Category: Sixties Page 1 of 2

Dominique Pair-69

Name: Dominique Pair
Age at time of Dissection: 69
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 January 1916
Tell Us Your Story:

After a night with friends at the movie The Revenant, and feeling wonderful
Arrived home and began to feel like there was a vice tightening around my neck.

Living a mile from Emory University and Emory emergency room and realizing I was experiencing a very very strange sensation I jumped in my car
and drove myself to Emory emergency room having sent my boyfriend home

Miraculously I was diagnosed and in emergency surgery within 45 minutes with less than 50/50 chance of survival. Thanks to Dr. Steven Macheers,and team, Who happened to be on site for a conference that night he saved my life, and I feel wonderful today or year and a half later !!!!!

Tony Taylor-65

Name: Tony Taylor
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 3 March 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

I have been monitoring this excellent forum for three years, and I thought it was about time for me to weigh in here. I am doing it mostly to offer an alternative set of circumstances that can indicate an aortic dissection. In a nutshell, three years ago I had a small hemorrhagic stroke, and in the course of the diagnosis the doctors discovered that I had a Type B aortic dissection that extended “all the way down.”

The point I want to make is that my dissection was accompanied by no pain whatsoever; the stroke and dissection were completely unrelated. So in a sense that stroke was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. It revealed a serious problem that I might never have found out about until it was too late.

In the intervening three years I had an endovascular aneurysm repair, but I am fine. I have been lucky with no pain. From this point on it’s all about blood pressure control and being careful with what I lift and how I lift. So except for the initial few weeks of being scared, I have gotten on with my life with only a few common-sense changes.

Richard Reed-65

Name: Richard Reed
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 22 April 2017
Tell Us Your Story:

I was on a motorcycle trip with a a good friend in rural Eastern Washington State. We were spending the night in a nice old hotel in Republic after a day of riding mountain passes, exploring small towns and enjoying the views of lakes, rivers and mountains. My friend Ed was in bed, finishing up his journal entries for the day and I went to take a shower. Bending over to wash my feet I felt like I had been stabbed in the chest by a bayonet.

I figured it was a bad case of indigestion and tried to go to bed. After 3 hours I knew this wasn’t right and woke up Ed, told him I was having chest pains and to call 911. Ed’s a test pilot, having served in the Marines, so he remained calm, took charge and got on the phone. After giving the operator our location and room number there came a knock on the door. Ed opened it to find the hotel owner telling us he’ll have the paramedics back right up to the door. Turns out he was the towns fire chief. Ya gotta love small towns.

They got me to the local hospital where all the typical heart tests came back negative. The on-call doctor, who happened to be the Chief of Staff at the hospital (them small towns again) noticed the chest x-ray showed an enlarged aorta and called for a medevac helicopter to take me to Spokane where they had an excellent cardiology unit.

By now I was on a morphine drip, and chatting with the flight crew of the helo. I wanted to try their night vision goggles as I am an engineer for the FAA and helped certify a few of these. Anyway, after arriving at Spokane they gave me another battery of heart tests including a stress nuclear test, only to find nothing wrong. FINALLY after a change in shift, the doc looked at my CT scan and knew I had a Type B Aortic Dissection, and immediately changed my meds and stopped the tests.

Spent two days in the hospital, then my wife who is a nurse drove me home to Seattle. A cardiologist at the hospital where she works took on my case and directed me to stay off from work for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks I started working part time and slowly increased my time, but finding it difficult.

Three months later I am back at work full time, and am doing OK. Still can’t lift anything heavier than a ham sandwich and can’t play with my grandsons, but they still like to cuddle and let me read to them or watch Pixar movies. And no riding motorcycles, which is a bummer but I am alive.

The couple who ran the hotel put my bike in their shop to keep it safe, and my sons drove over in my truck tow weeks later to bring it back home. Love them small towns, and they are now our friends.

I still have trouble keeping my BP low and am on a dozen or so pills. My job is stressful so my bosses and I are working on a plan to keep the stress low until I retire in January 2020. It bothers me not being able to take care of my home and turning these tasks over to landscapers, and worse, I took my truck to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. I always took care of my owns stuff and paying someone else to do it grates on me, but, I am learning to live with it. And my wife, what can I say? She saw angel. I see the doc for a follow-up i two weeks and will update this story.

Peter Rose-67

Name: Peter Rose
Age at time of Dissection: 67
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 10 January 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

Iexperienced what I initially thought was a heart attack a strong pulsating in my heart with Pain about 6/10 but it radiated to my back and pain intensified to 11/10. I lay on bed and my wife called an ambulance. I thought I was finished and said goodbye to my wife. The Ambulance took me to Taree Hospital in NSW Australia where they checked everything and gave me a CT Scan. They diagnosed a type A aortic dissection and at Taree they were unable to operate.

The ER doctor came and told me I was very sick and needed surgery. I asked what my chances of survival were and he said about 60% but I suspect he thought I was going to die. I was flown to Newcastle in a twin engine fixed wing air ambulance where I was instantly admitted to Intensive Care. I knew I was very sick when my family including Grandchildren suddenly started arriving in the ICU of a hospital which was 180klm from where they lived I was given Xrays ,Ultra Sounds and another CT Scan and after several days of lying in ICU they told me I had a Type B descending dissection and that they would not be operating.

The treatment was aggressive control of blood pressure with regular CT Scan to monitor situation. After several weeks in Hospital I was able to come home. Initially I experienced some pain in my upper legs when walking more than 50-80 steps and I thought this was deconditioning caused by being in a hospital bed flat on my back for several weeks but later found out it was because the blood flow to my legs had been compromised. Apparently I am lucky because people can experience Kidney. lung and other organ failure as a consequence of aortic dissection.
I am now stable ( touch wood ) taking pills each day.

I live with the pain in my legs but try to exercise when possible. Apparently my aorta has about 50% effective blood flow and my legs have less. I feel tired all the time and some days have difficulty getting the energy to get out of the chair.Its difficult to get GOOD Information as most GPs don’t have up to date knowledge on the condition and the specialist I see every 9 months only rely s on his notes.

Recently I found that I was getting side effects from the beta blockers and visited my GP who ordered blood tests and found a skin cancer on my shoulder which needs removing ,suggested I had a irregular heart beat but after 6 weekly visits I had to remind him that the reason I went to see him in the first place was a Type B dissection and side effects of the drugs. I am lucky to be alive 3 years later but I wish there was more information available about my condition.

Mike Koutras-61

Name: Mike Koutras
Age at time of Dissection: 61
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 14 October 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

This is mikes wife writing his story. On 10/12/14 my husband was sitting down to watch the falcons game and had a extreme pain on the right side of his neck. He complained of having a really sore throat. This just seem to get worse by the hour, so i sent him to the doctor the following morning first thing. She looked in his throat and said it
could be a throat infection an gave him antibiotics to take.

By that night he was not feeling much better and had a really hard time laying in the bed on his back . He sat up most the night , his breathing started getting labored and i kept asking him, please tell me how you feel and do you realize you are breathing labored ? Long story short .

We went to the ER, I told the doctors all i knew. We stayed in ER most of the day from about 11:00 am till close to 9:00 pm and then a nurse came in saying she had been instructed to give him BP with some pain medicine through a iv and stand with him to administer every 5 min. Well the first five , and my husband sat up straight, seem to think clearer and started cracking jokes. All i knew then was it has to do with his heart.

Then around 9:15 they said we need to move him because the ER was getting full. By 9:30, he was on the OR floor and shaving him, saying Their is no bigger surgery than what this man is going to have and we
have no time to waste, we are talking seconds because its amazing that this man is even alive, we could lose him within the next second no joke!

Surgery 7 1/2 hours . My husband had a type A ascending aorta dissection / Aortic aneurysm. He made it. At 61, my husband made it.

I am thankful for this site, seems this world does not have enough information on this condition.

Caroline’s Dad-69

Name: caroline Fleming
Age at time of Dissection: 69
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 5 February 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

My dad was a fit, healthy and handsome man all his life – 69 years young, he was a picture of health and could have passed for 50.
Dad was a great father and fantastic grandfather. Full of positive energy and fun.

On the late afternoon of 5th February 2015 he complained of pains in his chest, lower back and abdomen. The pain was so strong that he was taken by ambulance to the A & E department of Tallagh Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
An ECG was carried out – this rule out the possibility of a heart attack. The focus after this was predominantly on my dads abdominal pain.

Morphine and anti acid medication was administered. The diagnosis was a bad case of indigestion – At approx. 2:00 am 6th February the medical staff offered my dad some tea and toast and then discharged from hospital – an odd time to be discharged, 2:00 am, but nevertheless – they were clearly happy to let him go. Within a half hour of leaving the hospital my dads pain worsened and he returned via taxi to the A & E at Tallaght Dublin – he was given more pain relief and a chest X – ray on 6th February at around 5:30 am – The X – Ray showed a widening of the aorta and it was this that lead the staff to the definitive diagnosis – Aortic Dissection Type B – My dad then waited for a CT Scan carried out at around 8:30 am.

It was decided that surgery was necessary BUT dad need to be transferred to the St James Hospital Dublin where they had the facilities to deal with such emergency surgery – Dad passed away during surgery – I feel saddened by the misdiagnosis – Medical staff seem to be ill informed about this condition and think it is a rare condition – I believe the condition is NOT so rare but rather medical staff and general public are not made sufficiently aware of the condition. For all those who have died of a massive heart attack – we have no idea how many were actually aortic dissection unless postmortem exams are carried out. Aortic dissection is often wrongly diagnosed – I am told because it presents itself in many different ways – Terrible pain to the Chest ,Back and Abdomen are classic presentation – A CT scan was not offered to my dad – Apparently the hospital can’t offer a scan to everyone who complains of a pain. His pain was extreme enough to be administered morphine.

Dad is dead now – but i can’t help thinking that if people were more educated and informed he may have been given chance – The misdiagnosis of this condition must stop. It is one of the most serious medical emergencies a person can have – So please STOP misdiagnosing this killer – as for rare…rare relative to what ?? More people die each year of Aortic dissection than we really know – and what we really know is that more people die of aortic dissection than of aids. We need perspective on this killer and all A & E staff the world over should be aware –
My dad TIM FLEMING was loved by many and he will be sadly missed – what a beautiful human being , who loved life and had so much more to give.

Marc Janis-65

Name: Marc Janis
Age at time of Dissection: 65
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 December 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

Over the years I have tried to maintain a level of fitness which would benefit my health and also set an example for the athletes I coached on the high school level. At age 65 I was still training for half-marathons and worked out regularly in the gym. A routine checkup with my heart doctor in Sept. led to an abdominal ultrasound since my birth father hadan abdominal aneurysm It was discovered that I had a 3.5 cm. aneurysm in my left side iliac artery. I was immediately referred to a vascular surgeon who placed me on beta-blockers and ordered a CT-scan. It was then discovered after the scan that I had an enlarged iliac artery on the right side. The surgeon recommended surgery within three months. He also suggested that due to my level of conditioning he was confident that I could handle the open surgery which would allow him to remove both aneurysms and graft a dacron tube/artery in place.

When I asked if I could still workout prior to surgery he said yes but cautioned me to keep my heart rate to 120 and below. I worked out everyday up to the surgery on the elliptical and occasionally on the treadmill. I did not do any lifting. Needless to say I was able to maintain my conditioning which allowed me to bounce back from the surgery in record time. What was suppose to be a 7-10 stay in the hospital turned out to be 5.

The surgery was a success and the doctor was extremely pleased with the outcome. After several days of walking at home I was back to the gym and the treadmill/elliptical in 9 days. As of this writing I still have until Feb. 13 before I can start lifting an running.

An interesting side note when I returned to the surgeon for my staple removal and checkup was that after he had me open and was removing the aneurysm on the right side was the discovery of an ulcerated area that was paper thin and would have been the spot that would have ruptured. He also removed my appendix so that another surgeon down the line would not interfere with the graft.

Several things standout in my mind concerning this experience.

1. Being adopted, I was able to find out some medical history about my birth parents.

2. Having that information prompted my heart doctor to order an ultrasound.

3. A highly skilled vascular surgeon who was confident in his ability.

4. All those years of working out paid off in allowing me to have the open surgery and recover at a much faster rate.

Finally I hope my story will reinforce the idea that fitness counts when faced with serious medical problems.

Doug Holmes-69

Name: doug holmes
Age at time of Dissection: 69
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 7 October 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

I awoke on the sofa with a strange pain down both sides that seemed skeletal rather than internal; funny, this is where i also awoke with vertigo about two years ago;eventually, the pain moved to my abdomen and was severe enough that i was sure it must be a gall bladder attack similar to what i experienced during the ’90’s;by afternoon, it was time for me to go to the pool for my daily exercises; i thought if the pain continued, i would detour to the emergency room which i did;there, they did a chest x-ray, as i remember, and some tests and released me with the proviso that i should go to the big hospital if pain worsened; i don’t think they had an mri machine;by that evening,

I was reluctantly headed to the big hospital with chest pains, too; they admitted me to a room, and i stayed there about 4 days; an mri or ct scan revealed an aortic dissection which i had never heard of; they kept me on morphine because pain raises blood pressure and gave me iv and pills;upon release, i was given a half dozen prescriptions which i didn’t immediately fill because i use united healthcare’s mail order with no additional cost for generics;the next day i was back in the e.r. with a non-stop nose bleed (which i’d also had a few years ago) and pain; the vascular p.a. (i think) was not pleased that i hadn’t immediately filled the prescriptions and said the vessel may have further damage, and i would die without the blood pressure under control;

They were most concerned about the systolic (upper number) being under 120, which i might have seen once in my adult lifetime! i always had thought the lower number (dystolic) was more important;they kept me another 4 days with the same deal as before; this time they released me with 10-days supply of meds which i’m taking religiously; btw, look at your med names and research if possible; one of these i was duplicating with other meds;i already had a 4.1 cm aneurysm of the ascending aorta (bad place), but i’m told there’s no intervention unless it reaches 5+cm;also, while in the hospital, i contracted pneumonia which led to deep, painful coughing;

JIM STERNOWSKI-67 (told by friend)

Age at time of Dissection: 67
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 May 2012
Tell Us Your Story:

This is the story of one of my best friends. He cannot tell it. Started at 12:30 pm, Wednesday the 16th, 2012, and went into the 17th. At 67 he was the vision of health and condition. No blood pressure, nor cholesterol nor any prescribed medication (pills). He took care of himself. At lunch he felt a sharp pain in his ear which led down his neck…took an aspirin. He then felt light headed, went to the nurse. His BP was 70/40.

Went to the local ER where after hours of testing he was finally diagnosed with a dissected aorta. Specialist called in. After discussion with my friend and his wife determined surgery was only option particularly after surgeon told them that, “…got it in time….90% successful….” Went into surgery at 9:30 pm Wednesday evening. After 13 hours of surgery my friend passed away. Wife was told the aorta walls were too thin to hold a stitch, etc. Less than 24 hours from start to finish. My friend’s wife will meet with the surgeon today to find out more. His wife, his family and I have never heard of this before.

This is surreal. The question all are asking is how can this happen to an individual who really,since we were teens, took care of himself: ate the right food, took the right vitamins, excercised, rode a bike for miles at a time, lifted weights. At the hospital, my friends wife was asked, ” Are you sure your husband is 67?”

Thanks for listening.

Kirk Kissack-62

Age at time of Dissection: 62
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 April 2011
Tell Us Your Story:

This actually a 2 part drama which began on March 7 while I was at home alone. The moment I awakened I had pain between my shoulders but had to drive our 17YO to school. We left early and I drove frantically the 6 miles to his school . As I dropped him off the pain briefly subsided and I raced home. My wife Julie is a Pharmacy professor and was in Savannah attending a conference. When I arrived home I tried to reach her on her cell several times to alert her that I might be having a heart attack.

After the 2nd or 3rd try she responded and I told her to get back to Arkansas as soon as she could as I was calling 911-probable heart attack. The ambulance came, they gave me a nitro pill and the pain stopped, which told me all I needed to know. In the hospital all day after balloon catheter and I came to as a cardiologist was telling me that I needed a 4 way bypass and that an ambulance would transport me 45 miles to Baptist Hospital in Little Rock. There the bypass was done by Dr F Michael Bauer.

I was released after 5 days and went home. Part 2 began a week later when I noticed that my vertical incision was weeping, back to Little Rock to Dr Bauer who tested the ooze and suspected MSRP or the hospital bug thats unique to hospitals. Readmitted to ST Vincents Hospital-also in Little Rock..where I had the pleasure of watching another doctor open my incision after just 2 side by side shots of a topical painkiller..then the real pain began. After a week of antibiotics I was released for home health care of more antibiotics administered by home health care nurses who taught me how to do it myself after a few introductory visits made easier by a port line that had been inserted in my shoulder at St Vincents..

This brings us around to April 11th and part 3 a day Ill never ever forget. After a leisurely day and evening , I arose from the chair after a few hrs of TV to experience another episode of between the shoulder blades pain this time searing and tearing. I awoke my Julie and we hurried to the local ER as the pain intensified. The cardiologist Dr Evahns-from round 1 was summoned as was my family DR who injected me w morphine at around 11:45PM.. this covered the pain for maybe 15 minutes and he indicated Id need something stronger. They prepped me for a CT scan w contrast..which seemed to take forever as nothing but nothing was covering this intensifying pain. In 2005 I had had a 3 level spinal fusion after 15 months of sit & spinal pain but this was in a different league. I’m a senior softball player and had played over 400 games in 15 yrs and had returned to the ball field in 2006 a yr after the spinal fusion but this pain was an entirely new dimension as Julie & I struggled for 6 hrs in the ER trying for me to get the pain covered. The time dragged but sometime in the early am before dawn Dr Evans told me that I had an aortic dissection and that I would have to be life flighted back to ST Vincents in Little Rock and shortly after dawn the pilot co-pilot arrived and I was morphined again then packed in the LOH type hello_I think it was as Im also ex military then it was off to Little Rock , a 20 minute flight.

Upon arriving, once again Dr Bauers staff prepped me and I tried to joke while I mumbled the 23rd Psalm. Im told that Dr Bauer came to see me before I went under and told me I had only a 30% chance of waking up or surviving, but I forgot all about that as the anesthesia finally kicked in. That was Tue April 12th…..

I THINK I came to several days before Easter Sunday..time became meaningless but my first recollection was my daughter talking with me and explaining what had happened and what hell Julie had gone through. I was groggy but soon learned that I had been kept in a managed coma for at least 5 or 6 days and had barely survived. Our eldest son had arrived from Florida so that he could transport our 17 YO to and from school while I was in the hospital.

I remained in cardiac intensive care for the remainder of April. The care was top shelf but I absolutely loathed being stuck in the arm nearly every day for bloodwork. This process became more difficult as it seemed as if my veins either disappeared or collapsed making the ordeal more difficult. That time in recovery seems like a blur now as Ive forgotten the day to day details. Julie drove every day during visting hours, a 100 mile roundtrip and the stress and horror of what had happened was etched on her face. The thought of her was all that kept me going as the days rolled on. After nearly 3 weeks I was eager to go home but it was apparent that I couldn’t walk. I also had some nightmares, and believed that Julie had deserted me and that other people were living in our home and called friends around the nation on my cell. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and the nightmares were straightened out before I could call police or 911.

I was released to a private room in late April, and Julie came to stay with me while we determined where I would go for physical therapy rehab.During this time tornado’s and storms raged throughout Arkansas to Alabama. Our daughters city of Huntsville was without power for a week and some of her husbands relatives lost their homes to the storms. It was surreal as flood waters raged outside throughout Arkansas I was trying to begin recovery.

On May 2, we were released after a battery of tests determined that somewhere during the operation, I had also had 2 small strokes. Julie and I headed back to the hospital in our town, where Id begin PT rehab. The i hour trip took nearly 3 hrs as we had to detour far to the east of Little Rock to circumvent the flooded freeway.

The care in PT rehab was amazing as the staff began immediately to teach me to walk again , along with occupational therapy. Soon after I was able to finally shower on my own and use the toilet unassisted. ON May 15 I left to go home, the first time I had been there in more than a month. I cannot say enough for the PT rehab staff in their efforts to get me literally back on my feet.

On June 1st we met with Dr Bauer in Little Rock for a CT scan w contrast media. He was pleased as my aorta was “doing fine”. He was really somber as he recapitulated the operation and what a close call I had had. I was on the table for nearly 11 hrs and at one point he had to tell my wife that I might not wake up. I had bled profusely and it had taken herculean efforts to stop it and to close my aorta. He mentioned that finally Divine Intervention had finally stopped the bleeding and closed the aorta. He noted that my operation was one of the top 5 out of 20,000 he had done in terms of degree of difficulty and that my survival was miraculous.

In June, I began 3 months of cardiac rehab and worked up to going nearly 1 mile walking a treadmill in 30 minutes. In September, as cardiac rehab ended I joined a health club to continue my treadmill work. Dr Bauer had told me that Id be back on the ballfield in 2012.

More recently, Ive had issues with my BP as its been difficult to keep it constantly in the 120/80 range and thats a work in process. Thanks to God, Ive been blessed in my ordeal and recovery. I see no other explanation as to why I’m still here or able to do the many things I can do.

I recently drove alone on a 700 mile roundtrip to my daughters home in Huntsville to see her and our grandchildren. Im one of the lucky ones and my time in recovery & rehab allowed me to view far younger folks in far more dire straits that I was. Julie has been my ROCK throughout this ordeal along with the prayers of several church congregations round the nation.

I never saw the post trauma depression coming until it hit me in Mid August. I was able to see a therapist and talk through the process and emerge far better in December. My mother, who is 85 and in good health has told me that I’m a good genetic match for her older brother who had had a heart attack at 58, then a stroke. My dad passed away in 2001 from Alzheimer’s and had no apparent heart issues, although he was a lifelong smoker. In August my 51 YO cousin in NY state was discovered to have an 80% blockage in the widow maker artery requiring stents. We discussed our family heart history , but came up with no conclusions

Each new day is a gift..I remain very very LUCKY Whenever something I cant do-like softball-arises, I am mindful of all I CAN DO.

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

Richard Matson-66

Name: Richard Matson
Age at time of Dissection: 66
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 19 July 2006
Tell Us Your Story:

Iam a retired United Methodist pastor, who suffered an aortic dissection in 2006. My wife and I were dining out. While in the men’s room I suffered an extreme pain in my back. Somehow I made it out to the entrance area on my own. An ambulance was called and they took me to the Meijer Heart Clinic at Spectrum Health in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Here I was diagnosed as having the AD. Surgery was ruled out as being too dangerous, as my heart had stopped twice and I had to be “paddled” back to life. I was released from the hospital 34 days later and spent another 29 days in cardiac rehab therapy at Clark Retirement Community. The doctor there suggested I might have another 18 months to live.

That was over five years ago. Thanks to the teams at Spectrum’s Meijer Heart Center and Clark Retirement I now live as active a life as my other health issues allow. They tell me my aortic aneurysm has expanded to 7.6 centimeters in diameter. However, I have no feelings, symptoms, or pain related to the cardio-thoracic mechanism.

My family and I discussed surgery with a cardio-thoracic surgeon this summer, but we ruled it out as having too many negative side effects. Thus, I accept each new day as a gift from God and enjoy it to the fullest.

Thank you for this web site. It is extremely helpful and encouraging.

Richard L. Matson

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!)

Patricia Cornelius-67

Name: Patricia Cornelius
Age at time of Dissection: 67
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 November 2010
Tell Us Your Story:

I was visiting my daughter in Marina which is near Monterey, California for Thanksgiving. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, I was getting ready to go back home. I was in the shower when I had this horrible pain in my back that went from shoulder blade to shoulder blade and down to my buttocks. I though it was pain from a shoulder injury. I first injured my shoulder in December, 2008. I recovered from that but re-injured it in September, 2010. My doctor prescribed ibuprophen and it healed in about a month. Again I re-injured it in November 2010 while I was visiting my sister.

I went to my daughter’s the middle of November to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with her and her family. That’s where I had my attack. It happened around 10 am. She came home from work and took me to Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, commonly known as CHOMP. They did an EKG, which was normal, an MRI, which showed nothing. Then they did a CT scan and found I had a Type B descending aortic dissection. I had no idea what that was except they all seemed very concerned.

I was given medication to reduce my blood pressure and heart rate and also an anti-anxiety medication. They did another CT scan on 12/3/2010 and found there was no change from the first one. they did an echo cardiogram of my heart and found no damage there which was a relief. I was in ICU for six days and then moved to a regular room for two more days. I was discharged on Monday, 12/6/2010 and stayed with my daughter for the rest of December, coming home on 1/2/2011.

I was given Coreg and Felodopine and was told that my blood pressure needed to be kept at 110/70 and my heart rate at 78. I saw Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, a cardiologist, in San Jose, California, where I live. He increased my medications and referred me to Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California, where I saw Dr. Michael Fischbein. He was very helpful in letting me know that I could live my life as long as I kept my blood pressure down, ate a heart healthy, low sodium diet, make sure I didn’t lift anything more than ten pounds and exercised moderately.

The main problem I have is that this shoulder is very painful and I think that’s what’s causing my high blood pressure. I going to see Dr. Siddiqui tomorrow because he talked to Dr. Fischbein and they agreed that my medications need to be changed. Also, I’m going to an orthopedic physician on Monday so my shoulder issue can be addressed. Right now I feel that I’m living in fear that I won’t wake up in the morning and there’s no hope for me.

I think I’m depressed but this hasn’t been addressed except to my therapist. She suggested that I should be on anti-depressant medication. I’m so glad I found this website and hope I can gain some courage and live my life to the fullest.

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!)

Louis Buffetta-60

Name: Louis Buffetta
Age at time of Dissection: 60
Type of Dissection: Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 15 September 2010 Tell Us Your Story: SUMMARY:

I was hospitalized between September 15th and 26th, 2010 with a TAD (Thoracic Aortic Dissection). This is the same condition that killed John Ritter and Lucille Ball. Their dissection burst through the outer artery wall and they bled to death within minutes. I was luckier. My aorta ruptured internally. The inner lining tore away from the outer artery wall. It’s affecting the organs below my heart. Surprisingly, my heart is fine. My left leg and right kidney are most notably suffering because their blood supply is blocked. I’m extremely lucky to be alive – I guess somebody up there is watching out for me. Treatment is to keep my blood pressure very low for the next 4 to 6 months and see if my aorta heals itself. Surgery may or may not be required but only time will tell. I’m told that a full recovery is not expected for at least 24 months.


I had a heart attack way back in 2004 and have been fine until now. What happened is that I got caught unemployed and without medical coverage for the last couple of years. This is the first time in my life I had to go without any kind of medical coverage. I couldn’t get independent coverage because of a pre-existing condition (the heart attack). “Obama-care” gave me some hope because I knew somebody would have to accept me no matter what. But the bill simply didn’t kick in fast enough to help my case.

When I lost medical coverage I went off my high blood pressure meds. Bad move! That made me a ticking time bomb as my blood pressure normally runs at Stage 1 Hypertension (avg 157/97 – sometimes higher, rarely lower). I did my best to bring it down using supplements and other natural ways but it wasn’t enough in my situation. The lesson here is to never ever come off your blood pressure medications if you have high blood pressure.


There was a big difference in symptoms between this Aortic Dissection (TAD) episode and my previous heart attack. During my heart attack I felt pain in my chest earlier in the day but ignored it thinking it was simply strong gas pains. Later that evening the pain became intense and unrelenting. Pressure was building up in my chest. I realized what it was when the pain started shooting down my right arm. There were intense uncontrollable feelings of anxiety that came over me during the attack.

The Aortic Dissection pain was much different. The symptoms came on suddenly and severely. It felt like someone had just stabbed a large knife into my heart and was twisting and turning it inside my heart. The pain never went away but dulled a bit after 5 or 10 minutes – like the knife twisting and turning had stopped. The pain never shot down my right arm and I never got anxious. Then I started experiencing a different kind of pain moving down to my sternum area and later to just beneath my rib cage. That’s when my left leg start going numb. The more I tried to stand on it the more immobile and painful my leg became.

Just prior to the aortic dissection, I was under a lot of stress and strain. I was physically active all that week – more so than normal, climbing up and down ladders. I was upset over a few things. My blood pressure was higher than normal almost bordering Stage II Hypertension. The dissection occurred late at night when I wasn’t able to sleep.


At first I suspected a stroke or a blood clot restricting blood flow to my leg. I was able to dress myself and drive myself to the hospital. Thank goodness the ER is only 12 minutes from the house. There was a noticeable difference in the pulse between my good right leg and bad left leg. A quick ultra sound confirmed there was restricted blood flow in the left leg. I was wheeled into another room to do an angiogram on my left leg. However, I kept complaining about the pain that was moving down my chest and now across my rib cage. I described it as the most horrible and intense gas pains I have ever had. It was that moving pain that tipped off the doctor. He said he wanted to run a Cat Scan.

While being prepped for the CRT, my pain became more intense. They told me that I would feel a warm feeling in my body when the die was injected. My instincts told me something was seriously wrong because I never felt the warm sensation. I owe my life to that angioplasty doctor. Had he not ordered the CRT I could have been misdiagnosed and probably have died soon thereafter. It turned out I had a Thoracic Aortic Dissection with a descending tear. Most of my blood supply was being shunted through the section of inner artery that had torn away, known as a false lumen. They tried to describe it with the onion layer analogy but I finally got the picture when one doctor said it’s more like one long balloon inside another. And the inside balloon (tear) is handling the blood flow.


They wanted to fly me to a major regional hospital who was better equipped to handle this. No insurance meant the other hospital would not accept me. It’s just as well. Standard treatment for my particular dissection is to lower my blood pressure and get me on medications to control heart rate, cholesterol and blood pressure.

The false lumen was restricting blood flow to my right kidney and left leg. I was kept in the hospital for two weeks. I think they wanted to keep me longer but I insisted on going home. BTW, God forbid you ever have to go through this or know a loved one going through this, take the morphine. It was a Godsend for easing the pain, keeping me calm and lowering my blood pressure.


It feels like something came down a zapped all my energy. Getting out of bed and walking 50 feet became a major task. I’d be out of breath and would have to rest up for the return journey. One of my doctors explained that it was the medications. He said if a normal person were to walk up a flight of stairs, their body would compensate by raising the heart rate and blood pressure. The medications I’m on keep my heart rate low and keep my blood pressure down. My body can’t compensate like a normal person so I get tired. He said this will improve over time as my body adjusts to the medications.

Now my blood pressure hovers around 80/60. They want to keep it below 120/85. The next 4 to 6 months I must stay calm, not raising my blood pressure at any cost and allowing my aorta to heal itself. I’ve been home for about 4 weeks and I can feel my stamina gradually coming back. I can now walk around the house and take some short walks outside. My stamina is starting to return as I can do a little more over time. My left leg pains are not as severe and my back pain (kidneys) seems to be letting up. My limbs are not “falling asleep” (going numb) while I sleep supine at night as often as when I was first discharged.

When I first got home I was getting severe sharp pain in the ball of my left foot. The only relief was to keep the foot elevated in a recliner chair. Over time that pain has subsided into a dull ache. I can handle the dull ache and it does not restrict my walking. And it appears to keep improving over time. Things are getting better.


Everyone does the research. So did I and learned about the markers. So far I’ve made it past the 5 minute marker, 2 week marker and 30 day marker. I’m still alive and can feel some improvement as time goes on. My next marker is 6 months. We’ll see how the evaluation goes with the doctors. And after that my goal is to make the 2 year marker. The best any of us can do is taking it one day at a time. Who knows how far one can go? Each day is a blessing. And it’s nice to be here taking in all the beauty.


Right now I’m trying to get on Social Security Disability (SSI). Wish me luck. That will be a big help for the future.

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!)

Colin Walker-62

Personal Stories: Colin Walker


I was pleased to find your site. I have sometimes felt a little lonely and my condition is so rare that I feel a little like a freak and wonder how and why I am alive. It is nice to meet others who understand.

I suffered a catastrophic dissection of the abdominal aorta on 25th March 2003. I was taken to our local hospital in England, which is quite big and has a good reputation. I was treated by the National Heath Service, which sometimes comes in for a lot of stick, but I received kindness, devotion and excellent treatment throughout. Although the hospital building was only 40 years old it was showing its age and has since been completely replaced.

The blood pressure test that was given on my admission showed as normal but the nurse took ten minutes to get a canola into my arm as it had turned grey and the blood flow – and possibly pressure – was clearly much reduced. I was probably suffering massive hypertension.

My blood pressure was high for several days. At one point it was over 200/140 and was virtually immeasurable. The doctors then gave me medication to control it which I still take six years later.

No one in the medical profession will even discuss it but I suspect that the simultaneous use of fairly high doses of morphine, codeine phosphate and Ibuprofen contributed to the high readings of blood pressure. The doctors first priority was to manage the vicious pain that I was presenting.

Because of the rarity of my condition it took over three weeks to diagnose. The senior vascular surgeon, who had forty years experience, simply did not believe it was possible that I could have a dissection and still be alive. I clearly self-survived.

The condition was eventually defined by a CT scan and extended over a length of around ten inches. I asked the senior vascular surgeon if he would operate and he responded that he did not do miracles.

I had stabilised by this time so I considered that it was safer to leave well alone so I have never pursued the matter further. There seem to be few possible benefits for what would probably be major and risky surgery. At seventy years of age I do not need anybody tampering with my body.

I lay on my sofa for a year and my only exercise was walking but the slightest upgrade caused me severe breathlessness. Then I decided enough was enough and I went and spent the summer ripping the roof off my factory and renewing it. Then I spent several years removing several tons of various detritus that remained from ninety years of family engineering business operations. I did have a little help with this but did most myself. After about five years I was fully fit. I am sure my surgeon would have thrown his hands up in despair if he saw the things I was doing with ladders and scaffolds and bricks and bags of cement and joist and diggers and fork-lift trucks and cranes and skips. But it made me well again.

I was seventy last week and I finally dissolved my company and sold the business building so I have actually retired at last. But yesterday I spent several hours persuading my daughter to take over the manufacturing company she runs that was once an offshoot of my business. I have taken cautions first steps to investing in commodities on the stock market. I give PowerPoint presentations to local social groups on the history of my city and am preparing one for the local Astronomical Society on the Big Bang. I have also written my autobiography and am considering publishing options.

I am vice chair of our local Civic Society and spend a lot of brain power on considering how best to guide the development of our once bomb-destroyed city. In a more immediate situation I recently defended a local nurse who was threatened with being struck off in an horrendous witch hunt that would have made Salem look tame. Appearing in court as an advocate did not phase me at all but my body responded by going hypothermic and they had to wrap me in a large red fire blanket. Needless to say proceedings were suspended and a good walk in a nearby park in London brought my system more or less back into line.

I used to work eighteen hour days as standard but now I can only manage about ten hours. When I get too tired my back starts to hurt and I must rest. But otherwise my life is fairly normal for a seventy year old and I do not dwell upon my slight affliction. Most of my friends of similar age are in worse condition than I. I had a ultrasound scan last week and learned that I have an aneurysm in the abdominal aorta about six centimetres across but that it has not changed since 2006.

The doctors insist that my condition must have been caused by severe trauma but I had never suffered with high blood pressure and certainly suffered nothing on the day of the event. My life went onward and upward for sixty years without any major traumas that I could not handle. Then in the first two years of this millennium I suffered around twelve major life crises. In retrospect it is not surprising I finished up in hospital.

I have not changed my essential lifestyle but have retired and do only what I enjoy, not that I did not enjoy most of my life anyway. But sometimes things go wrong and they did for me in 2000 2002. Now I never get into conflict situations and have learned to lay back and take things easy. But I still have a lot of things to learn and do.

I hope this helps some of you others who have suffered this strange phenomenon of dissection – being undead so to speak.

Colin Walker.
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!)

Dr. Vilas A. Bidaye-66

Personal Stories: Dr. Vilas A. Bidaye,Baroda,India


Dr. Vilas A. Bidaye,Baroda,India

I was a fairly healthy individual till I reached 66 Yrs of age. I have a good athletic figure as I was involved in various sports activities and in regular swimming and lately morning walks. I have earned many medals in these activities since my childhood. I have very regular habits and am a non-smoker, though I rarely take a drink or two, once or twice in a year. I am a non-diabetic and have no high blood pressure any time.

I am a practicing Eye Surgeon and in this profession for last 45 yrs. I am a pioneer Implant Surgeon in this part of the country. I have traveled all over the world for various international conferences. There was no health problem any time during these activities.

On 21st Sept. 2003 I got up as usual and was getting ready to go for my regular swimming exercise. I was sipping my morning cup of tea and midway suddenly experienced a chocking sensation in my chest. I felt all my energy has drained out. I was sitting on the chair but had no energy to get up. Within few minutes every thing settled down and I could finish my tea. I felt my pulse and found it O.K., but both my hands felt so weak that I thought I may not be able to swim though I could now get up on my legs and walk around. The strength in the hands came back within 30 minutes and I felt alright. That day being a Sunday I could rest for the whole day. As I was feeling alright I avoided disturbing my Physician colleague on a Sunday.

After a full days rest I had a good sleep and got up nest day as fresh as ever. However I was rightly not allowed by my family to go swimming that day. Instead I went for a walk as it was my routine to take a walk on a swimming holiday. That day I met a young professional colleague and I walked briskly in his company. I was feeling normal and went home, had my breakfast and was ready to my hospital. My wife reminded me to visit my Physician friend and to make sure I do so, asked my doctor son to accompany me. As usual I did not wait for the lift and climbed the stairs. I felt nothing and was sure to get a green signal from my Physician.

He took the history, examined me and took an ECG. Finding some early changes in the ECG he did not allowed me to get up and straight way we headed for a Heart Institute where things were ready to receive me. I straight way went to I.C.U. and had to undergo a battery of tests. They diagnosed a 100% block in one main artery leading to my heart and advised for a angioplasty. It was immediately carried out with a medicated stent which was new then. Every thing happened so suddenly that there was no time to inform anybody at home though my son was with me. I saw my physician friend at 10.00 A.M. and my angioplasty was over by 12.30 noon. I then had a rapid recovery and was back to my routine in short time. This story I am narrating purposely to make you aware of the background.

I regularly followed my medications and check-ups and could even undertake a strenuous journey, organized by Govt. of India to Kailash Mansarovar, involving 200 KM of trekking in Himalayan range of mountains at high altitude. I could get through the initial thorough Medical Fitness tests carried out for one full day, at Delhi Heart and Lung institute. I could withstand this hectic journey without much difficulty. This was in August 2006.

Next two years were fine for me and I was enjoying my routine physical exercise and my professional work.

On 10th Aug. 2007, while in the swimming pool, doing my routine 50 meter underwater swimming, as a part of my regular exercise, and nearing to complete it, I experience a sudden, severe pain in the epigastrium, (where chest ends and abdomen starts) and I could barely reach the pool wall. I felt as if all my strength has drained out and I stood motionless in the shallow waters with the support of the side wall. After this underwater event I usually swim the whole length (50 Mt.) before coming out of the pool. That day, I got out from the shallow side and slowly walked out to change. The severe stabbing pain lasted for few minutes only and then there was dull pain. I could drive back home with that dull pain and could take my light breakfast before going to my clinic. At the clinic I examined few patients but the pain then started increasing and I thought it to be pain of cardiac origin. I immediately rang my Cardiac Interventionist who

made all the arrangements to receive me at the Heart Institute. I was straight away admitted in ICU and ran through battery of tests. By 12 noon he declared that this is not a cardiac problem. But my pain did not come down. I was restless and was changing from lying down to sitting up and even walking around, but the pain would not go. He rechecked everything once again and then referred me to a Gastro-enterologist.

The Gastroenterologist got me admitted in his hospital and gave me pain killers and then only I could go to sleep after few hours. He then did Gastroscopy and Ultra Sonography of Abdomen. He found tiny ulcers in my stomach and tiny stones in the Gall bladder and started treatment for the same. I was sent home with a diagnosis of acute cholecystitis (Inflammation of Gall Bladder) and the only treatment was surgery, to remove the Gall Bladder, which was deferred for 6 weeks because of inflammation. My pain was now intermittent but regular and could be relieved only by injection of pain killer. This pain lasted for a week and then I was alright. I once again started attending my clinic and shortly started my surgical work as well.

I had no fever any time and that created doubt in the mind of my clinician and he delayed the surgery. To get rid of any chance of this episode to repeat, I showed my eagerness for the surgery. He advised me for MRI study of the Gall Bladder. On the MRI, my Radiologist found this Aortic Dissection condition. He was a young doctor and was in dilemma how to tell me about this serious condition. He gave me the report and advised me to consult for this more serious condition and to forget about Gall Bladder which was normal. I was completely astonished now as I had never seen any patient of Aortic Dissection, so seeing the grave faces of my clinicians, I was confused. I was wondering why these people are so much worried when I feel absolutely hale and hearty. Then I combed the internet to find more about this condition. On the internet I could find the impression of general people about this dreadful disease. This disease has many varieties. Aortic Dissection may be Acute or chronic, affecting different parts of Aorta such as Ascending Aorta, Aortic arch and descending Aorta. Most of the varieties are very, very serious and have little survival chances. But all varieties are not equally grave. I am writing this story to let people know that all varieties of Aortic Dissection are not grave.

I could collect a lot of information from internet and our medical books and after that I could co-related all the above events that happened with me and now my version is as follows :

The common causes of Aortic Dissection are as follows :


Aortic dissection is associated with hypertension (high blood pressure) and many connective tissue disorders. Vasculitis (inflammation of an artery) is rarely associated with aortic dissection. It can also be the result of chest trauma. 72 to 80% of individuals who present with an aortic dissection have a previous history of hypertension.

The highest incidence of aortic dissection is in individuals who are 50 to 70 years old. The incidence is twice as high in males as in females (male-to-female ratio is 2:1). Half of dissections in females before age 40 occur during pregnancy (typically in the 3rd trimester or early postpartum period).

A bicuspid aortic valve (a type of congenital heart disease involving the aortic valve) is found in 7-14% of individuals who have an aortic dissection. These individuals are prone to dissection in the ascending aorta. The risk of dissection in individuals with bicuspid aortic valve is not associated with the degree of stenosis of the valve.

Marfan syndrome is noted in 5-9% of individuals who suffer from aortic dissection. In this subset, there is an increased incidence in young individuals. Individuals with Marfan syndrome tend to have aneurysms of the aorta and are more prone to proximal dissections of the aorta.

Turner syndrome also increases the risk of aortic dissection, by aortic root dilatation.

Chest trauma leading to aortic dissection can be divided into two groups based on etiology: blunt chest trauma (commonly seen in car accidents) and iatrogenic. Iatrogenic causes include trauma during cardiac catheterization or due to an intra-aortic balloon pump.

Aortic dissection may be a late sequela of cardiac surgery. 18% of individuals who present with an acute aortic dissection have a history of open heart surgery. Individuals who have undergone aortic valve replacement for aortic insufficiency are at particularly high risk. This is because aortic insufficiency causes increased blood flow in the ascending aorta. This can cause dilatation and weakening of the walls of the ascending aorta.

Of note, although this is extremely rare in this day and age, Syphilis can cause aortic dissection. In the tertiary stage of this disease, the aorta gets Luetic lesions which lead to dissection

In my case there was no hypertension, no connective tissue disease, no Vasculitis, no Marfan syndrome, no Turner syndrome, nor any cardiac surgery or external trauma but I had undergone cardiac catheterization in 2003.

This cardiac catheterization might have caused a trivial damage to some part of the aorta during the process and it has gone unnoticed. Usually the catheter end is blunt and can never cause any injury. But it could be a slightly defective piece and it was my luck that it was used for me. My cardiologist was extremely careful and he had taken utmost care in my case and I am ever grateful to him for I had very rapid recovery after the episode and I could undertake the strenuous trekking in Himalayas in 2006.

If anything is to be blamed for my Aortic dissection it was my underwater swimming exercise, as I read it to day.

Being a medial practitioner I was aware that even in a normal person the Blood Pressure temporarily shoots up to 300 mm of Hg. during underwater swimming, under Sona-bath etc. and it becomes normal within moments. I used to call this a stress Test for all my co-swimmers who used to join me for underwater swimming. We have been doing this exercise for over five years now and no one had any trouble any time.

The little damage to my aorta in past must have given way when it was exposed to momentarily high Blood Pressure during the underwater swimming. This is how I co-relate the starting point of my dissection.

The MRI study revealed that the dissection has started just above Superior Mescenteric artery and then first extended into that blood vessel (Superior Mescenteric artery) that feeds the digestive tract in the abdomen. The blood flow in this feeder vessel was blocked almost to 80% and the upper gastro-intestinal tract suffered from ischemia (poor blood supply) just like a heart attack when blood supply to heart suffers. All my symptoms of Gall Bladder were mimicked due to this ischemia. Had I not gone for MRI, I might have undergone Gall Bladder surgery. In those eight days of sufferings the Aortic dissection slowly extended to the end of the aorta, that is up to Iliac arteries. Very fortunately it did not enter into any other major vessel and I was spared from any kidney damage or paralysis of both legs and remained completely asymptomatic till to-day. My Superior Mescenteric artery is still blocked but within 8 days of the sufferings the co-laterals developed and once again the blood supply to upper G.I tract was re-established. This way I proved to be lucky to escape major damage.

In Dec. 2007 there was an International meeting of Vascular surgeons in Baroda and I got a chance to take opinion of few reputed vascular Surgeons from different countries and they all asked me to adopt policy of Wait and Watch. I had to keep a watch on the size of Aorta through MRI every six monthly. Fortunately there is no change in last one year.

I have to watch my blood pressure and to avoid all those activities which would increase my Blood Pressure even momentarily. I resumed all my activities and my routine work. I go for swimming but avoid all those steps that will increase my B.P. I go for my morning walk but avoid jogging or even brisk walk. I am now leading practically a normal life for a 72 yrs old individual. Now the false lumen of the dissection has a clot and I am watching it carefully and keep myself ready for the consequences any time, if at all, they come.

Dr. Vilas A. Bidaye,Baroda,India

Bill Hancy-65

Personal Stories: Bill Hancy-told by wife

Bill (age 65- no history of high BP) was relaxing at home New Year’s Eve 2007.  Got up to shave (8:00 pm) and began to have pains in his back kidney area.  They became so intense he almost went down to his knees.  He kept thinking it was some severe muscle cramp.  No position eased the pain.  The pain then radiated up his back to the shoulder blade area and continued to worsen.  He and I thought it was possibly gallbladder – called a friend so said “no way”.  Pain in the back can also be heart related.  After much coaxing Bill gave in to a trip to the ER.

We checked in, sat down, Bill got more uncomfortable and I thought he was going to pass out.  You can imagine how full the ER was at 10:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve.  I went to the nurse and said “I think he is going to pass out”.  They immediately got him a bed and checked his BP.  Action began.  Then a CT scan of the abdomen/pelvis, much movement by the doctors and another CT scan of the chest area.  Now that I’ve read the reports, both showed the Type B (Descending) Aortic Dissection.   We live in a small town SE of Dallas.  After several calls to area hospitals – everyone said “this is too big for us – send him to Dallas”.   Parkland hospital in Dallas said “bring him on”.  They have the top trauma/burn center in Texas.  So they loaded him on the helicopter, I watched him take off wondering if I would make it to Dallas in time.  I had never driven in Dallas and I couldn’t believe how adrenaline can help you do things you never thought you could.  By the time they had stabilized him for takeoff – it was around 4:00 a.m.  So God opened the roads for me, no traffic, and I made it straight to the ER in record time – never got lost.  Felt like someone else was driving the whole way!!   Bill was eventually moved from ER to SICU where he stayed for 5 days.  Working to get the right set of BP meds to keep his BP below 120. They wanted him off all the drips and taking pills before they released him.  He did suffer temporary renal failure but we learned it was from the dye in the CT scans.  Before any future CT scans he has to be prepped with a Sodium Bicarb Dextrose drip.  They did this before later CT scans with no problem to his kidneys.  He suffered no organ damage via the AD.  He is so lucky.   The dissection is from his left subclavian artery into the bilateral common iliac artery.  Pulse in legs, feet, etc are excellent.  One doctor said thed issection is in the shape of a cone – narrowing as it continues down.    He was released to a telemetry room for 4.5 days — he was released to go home January 9, 2008.  That first week home was so uncomfortable.  He had been told to do NOTHING for at least two weeks.  And believe me he isn’t.   We could hardly sleep – not being hooked up to the monitors and having a nurse at your beck and call was a bit unsettling.  But today is Sunday, January 20 and we are relaxing.  He is on a low fat, low cholesterol, and less than 2 gram sodium diet and it is really helping too.

In fact his blood pressure was so low the first week that we had to get with the lead cardiologist — he suggested we stop taking the last of the BP meds they added and see how he does.  He has done great since.  The light-headiness is gone and some of the weakness has lessened.  The last two days he says he’s beginning to feel like a real person again.  He stays in the recliner most of the time – his mind is totally on healing and doing NOTHING.  The BP has stayed below 120 everyday.  His diastolic and pulse are low but acceptable.

Our first doctor appointment is Tuesday, January 22.  We’ve never been to this cardiologist in town (the only one) — if he hasn’t dealt with an AD before we will probably continue to look in another town.    Thanks to all who answered questions for us during that first week home.  You are life-savers for the caregiver.  Now we want to know how long does it take for the dissection to heal (scar over).  Some say it doesn’t, some say it does.   To all AD members:  please continue to provide input on your recovery — you give the rest of us hope.  Bill and I wish you blessed days and look forward to giving you continued positive input on his recovery !!   Pamela and Bill

Vicki Savage-62

Personal Stories: Vicki Savage

I thought I would share my wifes experience as it seems some what unique and may answers some questions about what the future might hold for some of the people that write in.

In November of 2000 my wife experienced a bad cough that turned into pneumonia. We took her to Kaiser in Roseville Ca. for a number of breathing treatments. One night just as she was going to bed she experienced a sharp pain in her back just above the kidneys. She said it felt like a elephant had stepped on her. I tried to massage her back, but it didnt seem to help. She has always had a high tolerance of pain and it only lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. We dont remember if we mentioned it at our next visit to Kaiser, but she didnt have any further problems. She had been treated for high blood pressure for at least 16 years, but was only able to keep it in the 140 range. In the past she did a lot of walking and even a little running.

In April of 2001 we left California to serve an 18 month mission for the LDS church in Manchester New Hampshire. In August of 2001 she seemed to come down with some type of flu. She started to feel bad on a Monday and by Wednesday noon she hadnt taken in any fluids to speak of and hadnt eaten. Against her will I took her to the doctors office. She was dehydrated. They felt we should check her into the hospital for more tests. They planed on having her check in the next morning, but after talking to the Doctor we agreed to check her in that evening.

The next morning I was there as they brought her back from some test and had her climb off the gurney on to the bed. All at once a doctor burst into the room and told her not to move. They gave her a shot to calm her down; they should have given it to me. The young doctor told me she was going to have to go in for emergency surgery. They took her down to ER and about an hour later they brought in two heart doctors to look at the results.

They kept asking her if she had a sharp pain and were very surprised when she said no. One of the heart surgeons told me she had an aortic dissection on the descending aorta, which was the best place to have it if you had to have one. He told me it would be best treated with medication. I told him about the sharp pain she has last November. He said that could have been the dissection, but it wasnt likely. I understand now that the fact she was still alive made it unlikely, but that was the only time she ever had that type of pain.

I later learned that the dissection started just beyond the great vessels to right iliac artery. So in other words it goes from the heart down to the right leg. In one report is says it is measures 5.2 cm and in the latest, it says 4.15 cm.

She was in the hospital for 9 days. After getting out we decided to head back to California and check in with Kaiser. We left New Hampshire with very little knowledge of what was going on. I remember thinking I hope I can get her home alive. She was not in any pain, but even before going into the hospital she had been having trouble with her left knee which made walking hard. But the day we left that cleared up.

As soon as I got home I began to search the internet hoping to find more information. As you know at that time it was a difficult task. The Cardiologist at Kaiser confirmed that controlling the high blood pressure was going to be the best treatment. I had heard the term aortic dissection and aortic aneurysm used interchangeably. Still do today. He told us it was a dissection and gave us a good explanation of what it was. Our primary doctor left us with the feeling that she might die at any time. So we felt a lot better after our visit with our specialist.

She gets a CT every 9 months and so far there has been no change. She has never been in any pain and the only complication is that she gets out of breath very fast from the handful of pills she takes every day. We have since moved to Utah and have a very nice primary doctor with United Health Care, but I have the feeling I know more about our problem then he does. Although we have been in to see him he hasnt talked in any detail about her heath problem.

I think we were blessed in being sent to New Hampshire, because we had friends that wanted us to go to some remote foreign countries. If that had been the case I dont think she would be alive today.

We dont know what the future holds, but we live day to day and enjoy our family. She has always had a very positive attitude.

Dick and Vicki Savage

Ron Abbitt-60

Personal Stories: Ron Abbitt

I am writing this for my father (he is a notoriously bad at spelling, and a dissected aorta has done nothing to improve that skill). In all seriousness, he is a walking miracle whose sense of humor carried him (and us) through the incredibly difficult adjustment to life and living after an aortic dissection.

On August 2, 2003, a Saturday, my father was up early, removing the baseboards in his home office so that he would be able to install an enormous desk he had just made. Always a do-it-yourselfer, this was just another task for him. Around 6:30 he felt the tear. He thought he was having a heart attack, or maybe that he had injured his back, or was possibly suffering a stroke. He tried to prepare for a trip to the hospital, but fell while walking into his living room. Lucky for all, he fell next to the phone. He called my mother because he doubted his ability to speak coherently to 911. My mother called 911, and was then rushed home by a kind customer. My husband and I started for the hospital around 7am.

When I arrived at the hospital, I saw my father in a hospital bed, sweating profusely. He received a shot of morphine, but it did not help the pain. As in Brian’s story, we were incredibly fortunate that the emergency doctor in this small, small town hospital identified a problem with his aorta. A chest x-ray made him suspect an aneurysm. My father was then prepared for a flight to St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee — a top-ranked hospital.

Our drive to Nashville would take about 2 hours, so the emergency room staff suggested we gather some essentials and take our time: we would not be able to see him for hours anyway, so there was no need for us to hurry. Easy to say.

e were told to contact the ER on our way to Nashville. The first call told us that my father’s condition was very serious — maybe an aneurysm, maybe not. The second call told us that he had suffered an aortic dissection. We had never heard of that — it was almost beyond comprehension.

When we finally arrived at the hospital, we found my father in the critical care unit in a medical coma. He was on a respirator and connected to two or three IV bags of medicine. His blood pressure could not be controlled.

My father would remain in this coma for over two weeks. During that time, my mother and I made the five daily trips to the critical care unit. We were escorted in the Quiet Rooms several times. The cardiologist, Dr. Dante Graves, told us the statistics involved in such cases. We were told that they would try to remove the respirator, and that when they did my father would probably die. We were told that he would “probably die” almost every day. If he lived, he would probably be paralyzed or in terrible pain. We would watch the levels of medicine drop, nearing the doses that would allow him to wake up and get off the respirator. Then we would go back for our scheduled visit only to find the levels of medicine back to heavy doses. The websites I visited in the waiting room only confirmed the severity of his situation: I can remember reading of one man who suffered so much after his dissection that he wished for death.

My father kept surviving every attempt to reduce the medicine and reliance on the respirator. During this time, my father developed a rash that was caused by Lasik. He also received a shunt so that medicine could be delivered more easily. This would cause problems later.

It seemed that our lives would be nothing more that those five visits a day, and that my hearty, healthy father would be reduced to nothing. Then came the day that we entered the unit to find the medicine at acceptable levels and my father moving in awkward shrugs and stretches. His eyes were barely open, showing only the whites. At that time I assumed that he was permanently damaged from the medicines, and that what we saw was all that was left.

On the next visit he had improved, opening unfocused eyes and moving more normally. By the next day he could almost speak. His first words were to ask for bread and a gallon of water.

Things progressed rapidly after that. A few days in step down and plans to take him home were being discussed. Then the developed an infection from the shunt. It seemed so unfair to come through so much only to be struck down by an infection caused by improper care of an IV. Lucky in all things, my father had a staph infection that would be treatable.

With all muscles atrophied, he was barely able to move. He spent another week or so in a rehab center, then home. It was a glorious day.

That fall was a slow time. My father struggled to regain his strength and an understanding of what had happened to him. A workaholic, he had to face the possibility of leaving his 42 year career as a procurement officer for the Defense Department. On the bright side, there was no paralysis and no pain, and he had survived.

In January, an MRI showed that he had a tumor in his kidney. Once again, luck was on his side as he had the “good” renal cancer that could be cured by removing his kidney. And he continued to heal.

Now, he is officially retired and doing quite well. He can do more than we ever expected, but not everything he could do before.

This site has been so helpful to my father — dissected aortas are not common. Sharing stories is one way to feel like there is hope and you’re not alone.

Contact Ron

Elaine McGowan-67

Personal Stories: Elaine McGowan

Brian – I have been wanting to send my story to you for a long time. First off, I want to thank you (as we all do) for providing us with this site. It has helped me so very much. I guess, as they say, “misery loves company”; your site has helped me in my misery. You have given me great hope. I actually appreciate each day since this all happened. My health history includes high blood pressure and a heart arrhythmia for 30 years.

On January 5, 2005, I sustained a descending aortic dissection during a cardiac catheterization in a Boston, MA hospital. I was kept overnight after I insisted on being kept there the night of the procedure. That night I got worse, severe “labor type” ripping pains in the abdomen increasing and I was throwing. I was given a shot of demerol which made me sleep but the pains still increased and I blamed the demerol for their severity. I was sent home on the second day, only to continue feeling worse and worse.

My son brought me back to the ER two days later and after much debate and examining, I was given a cat scan which showed a tear high in the aorta behind the heart descending 14 inches to the groin. I was quickly sent by ambulance to a nearby hospital that deals with this type of heart complications. If this had been an ascending dissection, I am sure it would have been “curtains” for me as it was four days later that I was seen. I was kept in cardiac ICU for three weeks.

I have been in Cardiac Rehab at a local hospital for three months now and feel much better, but tire easily and cannot do as much as I wish I could. When I was sent to the hospital near my home, the staff had not heard of this problem. They checked it out on the internet to make sure I could qualify for Cardiac Rehab. This rehab has helped me so much; the nurses have been the best I have ever run into. I would suggest it for all aortic dissection patients – it builds up your confidence and endurance while being monitored.

Brian, I feel that all the symptoms I exhibited after a cardiac catheterization should be known by hospital, and especially emergency room staff. Even my son, who is an EMT on a local fire department has only been taught to feel (and has felt these) for a pulsating mass in the back of the patient.

I have tried to put my story into the right words. I wish we could get the general public to understand this condition. You are a godsend and I commend you for all the knowledge and hope you extend to us all; thank you so very much!!!

Contact Elaine

David Mansker’s Father-62

Personal Stories: David Mansker

Until my experience with an Aortic Dissection, I had never heard of this happening. My experience was with my father, a 62 year old nonsmoker with no prior medical problems. My parents had children when they were older, so I still live at home.

My dad woke my mother and myself up at 15 minutes till 5 in the morning. He kept saying that he was in terrible pain, mostly in his back region. My mother and I thought he was having a heart attack so she made him lay down on the couch, with much protest on his part, gave him some aspirin, and had me call 911.

The hospital at first was treating it like it was a heart attack, they checked to see if he was spilling enzymes and monitoring him. When we arrived at the hospital his blood pressure was low, but it was randomly shooting extremely high. The nurses called the ER doctor and he wanted them to do a CT Scan. When he returned they came in the room and told us he was not having a heart attack, that he had an aortic dissection, and that the Cardiologist at the hospital could not treat him.

He was then transferred to the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. When the doctor talked to us before he went in to surgery he said that my father had an aortic dissection in both the ascending and descending aorta, and had dissected to his mid left thigh.

They were highly negative that he would not live through the surgery and if he did that it was likely that he would never wake up again. Knowing this we said our goodbyes and sent him up. Surgery was 7 hours, they replaced part of his aorta with the graft and his aortic valve as well. Recovery has been an uphill battle, two steps forwards one step back.

For days he did not make any attempt to wake up or breath on his own, although he was not receiving any drugs. His liver was acting funny and his kidneys were not functioning properly. He was not moving his left side so there was a possibility of a stroke. He spent 8 days in the CV ICU, and another week on the cardiac floor.

We are very lucky because we were told my father would not live, but he has and everything works. Recovery will be long, but each day we make a little progress.

Updated: 2/23/2005:

It has been a month since my father’s surgery. After two weeks in the hospital he was allowed to come home. Honestly, this is where the story gets kinda fishy. My dad was sent home with his knee swollen twice its size. The doctors did not know what was wrong with it. They pulled a sample and determined that there was no infection. My father who was then unable at the time, was sent home. I over heard at the nurse’s station, a nurse telling a doctor, that she had told our doctor to send us to outpatient because we had no health insurance.

The knee situation was determined, at home, that it was gout. We have had two episodes in two weeks. I being a future nursing student, I start in the fall, was looking through the surgery summary. I read that there was a partial blockage found in one of my dad’s blood vessels. To this date no one has made mention of a blockage. Today, one month and 3 days from surgery, the doctor’s nurse called and told my mother that my father had been released. My dad will no longer see the cardiologist and we were told not to call back, that my mother was a smart woman and she could figure it out.

Does this seem odd to anyone but me?

Thanks for any help or advice.


Contact Dave

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