Category: Sixties

Billy Holopoff-68

Personal Stories: Bill Holopoff

Hello everyone and Happy New Year to all. My name is Billy and I live in Florence Oregon. I am 68 years old, soon to turn 69.

It was June 15th 2004, my wife and I had taken our youngest grand daughter to Gold Beach Oregon for a jet boat ride up the Rogue River. We stopped in Agnus for lunch and after the return trip to Gold Beach we got ready to go to dinner.

I was surprised at the pain I was having in my lower back and right groin. I thought it was from an old baseball injury from high school days or the way I was sitting in the boat getting bounced around. I didn’t think too much about it until a few days later when it didn’t get any better.

I made an appointment to see the doctor and related what was going on with me. After a few moments of getting twisted around I was sent to the Imaging Department and had x-rays taken of my lower back and groin area. This was June 24th, 2004.

I got a call from the doctor who said that I had a good case of osteo-arthritis and “by the way, you also have and abdominal aortic aneurysm”. Was I shocked? Your da*n right I was.

For more than 20 years I have been a cardiac risk patient. I have been through the stress tests, tread mill, nuclear stress test, EKG, CT, MRI and what ever else they can think of. Not ever a clue to the aneurysm.

(The pain in my back was found to be caused from a herniated disc, L5). I have been on high blood pressure meds for this length of time along with cholesterol meds and thyroid. I had been a heavy drinker and smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes. I quit drinking in 1986 and cut back on smoking to when I felt I wanted one.

I have been active for most of my life, baseball and basketball being my passions. I fished, hiked, remodeled our home and just couldn’t sit still. I am a Type A kind of guy. My doctor and I sat down and talked about the aneurysm and what I might expect.

I was sent to a vascular surgeon in Eugene Oregon and was told pretty much the same thing my doctor had related to me. Don’t smoke, be carefull with the alcohol, keep the blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eat healthy, get some exercise.

Since then I have painted our home, cut down a few trees and dug up the roots and stumps, re-placed the walkways around the house and worked on my model railroad in the spare time.

I walk 3 – 5 miles a day and work out on my son’s exercise machine every other day. Leg lifts, curls, vertical presses using only 25 pounds. Not for strength, but for tone. Today, December 28th, I had my first follow up ultrasound scan and I am happy to say that the results were good according to the tech. I am waiting for the final results from the doctor.

At this time the aneurysm has not shown any sign of growing, but I am not going to take it for granted that it will stay this way. ( it is at 4.1 CM). I continue to control and monitor my blood pressure and cholesterol and am happy with the way things are going. I am not afraid to say that I pray a lot and take time to put my trust and feelings in a God of my choice. It works for me and that keeps me happy. I read the stories here and pray for those who are going through tough times. I am grateful that the aneurysm was found when it was and know that something can be done to prevent a catastrophe. God bless each and everyone. Billy Holopoff Florence, Oregon

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Michael Madsen-63

Personal Stories: Michael Madsen

Hello.  My name is Lori Madsen, and I lost my father Michael Madsen on July 18, 2004.  He was 63 years old.  They tell us it was an aortic dissection.  I need someone to “talk” to about it.

He had several earlier warning signs, that went undetected as to the aortic dissection. After a completely healthy life, in February 2003 he had what they called a mini stroke.  He felt confused fell to his knees, had trouble communication and could not speak.

The episode lasted for about 15 minutes.  He was taken to emergency, tests were run and they determined that the cause was unknown.  “Just one of those things”  He was put on Plavax and aspirin.  Then in November of 2003, he had an episode where he had been home, he felt some type of strange pain, he had a hard time describing it.  Said it felt like it was in the center to right of his chest extending upward and resulted in a burning pressure sensation into his ears.  He described the initial pain as “being shot”.

He was a tough man.  He felt it went away some and likened it to bad indigestion, took an aspirin and went to work.  An hour later it presented again,  he called my mom, who picked him up, took him to emergency and he was kept in the hospital for several days.

They did numerous tests, determined that he had a small amount of narrowing in one vessel and they did surgery to put in a stint.  He was switched from the first hospital to a second for surgery, and the doctor there told us that the narrowing was so minor that in his estimation, it didn’t cause this episode, but that it could be done none the less.

We thought based on his symptoms that it could have been a pulmonary embolism because of the location of the pain and because he complained of additional pain upon deep breathing.  In the end, they still didn’t know what it was.  In February of 2004, he had another episode with some chest pain and alot of coughing.  Although he had no other signs of illness (like fever, or expressing mucus)  they did a chest xray and told us he had pneumonia.

Life went on, he was extremely frustrated by the lack of the medical staff’s ability to really find out what was happening with him.  He hated hospitals and didn’t have much faith in them.  With this last episode on Saturday (July 17, 2004), I came home from shopping to find him sitting upright on the sofa.  I said hello and he didn’t respond at first.  I approached him and asked if he was okay, he looked gray.

He answered “:he was not feeling well, woke up from a nap on the couch with a pain in his back.  Told me it felt like the last time because it was radiating up his sternum and into his ears, burning and giving him a headache.

Mostly on the right side.  I wanted him to go to the emergency room immediately, but he balked, saying it could be nothing and they would leave him sitting there forever.  He got up and went to use the the bathroom.  He was there for about 15 minutes, Then he came out and agreed to come to the hospital.  He said his legs felt a little as if they were falling asleep.

He laughed that he sat on the toilet too long.  We drove to the hospital, he walked in himself.  We had called his doctor beforehand, and they expected us.  They did a brief information and then got him in in about 10 minutes.  He was put on a gourney.  Blood was taken.  Heart monitor and pressure cuff were put on.  He wanted to sit upright, said it felt better.

He determined his pain was a 5 on a scale to 10.  His blood pressure was taken, it was very low, like 87 over 37, and they asked about it.  We told them that he always has had low blood pressure.  We were there maybe 20 minutes and the doctor examined him.  I told her he said his right leg felt a little numb.

He said he mostly felt like he had been in a fight, and that the pain in his chest was not bad anymore.  She asked me repeatedly if he had a heart murmur, we told her no.

Then they put him on iv fluids.  About ten minutes later, they rushed in and were very worried about his blood pressure.  It was down to about 76 over 27 and they said they had to get it up.  They made him lay down and raised his feet so he was laying in an inverted position.  They were also giving him alot of iv fluid and II believe dopamine to raise his pressure.

They didn’t have the mobile cat machine because it was a saturday night and whoever ran it wasn’t there and they had to get his pressure up to send him to cat scan.

All of this caused him excruciating pain.  He begged me to help him sit up, I had the nurse in and she said he had to stay that way until his pressure came up.  He lay there writhing in pain.  Telling me that “this isn’t right, they are making me feel much worse, ever since they laid me down I can’t stand it.  The pain was excruciating he begged me to help him.  I tried to get a nurse.

He told me that he was dying.  That he was sorry, but this one was killing him.  I ran into the hall an yelled for help.  I went to his side again before they came and tried to hold his had, he as clenching so hard I couldn’t get a hold of it. He said “lord please help me, somebody help me, I’m dying, Lori, I’m sorry, I’m not going to make this one.”  They got there then, told me they had to put a urinary cath in and intubate him to get an open airway.

He would be put to sleep.  They did this and then sent him off to cat scan.  The cardiologist then told me that he had a tear in his aorta, and aortic dissection.  Either in the top or arch, in which case he would be air lifted to another hospital for surgery or if it was in the lower abdominal region, a vascular surgeon would do the surgery there.  He couldn’t call anyone until the cat scan came back because it was a Saturday night, and the first thing they would want to know is what the cat scan shows.

I asked him if he had a chance to survive this and he said,” oh yes, once we get the cat scan, and know where the location is, we’ll get him to surgery”  I went outside to call my sister out of town and let her know what was going on.  A nurse ran out of the hospital to get me, and told me my dad had coded on the cat scan table.  I asked if he was alive and she told me they did all they could, but he died.

The biggest problem I now have is the fact the if they thought he was having an aortic dissection, why did they try to raise his blood pressure.  He was alert and talking the whole time, he was showing no signs of lack of blood to his brain.  It seem to me the wrong thing to do.

I feel now that he was not diagnosed earlier, and should have been.  That he was not treated properly in the ER and I want to know what to do.      Can you help me understand?    Sincerely,   Lori A. Madsen 561-745-6776

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Bob Benesch-64

Personal Stories: Bob Benesch

My name is Beverly Jebe. My fathers name is Bob Benesch. In September of 2000, my dad suffered an aortic dissection. It begins at the left subclavian artery and descends to the bifurcation. Fortunately, it was diagnosed correctly in the ER and he was treated appropriately. He spent several days in ICU as they kept him sedated and controlled his BP. We have gone almost 4 years now uneventfully. My dad sees his cardiovascular surgeon every 6 months and has a CAT scan. In March, they were told that the dissection had become an aneurysm as it had grown from 3 cm to 3.5 cm. They weren’t overly concerned as their doctor wasn’t. Then two weeks ago, my Dad began having back pain, and his Dr insisted that he go to the ER. They did another CAT scan and told him that it had grown from 3.5cm to 5 cm. My parents were aware that they start talking surgery at 5.5 cm., so this news was disturbing and my dad’s BP went way up. He spent two days in ICU getting it under control.

The surgeon he had during this last episode was not his regular Dr, as he was on vacation. This surgeon did not think that my Dad’s back pain was due to the dissection but instead from heavy lifting. Well, my Dad had not done any heavy lifting, but that is still what went in all the reports. We are concerned that the back pain came from the recent swelling of the dissection. We have found out subsequently, that the thoracic section of the aorta has been at 5 cm since the original incident. But that the abdominal section is what has grown recently.

The Dr my Dad saw in the ER said that he would need to have surgery in the next two months and he referred us to Dr. Bryan Mahan in Colorado Springs. We just met with Dr. Mahan yesterday and he had a different view. He explained the risks involved with surgery – 30% chance of paralysis and 10% chance of death – and said that he would not operate on my Dad. He said that he should continue with “watchful waiting”. Of course, he cannot guarantee that the aneurysm will not rupture in the meantime, but that the odds are more in favor of not doing elective surgery. He explained that if it started leaking or became an emergency, that he would do the surgery. But that if my Dad wanted to do it electively, that he should go to Dr. Joseph Cosselli in Houston, TX. He said that he is the very best, doing these surgeries on an almost daily basis.

We are very apprehensive about surgery, but also about not doing anything. I have read that only 50% of people who have an aortic dissection are alive after 5 years. My dad is going on 4 years. Those do not seem like good odds either.

In Kim Putnam’s personal story she refers to you having had surgery. Have you had surgery? When and where did you have it? How did it go? What advice do you have for us?

Thank you so much for posting this website. It’s very helpful to read others stories and know that we are not alone.

Bev Jebe

UPDATE: 9/1/2004

Here is an update on my father, Bob Benesch. When I last wrote we were fretting about our doctor’s advice to continue with watchful waiting. My dad had his records sent to Dr. Cosselli in Houston assuming that he would eventually have to have surgery. While we were waiting to hear from Dr. Cosselli, we happened across information about a great doctor and hospital in Arizona. Dr. Dietrich at the Arizona Heart Institute in Phoenix had been repairing thoracic aneurysms with non-invasive surgery for about two years now. My dad began with an aortic dissection four years ago and as the blood pooled in the false lumen it began to cause an aneurysm. His thoracic aneurysm was at about 5 cm. The other surgeons we spoke to said they wouldn’t operate until it reached 6 cm. But the Heart Institute will consider surgery at 4 cm. We went to Arizona (from Colorado) on Aug 16. Dr. Dietrich ran his own series of extensive tests and on Aug. 18 they performed the surgery. They went up through the arteries in the groin and placed an endoluminal graft from the top of the arch down about 15 cm. They also had to put a stent in his carotid artery as the graft had to be placed right next to it. The circulation to the left subclavian artery was cut off, but they said other arteries would compensate and so far they have. The surgery took about two hours and went very well. My dad was in recovery for about 24 hours after that and then moved to a regular room for two days. He was back in Colorado a week after his surgery!

We are so grateful that we were led to this hospital and this procedure. It is still in the early stages so there is no long term prognosis available, but the graft seems to have collapsed the false lumen and taken the pressure off the aorta. We do not know if Bob will return to work. His job involves heavy lifting and that doesn’t seem like a good thing to be doing.

I don’t know if the procedure is for everyone. But for those out there with type B Dissections who have been told to continue with “watchful waiting”, you should look into this clinic. Everyone was wonderful to work with from the office staff to the surgeons.

I hope we are on the road to a more restful life. My dad will continue with regular CT scans as they monitor the graft, and will have to continue to control his BP. I hope this info. will benefit someone out there.

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Kim Putnam’s Father-60

Personal Stories: Kim Putnam’s Father

We had suspected that my dad had hypertension for years. Combined with a very unhealthy weight and diet, he seemed to be a health disaster waiting to happen. He refused, however, to see a doctor, assuming that his declining health was related to his work with asbestos earlier in life. One evening, home alone in the shower, he broke into a cold sweat. Breathing became difficult and he felt a “pop”.

He refused, still, to be taken to the emergency room, insisting that he was only experiencing the downward spiral associated with exposure to asbestos. Finally, unable to breathe well, he consented to see a doctor. The doctor did not diagnose him properly and ended up giving him ciprofloxacin to clear up an “infection”.

The doctor never took any tests or x-rays. To make this extremely long story short, he somehow ended up with 2 liters of fluid being drained from his lung. A test showed the aortic dissection. We have no idea right now if the two conditions are linked. He will be having further tests.

His aneurysm is 6 cm in diameter, and as of this writing, he will be having surgery tomorrow morning to repair it. I would urge anyone who has smoked, has a fat-laden diet, is overweight and of an “intense personality” to go ahead and have the tests done to reveal whether or not this silent killer is present. My dad is really fortunate to be alive.

Thanks, Brian, for creating this great site that helps family members know what to prepare for and to expect. Kindest regards! Kim Putnam

Update: 5/20/04:

Brian,   My dad had his surgery on Thursday morning. I guess the split ended up going from his left shoulder area down near his abdomen. They did go in through the side, taking out a rib (which they do not put back).   It was touch and go for a bit. They could not get the bleeding to stop, nor could they get his body temperature back up after the surgery for awhile. His blood pressure, even though he was unconscious, remained high, but they were able to stabilize that last night.

They took out the ventilator this morning, and although he has had great pain in beginning to breathe on his own and it’s been difficult, he does seem to be doing better.

Thanks again for putting up this site, and also for your willingness to answer questions and put us at ease that people do make it through this surgery.   I guess we have since found out that he “should not” be alive. Two doctors on staff at Memorial also are friends of his from his Sunday School class. One of the doctors went in and was a part of the fluid drainage procedure. He said he went home and cried all night, because there was no medical way my dad was alive.

He had 2 1/2 liters of fluid in his lungs, and should have “drowned”. That, combined with the 186/110 blood pressure and the aortic dissection should have killed him loooong before he got to the hospital.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you and your family as you continue to heal from your own surgery. That you can go through what you and your wife have been through and still decide to help other people speaks volumes as to the kind of people that you are!   God bless, and please stay in touch and let us know how you’re doing.   Sincerely, Kim Putnam

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!)

Paul Oberle-64

Personal Stories: Paul Oberle

Brian, you may have already received a message similar to this one, but since I wasn’t sure it went I decided to write again.

I suffered a descending aortic dissection on March 20 extending from my subclavial artery to the bifurcation. Subsequent to that other complications include, loss of my right kidney due to lack of blood flow and a bleed in my basal ganglia resulting in a minor stroke (if there is such a thing).

The stroke was caused by drugs to reduce my blood pressure, that reduced my heart rate to below 40 bpm. I feel pretty much recovered from the stroke. I’m very weak and most anything exhausts me. For example, just taking a shower.

My questions are:

What’s the mortality over 5 years? How all this is going to end? I feel I’m screwed although it seems odd to say, my health otherwise is good. I’m 65, never smoked, run all my life. My Doctor told me that if my dissection blows it won’t matter where I am any way, thus he’s allowing me to take a short motor home trip next week.

Thanks for the website. Paul Oberle

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!)

Update: 9/1/2004

At the time of my Dissection, the CT scan showed a mass in my abdomen. We have not been able to do a Biopsy until today. It showed I do not have the big CASINO. Rejoice with me. PO sr.

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Barbara Stevens-60

Personal Stories: Barbara Steven

I’m a 60 year old female who I thought was in relatively good health until on a Friday evening last June when I got home from work and started experiencing some unusual chest pains. I finally had my son call the local squad and that’s the last I remember..them putting me in the ambulance.

I woke up a week later in a Columbus hospital (100) miles from where I live) and learned I was life-flighted there by helicopter. I had been on a respirator for several days and all I could remember were terrible nightmares and pain. I was so weak I couldn’t hold a paper cup of ice. I didn’t understand what any of the nurses or doctors had told me at that point as I was still weak and on heavy medication. After some additional tests, they sent me by ambulance to the Cleveland Clinic from Columbus.

I was in ICU for 5 days there and that’s when the doctors started explaining to me I had a descending aortic dissection B and an aneurysm. I’m still not totally clear on all of this. They told me at Cleveland that they wouldn’t do surgery at this point as it was too risky and usually the aneurysm had to reach 6 (whatever) before they’d consider surgery. Controlling my blood pressure is the most important factor they tell me.

I’ve been back to Cleveland twice since then as my blood pressure was out of control both times and the local hospital life-flighted me to Cleveland. I’ve had 3 cat scans since last June and have one scheduled for next week on my chest, abdomen and pelvis. Having this done locally. I am depressed most of the time and when I finally got the nerve to ask one of the doctors in Cleveland how long I had to live he said “that’s in the hands of the Lord”. I want a clearer answer than that ( a medical answer) but at the same time am afraid of what I’ll hear.

I can’t really enjoy life now as this is always on my mind and I feel as though I’m walking on eggshells. I am a Christian and attend church regularly but I just can’t seem to shake the “doom and gloom” feeling I always have. If anyone can share with me something positive about your experiences I’d surely appreciate it. I know I’ve rambled on and on but this is the first time I’ve really talked to anyone much about this. Everyone now (at work) and at home seem to avoid the subject and I feel like I’m being pitied all the time which I don’t care for. Please someone, I could use some encouragement. Thanks!

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Henry Church-62

Personal Stories: Henry Church

Hi Brian,

I live in Zimbabwe and constantly travel the continent of Africa. I had been in some pretty rural and backward areas just days before my Type B Dissection, which occurred within 15 minutes of Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, IN. What a blessing for me, and most likely a “life saver.”

I was in ICU for 4 days and a regular room for 3 more, then discharged.

I have had 2 CT scans and have another on the 19th of this month. The dilation of the aorta was between 3.5 – 4 cm. I know that is within the safety guidelines but don’t know how serious. I have not had any pain since leaving the hospital but am still not very energetic and tire rather quickly, especially in my legs. Not sure why.

This is totally new to me. I didn’t even know what it was until it hit, suddenly like a bolt from the blue.

How soon should I expect my energy level to increase? I am eating salt and pretty much cholesterol free. I am keeping my bp down. Have lost about 15 lbs. Have been granted a 3 month medical leave by my employer, but would hope to resume most of my work after this is over. Is it ever over?? What are the chances of renewed travel? Anyone have any experience??

Update Dec 12th, 2004:

Greetings Brian and other Aortic Dissection survivors.  I had an extensive descending dissection on the 31st of March, while I happened to be in Indianapolis on business.  I live in the back woods of Africa.  I thank the same Good Lord for putting me where I was at the time, and getting me to Methodist Hospital where I met Dr. John Fehrenbacher.  Dr. John does about 70 or so resections each year.  I spent time recovering from the trauma of the dissection then went in for a full resection.  I had a 5.5 aneurysm and knew I could not continue my work in peace without taking care of it.  The surgery was extensive, as you know.  12 hrs. later I had a new aorta.  That was on the 19th of July.  On the 17th of November we left for Africa and I am in Zimbabwe as I write this.  I have no ill effects other than post surgery tightness, etc..  My energy level is good though not quite up to what it was before.  I am just very thankful to be alive, thanks to the grace of God and the skills of Dr. Fehrenbacher.


Henry Church, Warsaw, Indiana

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