Category: Seventies

Cheryl Symonds-71

Name: Cheryl Symonds
Age at time of Dissection: 71
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 16 February 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

Hello, my 71 year old mother, Claire, swam 3x a week, hiked, fished, walked, rode her bike, and suffered a major a.d. While on a volunteer shift at the medical center where she helped out several hours every week. She fainted, did not appear to have any warning signs that we’ve heard.

She never smoked, drank a little wine here and there, ate well, never any b.p. medication or concerns, had a healthy physical 1 month prior. I’m not sure yet the type of dissection, need to speak to my father more. She immediately was paralyzed on her left side, lost her kidney function, and lost consciousness about 1 hr after they airlifted her to a larger hospital from the med center.

She continued to breathe on her own, b.p. remained good until near the end. She passed 3 days later in the hospital, peacefully and without pain thanks to the I.v. Meds. It was a complete shock. Her father suffered a similar incident at the same age, however he was a heavy smoker and drinker, so I think my mother wasn’t concerned for herself as she was not.

They did find my grandfathers and repaired it and he lived another 10 years. I am wondering for myself and my 2 sisters, should this be a big concern now with our family history? What is the appropriate age, if any, to start requesting tests for ourselves so that we may end up with different results? Thank you.

Joy Ockerman-72

Name: Joy Ockerman
Age at time of Dissection: 72
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 January 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Was in the hospital having minor surgery when my dissection happened. Doctor was to go into right renal artery to put a stint in to open the artery more. Something went wrong, I woke up screaming in pain.. A CT showed Aortic Dissection.

Also lost blood flow to my right leg at that time. Was air flighted to Salt Lake city hospital, where I spent 12 days. I am just starting to get strength back now {5/9/12}.

I would like to find and talk to anyone who has had endovasvular tube graft surgery, as this is being talked about for me by doctors.

Ann Quinn Phyfer-72

Name: ann quinn phyfer
Age at time of Dissection: 72
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 20 October 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

Iwas bending over my laptop, which was on the floor. I felt what I thought was an electric shock going through my body. I jumped up and ran to tell my husband what was happening to me. He’s a physician and said he would take me to the ER. I said no, the pain isn’t as severe as it was–it feels like I’ve got a knife in my back. The fact that it kept getting better but stayed made me underestimate it.

It was hard to get into a comfortable position. I finally, after three days, went to an emergency med service and the doc asked me why I had waited so long and I told her I thought I would die. She said I needed to get to an ER and should get into an ambulance NOW. After an hour in the ER, I was told I had had an aortic dissection, descending. I was in intensive cardiac care for ten days. I stayed on the couch or in bed for six months, gradually building up my walking distance by making trips through the house.

I read the statistics and couldn’t believe I had made it so far. I read a research study on the internet about mice that are bred to have aortas that dissect easily so that they can learn how to make their aortas stronger. They fed the mice about 24 supplements, and I ordered them all. I took the supplements and by July I felt well enough to go alone to Cleveland Clinic to see if I needed surgery.

They said I’d been through a lot but blood was flowing through the partially thrombosed false lumen as well as the true lumen. I had refused my regular physician’s urging that I would have to take a blood-pressure lowering med or I would die. Those meds made me feel I had already died so I stopped them. It has now been about 16 months since the AD and I feel better than I did before it. I’m still taking the supplements!

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

Raun Rasmussen-77

Name: Raun Rasmussen
Age at time of Dissection: 77
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 27 May 2005

Tell Us Your Story: At 8:30 am I was dressed and leaning over the end of the bed to tie my sneakers. I raised up, and stood up, and felt a great pressure across my chest, and then across my shoulder blades and then, across my lower stomach. I wondered whether I was having a stoke or heart attack and felt like laying down again but, remembered an article I had received, explaining the difference between stroke and heart attack. So, I went into the office and started looking through medical files, with no result.

Then, I turned on the computer and started to look at the Mayo Clinic Web site information, when my wife came in. When I explained, she said let’s go to the hospital. As it turned out, a Partner of my Cardiologist was in the Hospital and responded to the E R and asked them to do a CT.

The result is, that they found a Type B dissection running all the way to the groin, with one kidney being serviced by the False Lumen and the left kidney serviced by the True Lumen.

Setting aside the time I spent in hospital, I have, for 5 years now, taken a regimen of drug pressure reducing meds which seem to have kept me in a reasonable shape. I have periodic CT scans, (without contrast, because of its impact on the kidneys).

My recent measurements are 6 cm in the Distal Arch, etc. While I have arranged for a Surgeon, I doubt that I would want to risk having a procedure that had the risk of making me unable to control my fate. I have now survived for 5 years. The Blood Pressure meds are a brutal impact on breathing and energy, but I am enjoying my children and grandchildren.

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!)

Gordon McKinzie-73

Here I am, probably lucky to be alive, just three weeks after the “event.”  I am a 73-year old man in what I consider to be reasonably good shape for my age — I swim regularly, do strength exercises, and take power walks when the weather is right. I have never smoked and drink only socially.

I do have an elevated BP and take Atenolol on a daily basis.  But, while sitting benignly watching TV, I felt an intense heat in my lower back, like I was pressed up against a heating pad on steroids.  I jumped up and tried to walk around to shake it off (even used ice packs), but that didn’t work.  I vomited everything I had, suspecting that it might be food poisoning, but that didn’t work either (I was not nauseous at any time).  I went to bed, but couldn’t get comfortable, so made my way downstairs and tried to manage the pain.  Although the pain was radiating up through my abdomen, pushing and prodding in that area didn’t offer any relief.  Finally, at about 3AM my wife (a retired RN) insisted we go to the ER at our local hospital.

There they (fortunately) got to me right away and did a cat-scan, which showed an aortic dissection from the top of the arch down into the groin area.  My BP at the time was 206, but they cautioned that it was elevated in large part due to the pain and the anxiety. I was cold and clammy and sweating profusely. Soon I was given an IV drip for the pain and was soon in an ambulance speeding down into Seattle to Harborview Medical Center, a Level 1 trauma center that services most of the Northwest, including Alaska.

The vascular team, led by Dr. Thomas Hatsukami, also a professor at University of Washington Medical School, met me in their ER and quickly started me on BP-lowering drips.  I was three days in ICU, and two days in the surgical ward where two stents were placed to relieve any blockage in the groin area. I am home now monitoring my BP like a hawk and feeding the results to my private doctor, who is tweaking the med inventory to keep the BP between 100 and 120.  Occasionally the BP goes too low, which can cause dizziness and disorientation.  I have had one follow-up session with Dr. Hatsukami, and he did a stress test and ultrasound — no problems there.  But follow-ups with him every 3 months will be part of my life from here on out.

I was not aware of the critical nature of this attack until the doctors began filling me in with details.  I asked my own personal physician if he had ever seen an aortic dissection, and he replied “only during autopsies!”  That was a sobering disclosure, underscoring the time-critical aspect of what had happened.  In retrospect, we should have called 911, but fortunately at 3AM my wife had a pretty clear track to the ER.  Dr. Hatsukami cautioned me that if I ever have intense pain across my chest, abdomen, or in my legs, to not ask questions but call 911 immediately, since a four-hour “window” is about all I would have available to effect a good recovery!

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!)

Sewall Shurtz-73

Brian, my compliments!! My name is Sewall Shurtz and on 2/23/2007 at 2:24 am my Aorta ruptured and I had a AAA descending dissection. They say that my Aorta just blew up from top to bottom. At the time I was working about 19 hours a day, was in the beginning of a divorce, etc. I am a United States Olympian. Was 4th in the 1956 Olympics and was running my own club. Knowing the after results, I am certain you can understand what I went threw. It is ALL RELATIVE. WE ALL handle it our own way. I have what they call a “leaker” aneurysm just above where the aorta enters the heart.

I consistently measure 4.4cm on the C scan and the vitals stay in the teens and one twenty over 65 range. Thank god for beta blockers. I think the frustration is that, as my cardiologist said to me “… can do whatever you like EXCEPT compete or exert to that level because if you do, the aneurysm will tear and you will die.” I find the problem is, what is the danger level and how do I know it.

The famous heart surgeon Ted Dietrich in AZ told me not to worry, yearly C scans will show if we need to put a “sleeve” on it. Understand that the operation is non invasive (thank God not to be cracked open again) and done much like a stent. However,it is pretty much recognized that there are not that many surgeons that do the operation. I live in Sacramento and am near some strong thoracic surgeons.

I really do not want to have that leaker tear open. I coach on a limited basis and at a very reduced level. I stay below 2,000mg of sodium and watch my life very closely. On a very realistic basis, have you seen any articles that even dare to guess at my longevity based on the AAA? I read once that less than 1% live with the explosion I had. My cardiologist says I am sort of special in that the length of the tear is pretty much unbelievable – as one surgeon said “your house was not yet ready.” Appreciate your time. I am all alone and I am certain you can appreciate the waters get rough.

God Bless


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

I was one month shy of being 74. No problem, I am happy to have it published. I have seen the pics and have what looks like a Teflon hose for a major portion. Apparently, one of the miracles of my survival is that there was no damage to the kidneys.

When it hit I was sitting down and I felt the tear in what would be my sternum (I do not have one from birth), it lifted me up and threw me some 6 feet on too the floor. It DOES get your attention. My daughter tells me that they lost me twice in ICU. I remember the paddles once, the rest is lost in 5 days of la la land. Also about two months of memory. No matter my friend – I am still VERTICAL!!


Mr Shurtz

There’s no real limit on how long you can live after an aortic dissection. I have patients who are 30 years out from their dissections and doing fine. There obviously is a risk of rupture but that is usually preceded by enlargement, so with careful monitoring and good surgical care(when necessary) it’s there is no reason to believe that you won’t be around for a long time. Most if the data on survival after dissections is limited by the overall health and the conditions that led to the dissection(htn, atherosclerosis) in the first place.

With regard to appropriate activity level – that depends very much on the exact nature of the dssection and the state of the aorta. In almost all cases competitive athletics is out due to tendency for people to push themselves to the limit when competing. Isometric exercise that involves straining is generally not wise as well since it tends to send the blood pressure up excessively.

David via iPhone

Curtis Collman-70

Personal Stories: Curt Collman

On Sunday, September 19, 2004 I got a phone call from my Dad saying “Could you come over here? I think I just had a heart attack.” I asked him if I should call 911 and he said,

“No, just come over here.” We got that call at 6:31 am and had him to the hospital at 6:45 am. He said he had what felt like a charley horse that went from his chest to his back down into his stomach and his legs. I noticed that he kept taking real deep breaths. The pain had lessened but he continued to have extreme pain between his shoulder blades.

His pressure was 226/108 when we got to the hospital, but his heart rhythms were good, his enzyme levels good, his EKG results good. But the Doctor kept asking questions and decided to do another test for either a pulmonary imbulus or an aortic dissection. The results were an aortic dissection. He has been in the hospital now in CCU for 9 days. Yesterday, he finally got his pressure down to the 130’s on only oral medication. His lungs still have a little fluid so they will keep him in CCU until they clear.

We have been told that the descending dissection is completely through to the pelvic area. The Doctor here has said it can be controlled with medication, but since a descending aortic dissection is not her area of expertise, he has been referred to a Doctor in Houston. Do you think surgery is even possible considering the length of the tear?

Updated: 11/1/2004

Update to Curtis Collom’s story.

My dad went back to work today! Hooray!!

After his dissection on September 19, 2004 we didn’t know what to expect. We recently went to Houston to see Dr. Joseph Coselli for a second opinion. Dr. Coselli told him that medicine is the best treatment for him. His dissection is from the right of the subclavian artery to the iliac. But, he has recovered well. He has some pain in his right leg when he walks due to some sheering at the iliac. He has lost his right kidney completely, but he didn’t lose his spirit. We continue to look at his condition as “The glass is half full.” Yes, he lost his kidney, but he has another and it wasn’t his brain, his liver, or his spinal cord. All of our news has been good!!

I would like to thank his friends, my family and especially the staff at Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma Louisiana. The ER Doctor made the right diagnosis and that is what saved my Dad. From everything that I have read, a dissection isn’t easily detected. So thank you, Dr. Newman.

The Doctor told my Dad that he may even play golf again in a couple of months and can go red fishing again.

Contact Curtis Collman

Thomasina McCain-75

Personal Stories: Thomasina McCain

Thank you so very much.  I am the person about whom the questions were asked.  Two years ago I had a very sharp chest pain….thought about it for a few minutes and then thought it would be wise to call medics.  Went to emergency.  Doctor had ekg done at bedside. I felt fine but was kept overnight.

Recently I had chest x-ray which excited the person who took it….he called radiologist.  They couldn’t believe I was not in pain. Called my admitting doctor (lung specialist).  CAT (?) was done twice.  I was admitted to hospital (even though I felt fine).  Thoracic doctor checked me out and could not believe I didn’t have pain anywhere.  Explained I had a very long dissected aorta@ 5mm. Echo=cardiogram was done.

My primary doctor was very concerned….she has been trying different medications to get my blood pressure down.  On my initial visit to her after this,  she said it was their fault that the records of the incident of my chest pain  two years ago were overlooked or they might have known that is when the aneurysm occurred and that is why I am not having pain now.

She said it was old and stabilized. She gave me medication to lower blood pressure which contains a diuretic and also I was given something to slow the pressure of the heart pumping the blood out.  I told all 4 doctors that I had several very heavy nosebleeds just before going in for the routine chest xray.  I was told it was not related.

The nose bleeds continued for 5 weeks….they happened with no warning……and lo, after increasing the 2 medicine dosages, the bleeds subsided and stopped altogether. (I am not medically educated but I still feel the bleeds were the result of the blood pressure….I have no sinus or other nose structure problems.)

Thank you for listening to all this.  I feel as though some help ……or education, should be given to me that isn’t.  So I am so grateful to have found you, Brian,  and appreciate that your friend David is so willing to work with people like me.  I am probably older than your Grandmothers so take special pride in hearing from you.

Thank you again, you both have been so helpful.


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

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