Category: Forties Page 1 of 2

Rg A-44

Name: Rg A
Age at time of Dissection: 44
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 February 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

It Happened on a cold winter morning about 8:30 AM. I had a sensation of a bunch of pins shooting up my chest to my neck and under my chin. My breathing became labored after that and I became light headed, I also remember being thirsty after that. The days before I remember having discomfort in my back.

I was using cocaine during my mid early teens to my early 20s, I also used meth from my later mid teens to my early 20s. I smoked an average of less than a pack a day for 15yrs. I drank alcohol heavily for almost 30yrs until I was 41. I also worked moving large heavy items by myself that would usually require more than two people to move safely.

I usually always have have had low BP, but it was normal for my BP to sky rocket when I was in pain. I also want to state that doctors usually have never been able to to find a pulse in my right arm. I had a heart murmur when I was an infant, and grew out of that, I also had asthma when I was young and grew out of that.

Dawn Walker-47

Name: Dawn Walker
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 31 August 2016
Tell Us Your Story: My name is Dawn and I live in a village in Lincolnshire, U.K.

On 31 August 2015 I awoke early in the morning to a severe stomach pain. After a few minutes it eased but after going to the bathroom and getting back in to bed I was hit by pain which I have never felt before.
The way I describe it is like being an acid explosion throughout my whole torso.
My husband checked my blood pressure and as we had 2 readings of 190 He decided to take me to hospital. I was feeling nauseous, clammy, extremely irritable and I did vomit on about 4 occasions.

A CT scan showed an aortic dissection, descending the length of my aorta with a small aneurysm towards the bottom.
My brother had died suddenly from AAA just 7 weeks before and if I had told hospital staff it is not likely I would have had a CT scan.
After my brother died I suspected I had a rare connective tissue fault called Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. This has proven to be the case, I got the official diagnosis in December last year.

I was initially placed on BP lowering meds for my dissection and went on to have an operation on 1st October 2015 to replace almost all of my aorta.
Complications afterwards led me to bleed heavily, believed to related to VEDS, and I was left with t8 paraplegia. This spinal cord injury is complicate.

I know I am lucky to be alive but everyday I am still in pain from my surgery and from being a paraplegic.
Life is extremely hard but I am trying to do what I can to raise awareness of this rare condition and I am also trying to write a book which includes many poems, telling of my experiences.

Thankyou for reading this. I wish you all well.


Cathy Tarr-47

Name: Cathy Tarr
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 August 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

I am a 47 year old woman who has had known hypertension for the past 3-4 years. This has been controlled with medication ( or so I thought ) and otherwise was fit and well. on 18/29/2015 I went shopping, just a normal day. Approximately 3 hours later i felt “unwell” and needed to sit down becoming hot and clammy. As i sat the pain started in my chest, central, severe, and a thunderbolt of burning that radiated to my back. I knew this was not normal.

As I waited for emergency transfer to the hospital my legs were tingling and i was losing power in my limbs. Within 20 minutes i was paralyzed from the waist down.

I was rushed to hospital. Luckily i had a CT Scan fairly early as a heart attack was eliminated by a very good dr. I was transferred to another specialist hospital for emergency surgery.

Luckily the surgeon decided that surgery was too risky as my BP was far too high but i spent 9 days on Cardiac Intensive Care, 7 days on Coronary Care and a further 8 weeks on a cardiac ward. My aorta had dissected and bled into my spinal cord causing permanent damage.

i am now 14 weeks post descending dissection controlled by a whole array of anti-hypertensive medications and pain relief. I have learnt to walk again but have a left sided weakness. I am terrified this may happen again to me and its taken over my life.

I want to get back to my old independent life but at the moment need mobility aids and lots of practical support.
Thank you for reading my story.

Vangeline Perry-45

Name: Vangeline Perry
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 31 July 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

On this beautiful July day I enjoyed my day with family and co workers. I had planned a evening of fun as well with family. I arrived at my home to prepare to go out. As I arrived to my home I started to feel funny. A feeling unknown, I had not felt this feeling before.

I continued on to bathroom where my husband stated I fell to the floor and he picked me up and hurried me to the near by hospital. Where they air lifted me to a hospital that was equipped to handle my condition. I had no clue what had happen to me after arriving home. 5 or 6 days later I awakened to tubes and machines every where. The doctor responsible for my survival is Dr.Anderson and his team at heart institute of Greenville NC.

I am grateful for their quick response and positive words and constant intervention of my medical needs. I suffered a aortic dissection with a thyroid mass caused by graves disease. I had to have a incision to the right leg do to pressure that caused drop foot.

I pray that one day I can repay these awesome professionals for their loyal dedication to ensure my recovery.I had no idea what was happening nor what did happen to me. There was no early signs. It is very important to get regular check ups and pay attention to what your body say to you.

Balusamy Suthagar-47

Name: balusamy suthagar
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 24 November 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

I am a practicing Pediatrician from India, aged about 47 years,not a smoker,not an alcoholic but a known hypertensive for more than 10 years had acute type 2 aortic dissection ,been placed stent on 15th day of the insult.

I didn’t have any complication and I now work only in the morning between 10am to 2pm.I regularly go for a slow walk for about 3km a day.After the illness I was detected to be borderline Diabetic with HbA1C maintained well below 6% withT.Metformin 250 twice daily.

Other medicines I take are T.Metoprolol 100 mg Bid,T.Telmisartan 80mg plus Hydrochlorothiazide 12.5mg in OD,T.Clinidipine 5mg BD,T.Clopidogrel 75mg OD,T.Ecospirin150mg OD,T.Storvas 2omg HS,T.Larpose 2mgHS and my BP is maintained below 120/80mmHg.I don’t get get sound sleep in the afternoons.In the night I have a nice sleep with a sedative.

I wish to have at least 2hours sound sleep in the post lunch session also.What to do?

What are the parameters to be taken care off for longevity of my life? because there is no clear data on life expectancy in my illness as well)how many hours shall I work per day?

What about driving on my own for a short distance?
shall I indulge in sexual activities/

I do get palpitation in the post lunch session despite normal HR and normal ECG findings at that time.Why? and how to get relived from it?

I know pretty well that there is no data available about the lifespan,I wish to know how proceed further in terms of activities,drugs,time of review and the need of second opinion.

Dr.Suthagar Balusamy
Suriya Hospital,
10,arignar Anna Street,
Annur Road,Mettupalayam-641301
Coimbatore Dist.,Tamilnadu,India.
91 9952166966

Paul Rackham-48

Name: Paul Rackham
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 May 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Iposted this on but as I’ve enjoyed reading the stories on this site I thought I’d add mine too. I often find myself nodding along to peoples’ observations on their own strengths and weaknesses, the joy of family and friends, and the wonders and limitations of the various elements of the National Health Service, or whatever health service you use where you are in the world.

The 19th May 2012 looked like being a good day. I could see I was getting fitter due to cycling 20 miles a day as I had just completed a 45 minute run around the park. It was my daughters 18th birthday so we had Bucks Fizz and smoked salmon for lunch and were looking forward to a family meal out at a local restaurant.

During the car drive there, the dissection started with a severe pain in my chest and abdomen. Luckily I was able to pull the car over to the side of the road and the ambulance was there in a few minutes. Like many of you know, the pain is indescribable and through the tears and fighting for breath I can remember seeing my four children lined up on the pavement watching me being treated in the back of the ambulance. I can’t imagine what my wife Jacqui was going through as she followed the ambulance in the car, but I do know how grateful she was to one of the ambulance crew who negotiated for her to leave the car on the ambulance ramp so she could come straight into the A&E with me.

St. Thomas’ Hospital has to be one of the best located hospitals there is, on the south bank of the River Thames in central London, with views across the river to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and downriver to the London Eye. Despite the fact that it is a regional referral centre for Aortic Dissection it took about 24 hours to be correctly diagnosed. I had severe pain in my stomach and the most excruciating back pain. I can still remember the relief of sucking down the syringes of morphine. Luckily I was sent for a CT scan for a pulmonary embolism and they discovered the dissection. I thought they had been pretty brisk and efficient but they stepped up into another gear when I came back from the scan. By this stage Jacqui had gone home, the pain had been getting less, everything had seemed calmer – I was still expecting people to tell me I’d had a bad case of wind and to send me home! After the initial shock of going to A&E, she then had the lovely experience of getting the “please come back to A&E, it’s a bit more serious” phone call – courtesy of a lovely A&E nurse who lent me her phone.

The Vascular Team took over and whilst rushing to insert the arterial line and get me admitted to the High Dependency Unit, explained what had happened. It was a Type B dissection, the “good” type apparently because it doesn’t always require emergency surgery, although I latter found out that it has its own complications.

The next two weeks were spent hooked up to the machines and drips whilst they tried to get my blood pressure and heart rate down and work out whether I needed surgery. The staff were fabulous but it was my family that kept me sane. Seeing them at visiting time was like cool water on a hot day. Two of my sisters even travelled back from Spain to see me.

Apart from telling me how shocking I looked in the dusky pink hospital pyjamas, and not to look online at all the scary information about Aortic Dissection, everyone was most taken with the view from my window bed and disappointed that I was discharged the day before the Queens Jubilee Thames River Pageant that floated right past.

Getting home after two weeks was fantastic, but I did succumb to the internet and scared myself silly, at the same time realising how lucky I had been. I tried making sense of the prevalence, incidence and survival statistics but ended up just telling myself and others I was really unlucky to have an Aortic Dissection but more lucky to survive it – well that’s how it felt anyway.

Everyone rallied around and we had more more home made dinners donated than we had room to store. No one would let me pick up anything heavier than an iPad and I regularly veered between bouts of self-pitying angst – why me? and elation – thank the stars!

June was passing and Fathers Day and my birthday had never felt so good. I thought everything was going well till I mentioned to my entertaining Hypertension Consultant that I was still getting increasingly bad back pain as well as increasing pain in my legs when walking. Well, after he’d finished telling me to use beetroot shots and to buy The Wine Diet, he told me I should mention this to the Vascular Team. On their advice I was back in A&E the same day and after another CT scan was told I needed a stent graft for my complicated Type B dissection.

The operation went well, apart from developing a grapefruit sized haematoma where they made the incision in my groin. I am now the proud owner of a GORE TAG stent graft in my thoracic aorta. The surgeon told me it cost £16,000 – not quite the Six Million Dollar Man I remember watching as a kid -“We can rebuild him……..”

Looking back it was a really hard time for everyone. My eldest daughter was doing her A Level exams, so I was really proud that she got excellent grades, and my other daughter said the best bit about me being home was that it would stop all the “helpful visitors” putting the cutlery in the wrong drawers. The children also had the fun of going through their own scans for signs of abnormality in the aorta. They found that my eldest son does have a slightly dilated aortic root, so we’ll have the blood tests to see if we have a “mispelt gene” and await his MRI scan for more information. I’ve recetly signed up for the genetic research programme being run by the John Ritter Research programme. No contact sports for him in the meantime. My youngest son has developed an even more empathetic nature than he had before, often checking if I’ve remembered my tablets and trying to convince me that the main difference is that I’m not so wreckless as I was before.

So, nearly two years on and I can’t say I’ve totally adjusted to my new life. The pain has mostly gone, but I still get the intermittent claudication. I’m back at work but am exhausted a lot of the time. I’m off the career hamster wheel and just concentrating on getting through the days. I really struggle on stairs, even though I can do a brisk walk on the flat for about an hour now and I know Jacqui worries about me. She works even harder than she already was doing to keep the family and home going and I love her more than ever.

My most recent MRI showed a good result according to the Consultant. The aorta is 4.3cm and he thought everything looked pretty stable, though one leg and kidney are now supplied off the false lumen. I forgot to ask him what happens if the false lumen thromboses and the blood stops flowing through it. I’m due another scan in October this year so I’ll check then. I’m learning that I need to listen to my body but not to worry about every little thing!

My blood pressure and heart rate are well controlled but I have a love/hate relationship with the medication. How can you not love something that reduces the risk of further dissection, but I could really do without the tiredness and spaced out feeling.

So that’s me – another AD survivor!

Tshombe Hamilton-41

Name: Tshombe Hamilton
Age at time of Dissection: 41
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 8 May 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Tshombe Hamilton and I am an aortic dissection survivor. Here is my story:

When John Ritter died of heart an aortic dissection in 2003. His death sparked something inside of me. I don’t know what it was but it was something visceral.

On May 8th 2011, Mother’s Day, I had driven from Goldsboro NC back up to Ashburn VA where I was living. I had been living in Ashburn for the last two years. I had gotten a job promotion, and I left my family back home in NC. Every week I was coming home to see my daughters at the time ages 14,12 and 7. The drive from NC to Ashburn 5 hours one way so 10 hours round trip I would leave early on a Friday and make it home by 11 or 12 with the DC/VA traffic.

This time I had been done to visit my mother for Mother’s Day. I had had returned and was sitting in the chair eating Raisin Bran when a pain shot down the left side of my neck and went int my chest. I thought right then I was having a heart attack so I went to the kitchen and chewed up two aspirin. I got to my car and drove myself to the hospital. When I got to the ER, I realized that I had forgot my wallet, so I drove back to my apartment and picked it up. I went back to the ER and told the nurse I think I was having a heart attack. They checked my and the Dr said the test that they ran showed no evidence of an attack so they kept me overnight for observation.

The next morning the cardiologist can by and said that they did not see anything except a murmur but it was nothing to worry about. He signed my discharge papers and as I was leaving I remember asking him, “You sure I don’t have what killed John Ritter from “Threes Company ?” He said no. This was Monday May 9th.

The next day I woke up to some of the most excruciating stomach pains. I figured on top of everything, I was now getting an ulcer. I went to CVS and got antacid hoping that would ease the pain but it did not, I went to bed hoping it would go away. That was Tuesday May 10th.

Wednesday May 11th. I woke up with my stomach still hurting. I went to work but then had to go to the Dr. becacuse my pain was so bad.

So I go to the Dr. and she had an intern with her. She tells me to come back in a week?!?!?!? I tell her that if I have to come back she needs to give me some pain medication because my stomach hurts so bad.

I guess that triggered something within her because she sent me over to have a contrast test done. I hate needles because I have little veins. they did the contrast test and sent me home.

Later the Dr called me saying I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. They had found a tear in my aorta. She asked if I needed an ambulance and I said no, I could do it.

I got to the hospital and they informed me that I needed to have another contrast test to locate where the tear was. They informed me that the body cannot take two contrasts in one day and that my kidneys would probably shut down and I would be on dialysis for the rest of my life.

They did the test and called in Life Flight. They airlifted me to Inova Fairfax where Dr. Lee operated on me for twelve hours. They also gave me a bypass. This was Wednesday into Thursday.

The weirdest thing about being under is there is no sense of time. I came too almost 2 days later. They had repaired a 6 centimeter tear in my aorta. It had descended down to my kidneys which was why I was having the pain in my stomach.

When the cardiologist came by he was speechless. Not only I correctly called what it was, I had survived two days. He told me normally when that happens, you only have hours.

Luckily my kidneys survived the contrast. I am now back in North Carolina with my family. I hope that this helps someone. Thank you.

Ronni Stockton-44

Name: Ronni Stockton
Age at time of Dissection: 44
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 3 November 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwill begin my story with three thoughts. First, heart disease does not run in my family. Second, I do not have diabetes. third, I never had high blood pressure or had to take any BP medicine until my aortic dissection.I am a 6th grade science teacher. It was about 2:20, and we were switching classes. I had just taken medicine for my migraines when everything just started “not feeling right”. My upper chest and throat started burning. Truthfully, I thought maybe I was having an allergic reaction to the medicine, but in reality, I had been on the medicine for a few years so that didn’t seem logical.

I walked to the office and sat down in my principal’s office. The burning proceeded to move up into my jaws and teeth and then into my upper back. Our school nurse was sitting with me. Because it continued to get worse, she took me to the hospital. While sitting and talking to the emergency doctor and trying to figure out what was happening, my right leg began to become numb. It started in my hip and moved down my leg into my foot and toes.

I then began to get the feeling back starting in my toes and moving back up to my hip. The doctor did a CT scan and discovered the aortic dissection. I was taken by ambulance to a different hospital that has surgeons that focus on heart trauma. I was immediately prepped for surgery. The surgery lasted 6 hours. I was fortunate to have an incredible surgeon that saved my life.
It has been three months now, and I am working on regaining my life. I had a CTA scan a month ago. My surgeon said that everything looked great.

I have a “false channel” that formed because of my aneurism an aortic dissection. He tells me that this is common, and he has had many patients with the same condition that go on to live a “normal” life. My blood pressure has been my main problem. My cardiologist now has me on metroprolol and losartan which seems to be doing the job of keeping my blood pressure under 120/70 and my heart rate in the 70’s. The issue I am struggling with now are the days my blood pressure drops to 90’s/60’s. On those days, I feel awful!

I also will have dizzy spells and see flashes of light for a couple seconds, and then it will be gone. My doctors tell me that my body has to adapt to the changes in my blood pressure #’s and the medicine that I am taking.I know that I am very fortunate! I am hopeful that as I heal and become stronger, each day will get better.For me, as with anyone that has been through this, it has been a life-altering experience. I try to stay positive, but we all have bad days. I pray that the number of bad days will lessen over time.

Bruce Guarini-47

Name: Bruce Guarini
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 August 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Bruce and I’m 49 now, I’ve had a serious run with bad luck. Feb. 2008 in the middle of the night 2am, I felt a sharp pain in my head. Thinking it was a head ache coming on I got up, took two aspirins and went back to bed, only to be awaken by my wife and daughters, they realized something was wrong. I was paralyzed from the waist down, so my daughters called the paramedics. Next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital 2 days after surgery, a Endovascular Coiling with a 95% success rate. A Brain Aneurysm? I had no idea of what this was till my family explained to me how I had just cheated death. After spending 3 weeks in the hospital they ran some tests on me only to discover that I was one of the 5% of people that this procedure wouldn’t help” So with my luck 4 months later I was back in the hospital where this time a Surgical Clipping was performed, with a cut from ear to ear and 6 months of recovery, it was successful. I started looking after myself lost 45
lbs and started going for long walks.

August 2010 at 5:00am before going to work I took our family dog out for a walk, when I got back to the house I felt something awkward in my chest, which then started to turn into pain in my lower back. I made it to the couch only to become paralyzed from the waist down, once the paramedics arrived they couldn’t figure what was happening till my wife explained how 2 years earlier I had suffered the Brain Aneurysm. That’s when they rushed me to the hospital where I received an Aortic Dissection (descending) the surgeon said it was the worst he had ever seen, because after sewing in the stent to replace my Aorta they couldn’t get my heart to start up again. This was when they realized that I also required a double bypass. The surgeons first words to me when I came to was “I don’t know why your here or how, but you should have died that day, this was the worst case i have ever seem. Not many people cheat death twice”. After this I went through a state of depression for about two months wondering “why me”.

It was after a visit with my family doctor that got me back down to earth, his words where this “you are better off than someone who hasn’t been sick a day in his life. You now have multiple doctors looking after you and we know your weaknesses, where as if something were to happen to that healthy person, they might not be so lucky”. I am now great full for everything I have, each and every day to me is a bonus, I make the most of every breath I breath and am very thankful to my wife, daughters, family and friends that have supported me. Oh ya I’m not out of the woods, my Ascending Aorta is weak with a good chance it may rupture and my Aortic Valve has a slight leak. The doctors got me on blood thinners for my blood pressure and Metroprolol to slow down my heart and keep pressure off my ascending Aorta. Some of the side effects today are bad headaches, constantly tired, every once in a while my vision gets blurry, I get a sharp pain in my chest (with this my arm and top of my head goes numb for about 3 to 5 minutes. I guess better this than the alternative.

Rod Abidd-49

Name: Rod Abidd
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 24 April 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

I woke up at 300 AM on the 24th with that incredible ripping pain spreading across my chest and back. I knew something was terribly wrong, though I had no idea that my aorta had just dissected. I drove myself to the nearest ER where it didn’t take long for them to diagnose me. And in the nick of time I might add: my kidneys were failing. The treatment was surgery; a 20mm stent installed on the 2nd day after the dissection.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones: lucky I took myself to the ER without any delay; lucky to live in a large metro area with numerous top notch hospitals able to diagnose me quickly and correctly, lucky my dissection was descending not ascending, lucky it didn’t happen 24 hours before when I was on a plane flying across the Pacific.

Now I’m home recovering my strength very slowly, monitoring my BP, trying to rebuild my life with this new wrinkle, and trying to come to terms with all of it. Just gotta listen to my body and be good to myself.

Lisa L-49

Name: Lisa L
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 5 February 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

2012 Super bowl Sunday I woke up early (around 5:30) and turned the TV and enjoyed a cup of coffee. About an hour later, I had this pain in the shoulders. I thought it was gas because it was a sharp pain, so I took some Gas X and tried to lay down and get comfortable. Didn’t help. I tried walking and walking and walking, pain was still there. I talked to my daughter-in-law about 10:00 and mentioned my pain. I guess about 10:30, I found myself curled up in a ball with a pillow on my chest because I was about to lose if from the pain.

My daughter-in-law texted me and asked how I was, well, I caved and said something is WRONG. We decided to go to the ER. So now I sitting in the ER and since I presented with “back pain”, I was not a priority. I paced back and forth and after about an hour and a half, I was called back. Still not a priority. They took blood and started asking me questions. At this point, the pain was so bad I could not speak and I could barely breath. FINALLY pain meds! It eased up some.

Next thing I know, someone is in my room and moving my bed. I had to ask where I was going and why. The ER doc came in and said I needed to have a CT scan just to make sure I was ok because some of the blood tests came back elevated.

After the CT scan, I was back in my room in the ER. I sent my kids home earlier so they didn’t have to just “sit” there all day. Well, I really lost “time” after the CT scan because of the meds and the pain. I’m guessing a 1/2 hour later, my room was FULL of staff. I was being pulled and poked and IV’s, etc. I kept asking WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? The ER doctor finally said your aorta is dissecting. (My mom had an aortic aneurysm and had open heart in 1992), so I knew that this was NOT good! I asked the ER doctor if I was going to die and she wouldn’t answer me. All she kept saying was that I had to calm down because of my blood pressure. I asked her the same question again and she walked out.

While all these people were working on me, I sat up and said I need to call my family because apparently I might die. The ER doc called my kids for me and they came right away. I really don’t remember much for a couple of days. I spent 5 days in ICU (Cardiac Care). No surgery, just control with BP meds. Low dose since I don’t have “high” blood pressure. So that’s the only medication I am on. Metroprolol Sodium 25mg per day.

That’s my first story.

2 weeks later, I was at home and my BP spiked out of control and I had severe pain in my lower back. I was not having it so back to ER I went. I got a CT scan and aortic dissection was the same, however, I now had bladder issues. I was ambulanced that night to a heart hospital for observation and to see what to do with the bladder (I seriously think the ER doc, who was so sweet, was scared and thought I should be at the Heart Hospital). So sweet. My bladder was not draining all the way so I had bladder / kidney infection. Spent 4 days in the heart hospital.

So, that’s my story. I went back to work at the end of March 2012. I am trying to keep my stress low and maintain balance in my life (I have to just say, I can’t do it all).

Well, I pray everyday that the dissection doesn’t progress, but as we all know, that is unpredictable and the chances of that happening are pretty high.

I thank the Lord everyday I wake up!!!

Now I am working on turning 50 and the possibility of permanent disability from work to relieve stress.

Thanks for listening.

Carmen Mosley Barbolla-45 (Husband’s story)

Name: Carmen Mosley Barbolla
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 February 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi everyone. My name is Carmen and I am the wife of an aortic dissection patient. As I write this, at 2:52am, I am sitting in the waiting room at the Heart Hospital in Albuquerque, NM as my husband, Andrew, is in the operating room having an aortic dissection repair. He’s 45 (I’m 27), in spectacular health, an avid surfer and snowboarder and one of the most vibrant people I know. The journey to his aortic dissection diagnosis was only 24 hours.

Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of nowhere and while we were out running errands, he suddenly didn’t feel well and was hit was dull chest pain, incredible back pain and discomfort, and dizziness. Initially we thought he blood sugar was low so we gave him some food, and he started to feel a little bit. As the night progressed, he got better but was still feeling off. We decided that it would be best that he call his doctor the next morning (today) just to be cautious. Based on his symptoms we were thinking heart attack, angina, etc.

His doctor sent him straight to the ER where after a CT Scan of his chest they spotted the dissection. Immediately they began preparations for him to have the dissection repair surgery. It has been such a whirlwind of events and emotions. While I know he is in good hands here at the Heart Hospital with a team of doctors who have done more surgeries of this type than anyone else in the state, I know it is such a risky surgery.

As a newlyweds (we’ve only been married 1 1/2 years), I look forward to years and years together with him, starting a family and living happily ever after. All of a sudden, that life was in jeopardy. As transplants from San Diego, CA to Albuquerque, NM, I sit in this waiting room alone, no family to soothe and comfort me. It is with great relief that I find this support group and sharing our story and putting my thoughts into this virtual world is incredibly comforting and therapeutic. To the strangers out there that are living with and surviving from aortic dissection, all the best for a long and fulfilling life.

P.S. Thanks for stopping by to view our stories. Please help me keep the site going by shopping at’s very much appreciated. Brian Tinsley founder of Shop Amazon’s Gift Cards – Perfect Anytime

Karen Berry-Frantz-42

Name: Karen Berry-Frantz
Age at time of Dissection: 42
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 21 March 2001
Tell Us Your Story:

Ihad been diagnosed with the widow maker in Sept, 2000 and had angioplasty to correct this. Six months later I had sensations in my chest, not pain, which were similar to the original sensations and underwent a second cardiac cath during which the vessel dissected, leading to emergency open heart. During the subsequent hospital stay the cardiologist implied the “fix”, so to speak, may last 10 yrs on avg. Needless to say, the 10 yrs have passed, I’m approaching 11, but I have ever increasing anxiety. I’m afraid to do anything strenuous, or cough too hard or sneeze too many times, thanks to my allergies. Sounds silly, I know, but you would understand, having gone through this yourselves.

Just looking for peace of mind and a certainty that no one can provide. I do my best not to dwell, after all, its out of my hands. Have become a moderate exerciser, these days, as I feel more easily fatigued and out of breath. I’m only 53 and I’m scared. It’s always there in the shadows.

I’m tested annually. I work in radiology and I’m sick of the nuclear injections for the stress tests, having already had years of job related radiation exposure. Every year they do the stress test or stress echo and then they say it’s abnormal and I have to do the nuclear stress test. Then I go for the follow up visit to hear “every things as normal as it can be”. Really?? What does that mean. If things were repaired, why have my EKG’s been abnormal since the repair? Why are they not normal again. Of course, I never ask the doctor that, because I probably don’t want to know. I’m just happy to hear them say “normal.”

Just want to know that if I ride my bike up that hill, my vessel won’t dissect again. They joy of exercise hs been replaced by fear.

Please, somebody, tell me how silly that is. God love my husband, he means well and always says he understands how I would be nervous and why I have cut back on the exercise, but that is not what I want to do. Sort of a “catch 22” in my mind!

Contact Karen

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Teresa Fivek-45

Name: Teresa Fivek
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 21 January 2007
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas a healthy, active 45 year old woman who went to the gym 5 times a week doing a little of everything (cardio, spinning, Pilates, Zumba, etc) I had quit smoking two weeks earlier. I had friends in town so had a few beers the night before and was at a spa waiting for a facial when I suddenly got chest pains that felt like little rubber bands snapping inside my chest.

I knew immediately something was very wrong. Someone called my husband and he came and picked me up. He took me home even though I knew I should be going to the hospital. Soon he looked up my symptoms online and we headed to the hospital. I was diagnosed pretty quickly, which is rare I hear. They transported me to another hospital which is better equipped to deal with cardiovascular events. They knew it was a descending thoracic aortic dissection. I think I got that name correct. It was my first ride in an ambulance. I don’t remember much of it or of any of the next three weeks. My husband tells me they drove very slowly all the way to the other hospital and that scared him. They also had the paddles laying on my gurney as they wheeled me out to the ambulance.

They put me in CICU and were trying to get my blood pressure under control and watching my progress which is what they do for descending dissections. About four days into that I had another CT scan and when they got the results back my husband said they called him and the family and told them to get to the hospital immediately. Another scare. This is one of the few memories I have because the surgeon came to talk to me and said I had developed an aneurysm which was about to burst and they needed to do surgery to repair my aorta with a graft.

He said there was a 50-50 chance I would live through the surgery and less than that of surviving without brain damage, paraplegia, and many more horrible outcomes. So I said I don’t like those odds, what if we just do nothing. He said you will not live through the night. So I had surgery.

They cooled my body, put me on a heart lung machine so I was on life support for the 5.5 hour surgery and a few days after that I think. It was an agonizing few days until my family found out that I had all my skills. I was in the CICU for three weeks total, about three months in rehab and then a year of recovery before I felt myself again.

You would think that was the end of my story but it was not. Exactly two years later I was on my way to Houston to see the top doctor in the world where the aorta is concerned Joseph Coselli. I had developed another aneurysm just below the graft about a year after my initial surgery and we were watching it until it got large enough to worry us. I was to meet with Dr Coselli and see if I needed surgery and then schedule it if I did. When I met with him it turns out he had scheduled the surgery and said I should have it right away. So a day later I was back in surgery and they replaced 18 inches of my aorta and hooked onto the 4 inches replaced earlier. He made some comment about not being sure if there was enough there to anchor to but apparently there was. One week later I was on my way back home to Virginia and another year long recovery. I include the time to feel normal again and not just to where I can move and work again. My blood pressure is never really under control. It can go from 120/70 to 190/120 and back again all in one day and frequently does. I am not sure why that is and plan to visit Duke soon to see if they can find out.

We continued monitoring my aorta with CT scans and so far I have had 14 of them in less than 4 years now. So that brings us to September 2011 and my latest challenge. Did you guess it? Breast Cancer, I am convinced from all the CT scans. So I am about to undergo chemotherapy (start Nov 10, 2011) and then radiation in January to see if we can cure stage II breast cancer. I found the lump and it still does not show up on a mammogram so keep doing those self exams ladies! They may save your life.

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!)

C Flach-49

Name: C Flach
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 22 March 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I have Marfan’s and have been watching my aortic root for 20 years, with no change in the size of my root. (My Uncle died of an abdominal aortic dissection, but on my father’s side of the family, we have only had issues with the ascending aorta.) I just moved to Washington State (from the NY City area), and got a full MRI of the aorta as a basis for my new Cardiologist at UW. Everything looked the same as it has for 20 years.

I was walking 3-4 miles 4-5 times a week, up and down medium hills, and had just arrived at the trail for my walk on 3/22/2010. Just before getting out of the car, I felt extreme pain in my kidney area of my back. Having heard from my younger brother about his kidney stones, I immediately thought I was passing a stone. I told my walking partner that we should maybe go to a “doc in a box” (an emergency care facility), so he got back in the car to take me. Immediately an excruciating pain ran up my back to between my shoulder blades, and suddenly I was having trouble breathing. Knowing that I have Marfans, and that if I had a dissection (I always thought I would ONLY have an ascending dissection), I would need to get to a hospital within minutes if I was to survive, I told my walking partner to immediately go to the hospital because I believe I was having a dissection. Luckily, we were only 3-4 minutes from a hospital, so we made it quickly. In the emergency room I kept telling
them that I had Marfans and that I was dissecting. They were patient with me, but also a little irritated at my insistence. After taking my vitals, they finally did a CAT scan and noticed the dissection, but to my surprise, it was descending. This particular hospital was not equipped to handle this type of emergency, so I was transported to a Tacoma hospital.

I was in intensive care, and the Doctor at this facility was addressing my issues and trying to stabilize me. Blood pressure was very erratic, and both my husband and I kept asking the doctor if they were in contact with my Marfan Cardiologist at UW. At one point the doctor stated that I would need surgery immediately, and again, we questioned if he was in contact with my Cardiologist. He did state that he had performed this surgery hundreds of times, however, he had never operated on a patient with Marfans. He swallowed his ego (great man and I admire him for this), and stated I would probably be better served at a Hospital in Seattle. Again (after a week in the hospital in Tacoma), I was transferred to a hospital in Seattle. They immediately addressed the issue with medication, and I stabilized after another week in a half. All together, I was in intensive care for 3 weeks. Due to medications, I was not in any pain during this time.

Over the next 5 months, I regained my strength, and even was able to start walking again. I was back to my level of fitness, and feeling great. On my follow-up checkup at 6 months, I was told that where my Aorta had dissected I had a major aneurysm, and needed surgery as soon as possible to repair it.

On December 8, 2010, I had thoracic aorta replacement (approx. 8 inches), and am thrilled to say I’m doing well. Re cooperation took about 3 months, and 6 months later, I’m back to exercising as I was prior to the dissection. I’m looking forward to my 9 month checkup to see my progress and to verify the status of my aorta – now both descending and ascending.

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!)

Gisela Hsiao-43

Name: Gisela Hsiao
Age at time of Dissection: 43
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 23 November 2010
Tell Us Your Story: Stanford Type B Aortic Dissection

Hi, my name is Gisela Hsiao, 44, live in Las Vegas, here is my story:

I always remember that day when I first had chest pain on Nov 23, 2010 : I just came back from lunch break around 1:00 and sitting in my office, suddenly I heard a continuous bubbling from my stomach to heart then a shooting pain hit me. I was working as an accountant at one casino in Vegas, during that time our secretary stopped by and found that I was in serious pain. She reported to my boss and called 911 right away.

Within 10 min. 911 came, they examined me only could find that I had very high BP (206/168) but my heart was fine. They suggested I should go to the ER. At first I didn’t want to go to ER, heard too many misdiagnosed stories there besides I felt that chest pain not really hurt any more, but my boss and co-workers insisted I should go to ER for thoroughly checkup specially for the chest pain…

Around 1:30 pm I was on 911 car to the nearest Hospital, the 10 min. drive became very long because of heavy traffic. At 2 o’clock (still in 911 car) I felt another shooting pain hit me that made me crying out loud, the Nurse gave me one Morphine but in vain when I was shouting “I don’t wanna die”, he gave me the second one which worked and I calmed down a bit…

When arrived in Hospital ER,my BP was still very high and they examed me thoughly from X-ray, Ultra sound then CT scan, MRI , they found out what caused me chest pain: a very long tear inside my aorota from heart to stomach, it was 8:00 pm already. But there’s argument between surgeons, one wanted surgery and the other one didn’t! Eventually they agreed to sent me to CCU for medical treatment first since there’s a biggest tear (6 cm) too close to my heart…

I was in CCU for 15 days and never thought it would be that fetal seriously ill. Before this, I don’t know anything about Aortic Dissection even though the Nurses tried to explain until I returned home and did some research both in Chinese & English that’s the the time I realized I could die at any time if I don’t receive any treatment…

My doctors told me that my high BP contributed this Aortic Dissection: Yes, I had hypertension since April 2008 ( I was 41) and both my grandmother & father died of hypertension caused dieases. And in Sep 2008, I was pregant with my 3rd child which also contributed too, I think!

After 6 months released from Hospital , I had the scheduled CT Scan on May 16, 2011 and the result stays stable which made me happy but my heart doctor suggested that I should consider a repair surgery and referred me to Endovascular Surgery Center @ USC in L.A. I supposed to receive a surgery today, Jul 18, 2011 however the Nurse @ USC called me last Monday to postpone it because some sergeons wanted to review more my medical record…

I don’t know how I should feel now: in my heart I really don’t want a surgery but in long term I have to do “something” to protect my artery from rupture. I started to train my 15-year-old daughter to clean the house and take care of her 2 young brothers if I die…

Right now I stay home, barely go out, sometimes I drive to pick up kids if my husband can’t make it, feel tired and fatigue all the time,sometimes I feel munbness in my legs and arms, I even can’t take care of my 2-year-old boy by myself (he’s in Day Care !) I applied SSDI last December, got denial in Mar 2011 then sent appeal in May 2011 just received a denial letter today…

This is a really slow progress, I don’t know how (or what) to do next…

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!)

BTW, does anybody know if you did not get approval from SSDI after all will your life insurance company discontinue your LTD (long term disablity) income??? Thanks!

Gisela in Vegas

Laurie French Haas – 43

Name: Laurie French Haas
Age at time of Dissection: 43
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 6 March 2010
Tell Us Your Story: Laurie French Haas – 43

March 2010 – DeBakey Type III dual descending aortic dissection

On the evening that my dissection occurred, I was sitting at my computer working on a project. A sudden pain hit me. The pain was like no pain I’ve ever felt before. It was a stabbing, tearing chest pain and it caused me to lose my breath. When I tried to stand up I fell down because my feet were numb. I called to my daughter and my husband. I thought it must be a heart attack. I could think of nothing else that it could be. The pain was mind numbing.

I was 43 years old, no history of heart disease, a non-smoker, I averaged a blood pressure of 110/70 and my cholesterol was normal. I was very healthy or so I thought.

My husband called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived I was still on the floor in a curled up, with my shoulders rolled over kind of position. I could not lay down because the pain intensified if I did.

At the Emergency Room (a University Trauma Center), the emergency doc said that the EKG ruled out a heart attack. He then took a chest x ray and asked me if I had pulled any muscles. I told him that I had not injured myself and that this pain did not feel like a pulled muscle at all. I was misdiagnosed and sent home with Tylenol 3 for a pulled muscle.

I knew that there was something else wrong with me because the pain did not go away. In fact, I didn’t sleep at all. I was convinced that I was dying. It was horrible.

I contacted my internal medicine doctor the next morning. She believed it might be some type of hernia. You know, I don’t think the ER doc or my internal medicine doc ever checked the pulses in my different extremities. Now that I’m a survivor, I know that could have pointed out the dissection. She told me she was sending me for a CT scan and left the room. The nurse came back in and said the CT was scheduled for the following week. I burst into tears and told her I couldn’t wait that long. She left the room, spoke with the doctor and they got me the CT appointment for the next morning. I guess she realized just how much pain I was in.

Next day, my husband took me to the same hospital that I had been to before. The CT scan was completed and they met me with a wheelchair at the CT machine. The radiologist said that they had found a problem.

They rushed me to the trauma bay and told me that my aorta had dissected in two places and that I must have emergency surgery. I remember them telling me that it was dangerous surgery, but that there was not an option. I would die without the surgery. The bad news was that the hospital didn’t have any of the necessary Dacron patches and they would have to wait for one to be brought in from a city an hour’s drive away. The good news was that the surgeon who would be operating had trained with Dr. DeBakey and he was one of the best. He would do a thoracic endovascular repair (TEVAR) of my aortic dissection.

I had no idea what any of this meant. I remember just saying to them, “Thank God you have figured out what is wrong with me!”

So we waited in the trauma room for the Dacron patch to arrive. By the time I was taken into surgery, my minister, my mom and dad, my best friend and my sister had all arrived. They must have given me tons of pain medicine. My minister tells me know that I gave her specific instructions about my funeral in case I died, up to and including the fact that I wanted rosemary for remembrance on my casket. I do remember telling my husband that I wanted to be an organ donor. I knew how bad this was. I knew that anything that caused this much pain must be horrible.

My husband says that after I was taken into surgery they told him how bad it really was. My friend tells me that my poor husband looked white as a sheet for the entire 6 or 7 hours the operation took.

The surgery was a success. I spent a week in CCU and that was an ordeal that I’d never want to repeat again.

I was out of work for about 8 weeks. I teach at the University level. I felt very, very weak for a long time. They kept my blood pressure very low, which contributed to the weakness I believe.

I only took thyroid medication before the dissection. I am now on blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medicine, anti depressant medicine, a reduced dose of thyroid medicine and a baby aspirin. I fight fatigue everyday. I have gained probably 35 lbs since the operation. Some days it’s just hard to get going. Before my dissection it never would have occurred to me to take a nap. I would now take a nap everyday if I could.

I am lucky to be alive. I do not feel like the same person I was before my aorta ruptured.

I have had continuing problems with restricted blood flow to my right carotid artery. My arm and hand goes numb when I do any repetitive activity. I feel weak and tired most days. I am terrified of the medical system because I was initially misdiagnosed.

I had a one year CT study to evaluate my graft. My surgeon says my aorta looks wonderful. I do have to have a carotid arterial bypass surgery to repair the arterial restriction to my arm. Of course I am not looking forward to this surgery at all. I have avoided this second surgery for the past year, but the surgeon told me today that my fingers look blue and the restriction has worsened. He said I am at risk of losing my fingers if I don’t have the surgery.

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!)

I thank God everyday for my life. I also harbor continued anger that I can’t seem to get back to normal. It’s a long slow journey.

Pam Windisch-45

Hi, my name is Ken and Pam was my wife.

On Aug 7 2007 Pam was taken to the emergency room for sever lower back pain. I requested that she be taken to our regular hospital.The paramedics said with a pulse of 40 she was going to the nearest hospital. When she arrived at the ER she was treated for back pains.
The Drs scanned her and did the normal X Rays and found nothing. The pain medicine she was give didn’t do anything to ease her pain. Once the Drs decided that there was nothing wrong they were ready to admit her.

I requested she be transferred to our regular hospital. At that point all treatment was stopped. What a great thing request a transfer and you become useless to them.

Once Pam was transferred to our hospital and was in a level of comfort I went home and left Pam with her sister. While Pam was visiting with her sister her GP came by to check upon her. While he was there Pam went code blue. With the aide of a ultrasound and a X Ray it was determined that Pam was dissecting on the descending aorta and need surgery.

I was called arrived at the hospital in time to see her being rushed into surgery. After ten hours of surgery and massive blood lose Pam survived the surgery. Pam was a miracle survivor from the Drs standpoint.
Since her initial surgery Pam has had her aortic arch replaced by Dr Sevenson and her abdominal aorta replaced by Dr Coselli. Pam also had a few stents for small aneurysms.

It has found that the root of Pam’s problem was caused by Ehlers- Danlos syndrome and Loeys Dietz Syndrome.

On Oct 7 2009 Pam passed away after having a piece of her aorta ripping and causing a blockage that caused a heart attack. This time Pam was unable to survive surgery.

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!)

Random Type B Dissection Post-47

Being 47 years of age on 9 April 2005 I went to the hospital with terrible chest- and later back pain. I was diagnosed with Aortic Dissection type B. My wasn’t taken for 25 years or so. When they took it it was 180/110 but of course I was in death-fear. Stayed in hospital for almost 6 weeks. They did not operate me but gave me a lot of bp meds.

I was a chain smoker but stopped smoking once in hospital. I thought: “Now or never” When I came out of hospital I was kept on and that first summer I remember having it always cold despite high temperatures outside. They did not give me a life expectancy and I read some things that said 8 years but that’s because most people get these dissections being older the 70 so 8 years is even normal then.

It’s more then 5 years ago now. I’m still not smoking (also no trouble with it) but I kept being a social drinker. Slowly diminished medication both on advice and my own judgment. Still blood pressure is 120/80 despite little medication.

I must say I feel better then before the dissection occurred !At this moment I see no reason why my life should be shorter then without dissection. I get an MRI scan every year and it shows no changes till now so that’s OK.
It’s unlikely the aorta will expand and rupture unnoticed between scans.

So far my story
author unknown

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Janel Denny-47

Personal Stories: Janel Denny

In the Spring of 2001,I had an Aortic dissection at the age of 47 (same thing that the actor John Ritter died of) , It seemed like it took me a long time to feel like my old self…. I went back to teaching elementary school Physical Education after 6 months after my dissection. At the time I was not sick enough to get Social Security, but my doctor felt that teaching was too stressful for my heart. I retired early from Warren Township but not the State of Indiana. I have not reached the rule of 85 yet. I have 28 years of teaching and I am now 54 years old. September 20, 1954 is my birth date. The year I turned 50 in September, I had to turn 50 by July to be eligible for the Warren Township retiree insurance program so I missed it by three months to get the Warren health insurance for a dollar a year. Warren Township schools and the State of Indiana made the change in the insurance policy to the VEBA account.  My VEBA account ran out in two years.

Warren personnel director Jim McLochlin, told me that I would quality for the Disability Insurance with the Huddleston company.. needless to say, you have to be on your death bed to get that coverage. My family doctor signed the papers, but I was turned down. And at the time I was so stressed out that I just retired.  Bitter that I did not get my retirement health insurance…I can buy it from Warren for around $600 a month….needless to say with my heart I need insurance.   I had and have always followed the rules in life. I just feel like someone could find a way to get my insurance paid for me… that someone at MSD Warren would have stepped up to the plate and said this is not fair.

I have written a number of letter and they are all going to some black hole. I keep thinking that someone will look into this matter for me and give me some support.

I am sure you think I am some kind of nut. I should just be happy to be alive.

I have read your web page….and I feel so lucky to have been at St. Vincent’s hospital here in my home town of Indianapolis…. I went in on a Monday night and they ran tons of tests on me…….and finally on Friday of that week they found my Aortic dissection after a swallow test.  To be fair to St. V’s…. I must have had a blood clot go up into my brain when the dissection started….they thought I had sometime going on in my brain, or that I was on drugs.  I was a combative patient in the Emergency room…spent the first day at St. V’s in the Psysco Ward.  I can’t tell you how many test I had run on me that week.  I could have ended up like so many dissection patients do, get sent home to die. Thanks for all you do for all of us and for our friends and family. I am one lucky person…but honked about the insurance.  Keep up your good work!

Janel Denny

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