoked and am a 4th year student at Jacksonville State University.

I have not smoked another cigarette, I have lost 30+ pounds so far. Right now I am scared that I do not have a future. I go back to Dr. Daves in January for another CAT Scan, it will tell a lot about my future.

Bill McCall-56

Name: Bill McCall
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 October 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

After working the 2nd shift as a Practical Nurse@ the Veterans Administration, I went home looking forward to a day off before working the week-end. While enjoying some private time with my wife, I suddenly had a lower back pain which I thought was the worse possible time to have a muscle cramp.

No matter what I tried the pain didn’t go away, about 3am it lessen and I finally fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning my back pain was still present & now I also had lower abdominal pain. Knowing that it wasn’t normal I drove my 4by4 Suv to the Emergency Room where my primary physician had privileges.

Walked to the Triage Nurse who took my blood pressure and asked if I could walk to a stretcher. With an IV in each arm and numerous test, I spent 10 long days in CCU.

The staff was surprised when I was discharged because I wasn’t expected to survive the first night.

Mike Kay-52

Name: Mike Kay
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 December 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

To start with my story, I was diagnosed with a descending aneurysm the morning of my aortic heart valve replacement for a bicuspid aortic valve back in October 2000. The aneurysm was confirmed during surgery but it was not large enough for them to repair at the time. I received a St Jude’s mechanical valve and life was great after recovery.

Fast forward 12 years and while I was at work I suddenly had excruciating pain in my chest. I made it back to my office and ran the symptoms of a heart attack through my head but I wasn’t having radiating pains to my arms or neck. I got up and walked outside and a waved over a fellow employee. I walked back to my office, sat down in the chair and then the pain really settled in. The “elephant on my chest” to pain radiating from my chest to my back and lower back. My friend called 911 and the journey began.

I was transported to the local hospital where my surgeon who had installed my heart valve and diagnosed my aneurysm was on rounds. He knew right away what the problem was (he had been watching it since the diagnosis through CT’s). After the 3D CT confirmed the dissection, I was also told that my aorta was a aneurysmal mess.

I was transported to an Orlando hospital where I was suppose to have the aneurysm repaired. After three days of planning the surgery it was decided that I would be going to Shands at the U of F for surgery. OH NO!! Gator country for a Hurricane fan. (have to have humor, for life is truly short).

I was transported to Shands via ambulance (took two ambulances, the first broke down after 30 minutes on the turnpike) and after spending six hours in the CICU I was told that I would have surgery the following day. Fifteen minutes later after my BP dropped out I was wheeled to surgery where Dr. Martin and Dr. Ramoa repaired my further dissecting aneurysm.
After 4 hours of surgery my family was notified that I had made it through the tough stretch of the surgery and after another 6 hrs of surgery was wheeled in to the same CICU.

All I can remember of the immediate post surgery was Dr. Martin asking me to move both my legs and saying “the patient has movement in all extremities”. He patted by legs and then it was lights out for almost 48 hours. My Christmas present that year was a new chapter of my life. That and having that damned ventilator removed.

I spent twenty days in three different hospitals. The majority of them in Shands surrounded by blue and orange (but I’m not complaining, just noting). I spent 27 minutes on the H/L machine this go round. I have 17 cm of 30 mm Dacron aorta and 7cm of 10 mm Dacron attaching my left subclavian artery to the graft. All that through an extended thoracotomy.

I am truly lucky to be writing this story. It didn’t look good there for awhile. While I do not like the “new me”, I have PTPS and I am taking meds that makes my short term memory like catching water with a sieve, I am happy to be alive. It is amazing how the human body reacts to pain, shock, surgery, anesthesia and recovery. I still suddenly remember things that occurred while I was in the hospital from the wild nacoticaly induced dreams to the gentle care that was given by the nursing staff. Email me if you have any questions about future surgeries or just want to chat.

Thank God for Modern Medicine!!

Norma Hernandez-58

Name: norma hernandez
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 March 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I have an aortic aneurysm but my doctors will not operate. I have to see the surgeon in August and he said if my aneurysm is bigger than he’ll operate.

Can someone tell me why my doctors are reluctant to operate? I feel like a walking time bomb.

Ron Koch-58

Name: Ron Koch
Age at time of Dissection: 58
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 August 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

My dad was an unlucky victim of a descending aortic dissection. I am telling his story, because he unfortunately died just a day after he was diagnosed with this. I am his daughter Katie and attend college in Missouri. At the age of 20 I lost my father to this horrible diagnosis.

I will never forget that weekend. I feel like that it was just yesterday. I was at work Friday night calling my dad a whole bunch of times to tell him that I got my keys to my new apartment. I was so excited to be finally moving in. He never answered but he soon called me back and left a message on my phone. My dad and I talked almost every day while I have been at college. I would say that I am a daddy’s girl, always was one. He left me a voicemail and I soon called him back, and we talked about my new apartment and I told him that I would call him tomorrow, because I was at work. I wish that I knew that would be the last time I would ever talk to him on the phone.

That night he was woken up by some severe chest pain and horrible back pain. He has surgery on his back years ago and I think that is what he thought was wrong with him. He even drove himself to the hospital that night. I woke up to a text message from my brother to call him. I thought that was unusual because I never talk to him. I called him and he told me that there was something wrong with his aorta and that I shouldn’t worry about it. That he has a 90% chance of survival. That he would be fine and not to make the drive down to the hospital. I was about 2 hours away and being studying in the health science field, I just knew something was not right and so of course I made the drive down there.

I woke up my whole family that was back where I lived and told them to get to the hospital. My parents were divorced, so they did not know yet. I told my mom what my brother told me and something did not seem right. Of course I was right and my mom told me I needed to get there as soon as I can. Once I got to the hospital they pulled my sister and I aside and told us that he had a descending aorta dissection and that it was very serious. He was in the ICU when I finally got to the hospital to see him. His left Kidney was already gone from the lack of blood to it. They also could not do surgery because it was so severe, if they opened him up he would of died immediately. We were told to sit and wait and hopefully his blood pressure would stabilize. They sedated him that night.

The next morning which was Sunday changed my life forever. I got the worst phone call of my life. This time it was my sister calling me telling me dad was doing really bad and I needed to get to the hospital. I was crying so hard at that point my sister put my mom on the phone. The first thing I asked her was “Is my father going to die” and she replied back to me “I honestly don’t know Katie”. When I got to the hospital the priest was already there. They gathered us in a room and explained to us what happened over night. Everything from his heart down was completely gone. He had no function anywhere and gang green already set in. We were told to decide if we wanted to take him off life support we could.

As a family we decided that he would not want to live as a vegetable and was going to die either way. We took him off of everything and he passed within minutes. He was already gone. On August 12, 2012 my dad was taken away from me. He was an amazing father and I miss him so much. My whole family and I now have to get yearly CT scans, because we are all tall and it is possible that we could suffer from it too. I am still dealing with the loss of my father and sometimes don’t know how life will go on. Losing my father at my age definitely showed me a new look on life. I value every single second I have with my loved one. I know this story was long, but I think that everyone should be aware of this. If you have any questions or anything at all please feel free to email me.

Michael Burt-52

Name: Michael Burt
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas planting shrubs in my front yard three days before my 53rd birthday. I was just about to wrap things up, and I picked up a very heavy pot of clay that I had removed to dump it over my back yard fence. I felt a sharp pain in the middle of my back and knew immediately something had gone terribly wrong. I dropped the pot of clay and walked the short distance to my front door. I sat down in my living room and told my wife to call an ambulance. Instead, she decided she could get me to the hospital faster herself and drove me to the ER. I instinctively knew that whatever was wrong with me, I needed to sit as still as possible.

I was not in any pain and walked into the ER under my own power. I was placed in a wheelchair and told to wait for an intake nurse. My wife wasn’t going to wait and let them know that my condition was serious and that I needed attention ASAP. I don’t remember anything after that, but my wife said I was wheeled in for a CT scan with contrast, and the technician confirmed that I had a descending abdominal aortic aneurysm dissection. Apparently I remained conscious and supplied them with personal details for the intake, even asking if I would be well enough in time to drive to my stepdaughter’s out-of-state college graduation in a month.

A team of surgeons was assembled, and I had a graft inserted to repair the dissection. The surgery went well, but I developed several serious complications that made the surgical team suspect that I might not survive the surgery. Specifically, I developed pneumonia which led to fluid-filled lungs and 100% respiratory collapse. I developed a GI bleed, and my kidneys shut down as well.

For several days after the surgery, I was kept in a state of limbo with a cocktail of drugs including Propofol and Fentanyl in order to keep me conscious enough to follow orders but not enough to realize the dire state I was in. I was having numerous unpleasant hallucinations throughout this period and did not know I was in the hospital. I was intubated and kept restrained to prevent me from removing the tube or becoming agitated and doing further damage to myself. The respiratory physician decided not to treat the pneumonia unless my fever spiked. It didn’t, and I eventually began to recover from the infection on my own, but I was kept in the ICU for two weeks while my body tried to deal with the complications I was experiencing.

After two weeks, the ICU staff were able to remove the tube from my throat, and I was able to breathe on my own. My mind and memory were still pretty foggy from the sedatives I had received, and although I knew now that I was in a hospital, I did not understand why. My wife was allowed to stay with me during this time, and she was eventually able to supply me with all the details.

Because of the respiratory complications and the fact that I was a taking coumadin and my INR wasn’t stable yet, the surgeons were very cautious about discharging me. After two weeks in recovery, I pressed the doctors to let me go home where I could monitor my INR myself, and the chief surgeon signed the discharge papers on 12 May. I agreed to work with a home health nurse to assist me in rehabilitating my ability to stand, walk, and talk. I remained off work until 3 July.

15 years previously, I had suffered about of bacterial endocarditis that damaged my aortic valve. I received a six-week regimen of antibiotics for the infection, and a year later, I had the valve replaced. During the triple-A surgery, the surgeon removed my artificial valve, cleaned it up, and re-implanted it.

It took a bout 9 months for me to return to what I would call 85-90% normal. I returned to a more or less normal lifestyle although I have to monitor my BP, and have become somewhat more sedentary than I was before the surgery. I continued on my coumadin regimen and metoprolol tartrate (to control my BP). The only other meds I take are unrelated to my condition: thyroid hormone (high TSH/low hormone) and cymbalta (to prevent anxiety attacks). I still do not feel 100% and try to maintain a low-key lifestyle now with regular checkups.

Cheryl Dahr-52

Name: Cheryl Dahr
Age at time of Dissection: 52
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 22 November 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

The week before Thanksgiving had been very hectic at work, I had been tired and felt like I had strained my upper back. On Thanksgiving Day I worked to prepare our meal for friends coming for both lunch & dinner. The pain in my upper back continued to worsen, but I made it through the lunch. My friend was over and had neck pain, so he was laid out on the couch. My back was so bad I could not get comfortable in any position. About 45 before my expected supper crowd was to come I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the ER.

I was thinking it may be a gall bladder attack. After doing a gall bladder ultrasound, they said it was normal, but were sending me in for a CT. I noticed during the CT the tech seemed fixated on a certain spot. The doctor came in and informed me they found a Type B dissection, and were admitting me. They kept me for 3 days trying to get my BP lowered down. They sent me home with labetalol, HCTZ, lisinopril, and recently added clonidine to be used as needed if BP goes over 140.

I’ve felt so bad this past month, tired, sometimes dizzy,sort of queasy, lots of residual pain(for which I’m still taking percocet for). How long does the initial pain usually last? I’m not getting a clear answer from my doctors. I’ve been out of work as well, I’m a material handler/logistics manager/CNA. Any idea on what I should expect in regards to work and physical activity limits for the future? Thank you for this site! I’ve learned a lot

William Mitchell-56

Name: William Mitchell
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 14 April 2012
Tell Us Your Story:
October 12, 2012

My name is William Mitchell. I am 56 years old and live in Munford, Tennessee. It is about 30 miles north of Memphis. I have been working a swing shift for the past 36 years so you probably understand that my sleep habits are not normal. I am bipolar, I take my medication and see my doctor regularly. My wife is my biggest supporter and I’m doing well.
My story begins at 3:15 a. m. on April 14, 2012 when I got up from the bed and went to the kitchen and got a glass of juice. After drinking the juice my stomach started feeling upset, I went to the bathroom because I thought I had to vomit, nothing happened. I started back to the living room when my chest felt like it was going to rip apart, I fell to the floor thinking I was having a heart attack, the pain was so intense.

I managed to make it to the bedroom and told my wife to call an ambulance and she told me that she could get me there quicker. The hospital is 10 miles down the road and the wife was flying, I myself was in major pain. When we got to the hospital I could not move my right leg, they manage to get me in a wheel chair and got me in a room. They took a chest x-ray and blood work. I vomit and the nurse freaked out because it was red, I explained that the juice I drank was red. The pain had subsided some and when the doctor came in I told him that I could not move my right leg, he said he was not worried about my leg, I was because I was to have back surgery in a couple weeks. They came and got some more blood around 6:30 a. m. At 7:00 a. m. a different doctor came in and told us that I did not have a heart attack and that I needed to lose weight and have a stress test and for us to leave, I wanted to choke him.
We got home and for the next 2 days I stayed in bed or I was holding the couch down. When my wife got home from work Monday she said she had made an appointment to see my neurosurgeon the next day Tuesday April 17, 2012. We saw the doctor, had surgery that Wednesday April 18, 2012 and I was home by 3:00 p. m. Needless to say, my appetite never got better.
After about a week or so I went to my family physician about my stomach problems, he suggested that maybe I was having a gall bladder issue and ordered some tests. On May 1, 2012 I went in at 7:00 a. m. for an ultrasound and CT scan at the same hospital that said that nothing was wrong and sent me home. The ultrasound was first and it took about an hour, the technician told me to wait, and that it was going to be twenty minutes for the CT scan.  The waiting room was full so I went to my truck to get my phone. I called my wife and noticed my physician with nurses and orderlies, all with wheel chairs at the entrance.

My doctor was motioning for me to come towards him.  As I entered the hospital my doctor told me to stand there and not to move, wheel chairs moved in from all directions, I sat down in the first one near me. The nurse took me to the CT room and parked me in a corner, I asked the nurse what was going on but all she said was that she did not have a clue. I’m thinking “my gall bladder cannot be that bad”. My family physician told me to call my wife, I did, and every time I gave the phone to him he would jump up and bark some orders, after about the fifth or sixth time he took the phone and told my wife to get to the hospital as soon as possible. The room cleared and only the technicians were left, they did the scan with dye that made me very sick, but I recovered.

I was then wheeled to a different room where my wife was waiting. My wife told me that they were going to transport me to Baptist East in Memphis; it’s one of the biggest hospitals in the area. After arriving and checking in they put me in a split room, after about an hour or so they brought an elderly man who had broken his hip and his rude manners were getting on my nerves. I became very belligerent because I had been off of my medications so I could have the testing done. My wife left the room and came back, and then a nurse came in and said that she had something  to calm me down, a shot. After about three hours I woke up in Intensive Care Unit. Later that evening my wife explained to me what was going on, she told me about the aneurysm and the dissection of the aorta. I had heard of aneurysms but did not have a clue about what they were. I then understood why my wife and daughter were crying so much and telling me that they love me.

I had a feeling that it was not a gall bladder issue. At this point the doctors said they were not going to do surgery because they could not replace the entire aorta. They said they were going to try to control my blood pressure and see what happened. They had me on an intravenous drip medication and five blood pressure medications by mouth. My blood pressure continued to rise. Finally the surgeon came in and said he was going to try a procedure where he would insert a stint at the kidney level to try to get proper blood flow to the right kidney. He said they had to try something because they were not a ble to control the blood pressure and I could not maintain the many blood pressure medications they currently had me on. On May 10, 2012 I had surgery. The surgeon placed two stents in my aorta, one at the arch of the aorta where the aneurysm happened and the other near my right kidney. May 15, 2012 I was moved to the step down unit and on May 16, 2012 I was dismissed.
After about a month or so I went for a follow up, CT scan and doctor appointment with the surgeon. The surgeon said everything looked fine and to be back in six months. Two days later the doctor’s office called and said that I had to come in as soon as possible. I’m thinking, “What is going on?” My wife and I were off to the doctor the next day. Once there the surgeon explained that the aorta was now dissecting back towards my heart and we had to watch it closely. So, two months later we were back for another CT scan and appointment with the surgeon. This time the doctor said that the tear is stabilized, but the dissection near my kidney is not healing. He said that at some point it is going to need to be repaired.  He said to continue to watch the blood pressure, if it goes up and stays up to get to the nearest emergency room and make sure they called him. He said there is nothing I can do to make it better and nothing I can do to make it worse so “go live your life”, “go back to work”.
Now, I have returned to work. I have pain either in my chest or in my shoulder blades all the time. I have a lot of pain in my right arm and can no longer sleep on my right side due the pain. Quite often I have major indigestion with lots of gas. It is everything I can do to go to work and come home. I have no energy for anything extra.

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