Category: Personal Stories Page 2 of 29

Cindy Collins-57

Name: Cindy Collins
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 25 December 2007
Tell Us Your Story:

On Christmas Day 2007 we were eating dinner and I started to feel strange. I didn’t know if I was having gastro problems or something else and went and sat on the toilet for a while. Nope. Went out to the living room….just bent over in pain….relatives called 911 and I was taken to ER. They ran EKGs…nothing wrong. Said probably just holiday stress and wanted to send me home. Then said maybe we’ll just keep you here overnight for observation. As they were taking me to a room someone decided maybe I needed a CT…next thing I knew I was being whisked into surgery. Type A dissection.

Fast forward to 2014. I was getting these blisters on my surgery incision that would open and drain. Dermatologist removed twice and then sent me to plastic surgeon. He removed a sternal wire and said if infection came back to see a thoracic surgeon

One year later….blisters return. I see a surgeon and he says I think we need to remove your sternal wires because they are probably causing all this infection. Well, I undergo surgery and when I come out he says….you have no sternum…it has been eaten away and I can see right through to your heart and your original repair. They take me by ambulance to Orlando.

Dr. come in at the end of the day (because they have me listed as “stable”) and says he will be operating on me the next day. I say…do you want to look at it…he says..OK…..Bad move. As he is removing the packing I start crying out in pain, his PA is squeezing my hand and then all of a sudden says…OMG is that ??? Dr. Martin says YES!!! and then there is the most excruciating pain ever imaginable in my chest. A pseudo aneurysm has just burst and he has his finger in it as we are flying down the corridor to surgery.

He replaces the old infected graph and repairs the new aneurysm. But my sternum has been destroyed by infection. So a week later I go back under the knife for a titanium sternum Then 6 weeks in rehab with a pic line.

Skip forward one year to May 2017. I go to see my cardiologist with no definitive symptoms …just a feeling. He says lets do a chest x-ray. What did your surgeon recommend? So I call the surgeon and he says lets do a CT.

Got the results back today and I will see him next Thurs. Unbelievable ….I have another pseudo aneurysm. I am totally freaking out. Can one person really have to go through this again?

Sabrina Wilson-33

Name: Sabrina Wilson
Age at time of Dissection: 33
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 12 January 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

I felt a pop in my chest and serious pain in my chest, shoulders, and jaw. I was told that I should not get pregnant ever again due to the higher risk of redissection.

Well I’m pregnant and I’m scared. Abortion is not an option for me. All the research I have tried to find doesn’t cover pregnancy after type A dissection or any dissection at all.

Mike Rosellini-55

Name: Mike Rosellini
Age at time of Dissection: 55
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 5 December 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

I have read on these blogs stories from other people and their experiences and what to expect. My dissection occurred December 4, 2009. fortunately, I went to Baylor medical Center in Dallas where Dr. Carl Henry, thoracic surgeon was able to repair after a long surgery.

I was dissected thru the iliac arteries, and still am to this day. A section of the ascending aorta was replaced/grafted. My scan from a few months earlier had revealed a 4.3 cm ectasia of the ascending aorta. I have to keep my blood pressure under control, and no longer can run 8-9 minute miles like I was at 55.

However, at 63 years old I am still working in a profession I love and am looking forward to many more healthy years. If that does not happen, i am just thankful for the wonderful years I have had including the addition of 6 grandchildren in that time frame. so yes, I am also still dissected, I go in for regular scans to check for changes.

I have had excellent medical care. I quit worrying about life expectancy a few years ago. I hope this helps some newly treated patients. depression in the first year is a natural part of the process, it will go away if you continue to look forward and not backward.

Rg A-44

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

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

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

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

Mike Sylvester-46

Name: Mike Sylvester
Age at time of Dissection: 46
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 December 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Mike Sylvester and I live in Duluth, MN. At about 9 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 16, 2016, I developed what I thought was indigestion. I have had stomach issues in the past, so I took some antacids, but the pain didn’t go away. After doing several web searches, I determined that I may have heart issues, something I had not ever dealt with in the past. My wife was working all night, and my stepson had gone to bed, so I drove myself to the emergency room (bad idea, even though I felt alert and had no other symptoms). After arriving at the hospital, they quickly transported me to the heart and vascular center, where they determined I had a minor blockage, and they were going to put a stent in my heart. They said it was a minor procedure, and that I would only be hospitalized for a day or two. At around 4 a.m., my wife sent me a text message asking where I was.

I told her I was at the hospital with the flu, and maybe a minor heart issue ( I told her to get some rest and to come to the hospital the next day). That was the last thing I remember, until waking up on New Year’s Day. What follows is what was told to my by my wife, family and the medical staff at Essentia Health:While I was coming out of anesthesia from the stent surgery on Dec. 17, my heart doctor (Dr. Joseph Doerer) noticed that I was nauseous, restless and in pain (I do not recall any of this). Evidently there was some discussion about whether or not these symptoms were from the anesthesia. Thank God, John Ritter and others that he recognized the symptoms of an aortal dissection and whisked me off to the CT Scanner as my sleepy and disoriented wife was left to wonder what was going on.

When I returned, they informed her that I had a very serious Stanford Type “A” ascending aortal dissection. I was prepped immediately for surgery, as my surgeon, Dr. Terry Olivas, informed my wife of the grim situation. I was given a 30 percent chance to live, at best. The surgery and recovery took 10 hours. The next two-plus weeks were nothing but a blur, thanks to my ICU delirium, caused by painkillers like Morphine, Fentanyl and others. The time consisted of horrific nightmares, hallucinations and paranoia, along with just a few memory fragments. I initially had liver failure, kidney failure and my lung collapsed.

I was taken off the ventilator and put back on several times. My digestive tract quit working, so they had to pump my stomach. I was given and antibiotic to which I was allergic (unknowingly) and my throat and tongue swelled. I was injected with steroids, so my blood sugar soared, at which point they injected by with insulin. I also ended up with a serious blood infection. I had tubes sticking out of my arm, stomach, neck and wrist. The days passed slowly for my wife and family, as the prognosis worsened. After two weeks, the surgeon told my wife I had “turned the corner.” I awoke a day or two later, thinking I had been out for a day or two. Much to my shock, it was New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, my muscles had atrophied so bad, that I could hardly lift an arm, much less get out of bed.

Two days later I was taken to intermediate care in a wheelchair, unsure if I would ever walk again. The medical staff assured my that my body would recover, but it was up to me to get back in shape. After the first day, I was given a walker. I went 10 feet and back before collapsing in a chair in my room. The next day I did two walks, then four, then eight. I soon had a chart with X’s recording my number of walks. After only five days, I was sent to a rehab and physical therapy center. I was told I would be there for two weeks. The therapy was brutally difficult. We got up at 7 a.m., ate breakfast, and then had therapy from 9 a.m. until noon. There was speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. There were many times I felt like I was going to collapse or black out.

After the therapy sessions ended, I would spent time walking the halls, getting additional exercise. After four days, I was told that I was being discharged the next day. I walked out the front door of the hospital on my own on Jan. 11. I was told by the medical staff that I would be off work until the end of April, at the earliest, and I was immediately scheduled for 36 sessions of cardiac rehab. I worked hard in rehab and on my own to get stronger. My wife doubted I would ever work again. Six weeks later I was cleared to go back to work part time, and will be full time by the end of March.

The medical staff have given me a clean bill of health and said I will have no physical limitations. My only restrictions are in regards to my diet, which now consists of low sodium, low saturated fats and no alcohol. I now feel like a new man and am ready to start enjoying my life.

Jackie Creber-67

Name: Jackie Creber
Age at time of Dissection: 67
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 16 August 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

Ifirst presented with a crushing pain in my chest, also in my back ( this felt like indigestion) I went to ER and waited most of the day for them to decide what I had. I was given warfarin for a possible pulmonary embolism. They did an ECG but apart from a rapid heartbeat they found nothing, they sent me home and I was told to return the next day for an angiogram.

It was late afternoon before I had that done, once they realized it was an aneurysm, an ambulance was sent for and I was rushed to a nearby hospital specializing in heart conditions. The surgeon informed my family of how serious it was, particularly as I had been given blood thinning medicine. The surgery took 8 hours, and I was on a ventilator for a few days, my kidneys had failed and I was on dialysis for a week, my liver was affected also.

I spent two weeks in critical care, and a further two weeks in a ward. It is now five months later and I am very well, and consider myself extremely lucky to be alive!

Charles McKenna-56

Name: Charles McKenna
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 25 January 2014
Tell Us Your Story:

On Thursday January 24th, 2014 I was 6’0″ and 180 pounds. Reasonably fit non-smoker. On a Thursday evening I lifted a 175 pound, big, awkward snowblower into my SUV, took it to a cottage, used it, put it back in and returned home and took it out. My wife helped on all but one of the lifts. I stupidly did it myself on the last one. It was too heavy to lift comfortably alone and I knew it but did it anyway. I felt fine, slept fine and worked on Friday. Friday night, while I was home alone as my wife was at the cottage, I felt a searing, ripping pain in my chest and abdomen.

I called 911 and laid down to die on the rug by the front door. I had sustained a Stanford type A and B aortic dissection. It was diagnosed and my ascending aorta was removed and replaced with a tubular Dacron graft the next morning. Three weeks later I was finally conscious and able to be removed from the respirator. I couldn’t talk or swallow and was very weak. Those things had completely resolved about 4-6 weeks later with rehab. Today I am three years post surgery and doing fine.

I was on a sick leave from work for about four months. I do plan to retire a little early to enjoy life beyond work. I do still have some abdominal pains periodically, maybe every few weeks or so, which I attribute to the descending dissection. But that is being monitored for size and my blood pressure is being controlled. I do have some numbness in my toes.

I can live with that. But a cautionary word- exhale when you lift heavy weight! Google the Valsalva maneuver as it relates to heavy lifting– ramifications are serious for anyone with aortic flaws. I believe the heavy lift caused my dissection.

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.

James Brown-62

Name: James Brown
Age at time of Dissection: 62
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 7 September 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

My aortic dissection came without warning, my wife and I had just returned home from the store and we stop by the mailbox, I got out of the truck checked the mail and all a sudden I felt a tremendous pressure in my chest. At this point we returned to the house where I tried to lay down on the bed, but the pain wa to intense, so I laid down on the floor and asked my wife to call 911 within fifteen or twenty minutes I was being transported to the hospital. After entering the hospital I have little memory of what happened.

I remember my sister in law was there and I asked her to take care of my wife, I was sure that I was going to die. My condition was treated as heart attack, but luckily for me they was not sure and sent me to another hospital. The admitting doctor on duty was a cardiologist he did not believe I was having hear attack.

He put a probe through my arm and found that my aorta had torn. He immediately had me prepped for surgery. The surgeon told me that my chance were not good but without surgery I would die, I agreed to surgery and I do not remember anything after that until I woke up in I.C.U four days later.

I had the best care and was in I.C.U for seventy days. My surgeon called me his miracle. I am here today to celebrate Christmas with my family because the cardiologist new I was not having heart attack and his quick actions and the skill of the surgeon and the good Lord above is why I survived when many others have not. The recovery process has been difficult for me, but I have a great support group to help me.

Lloyd Erickson-55

Name: lloyd erickson
Age at time of Dissection: 55
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 July 1997

Tell Us Your Story: Celebrated my 20th survival year ////// My heart doctor thinks that is a world record. That length of time is exceptional considering I suffered a “total” dissection. I am known as the “miracle man” at the hospital.

I have two aneurysms that have been at a critical stage for the last ten years but have not failed. I have gotten very familiar with living day to day. Life is great, enjoy every moment.

Robert Bidrowski-60

Name: Robert Bidrowski
Age at time of Dissection: 60
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 29 April 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

I had just gotten off a flight from St. Louis to Omaha, NE at 11:30 pm. I lit up a cigarette as soon as I got outside the terminal. This became my last cigarette. As I was walking to my car I had what I can only describe as an explosion in my back and then a buzzing in my head and feet. I stopped and thought “what the heck was that. It probably wasn’t good.” I threw the cigarette down, decided I was OK and continued to my car. I had a 50 mile drive to my home and decided I would be OK once I got on the road.

So I started driving on the Interstate. I started feeling really weak, had some vision problems and felt numbness in my arm. I got off the Interstate at basically the point of no return. Something told me that if I continued I was going to die.

At this point I should have called 911, probably should have called 911 at the airport. But I decided to drive myself to the hospital. I arrived at the hospital, now not feeling well at all. Parked, walked in through the security door and said I think I’m having a heart attack. I was immediately attended to by the great ER staff and soon I was having a CT scan. Apparently I had some really different blood pressures (really low on one arm and normal on the other arm.)

The ER doctor talked to me after the CT scan and showed me what was happening. An ascending aortic dissection. He said I needed surgery now and the surgeon was on her way. I remember telling the ER doctor that I had a bowling tournament that weekend in Missouri and I remember him telling me “Yeah, your probably not going to make that.”

I remember meeting the surgeon, Dr. HelenMari Merritt. The next thing I remember was waking up with a breathing tube, lots of tubes and all kinds of medical apparatus. My girlfriend was there, my sons were there. Apparently, I had been in surgery for about 8 hours. I got a dacron graft and a valve repair. I was in the hospital for about 2 weeks, came home and started the recovery. When I got out of the hospital I thought I’ll be back to work in two weeks. It actually took 4 months.

I owe so much to Dr. Merritt and the staff at Nebraska Medicine. I owe so much to my girlfriend, Kathy, and my two sons, Erik and Mark and other family as well as friends. I also need to thank my cardiac therapy specialists at Bryan Lifepointe in Lincoln, NE.

So now I’m working on the blood pressure but it is proving difficult to control. I’ve got another followup in February with a CT scan, appointment with Dr. Merritt and another appointment with a vascular specialist. What I’ve been told is that I have a dissection in the descending aorta that may need some treatment or not.

I’ve made some lifestyle changes. No smoking and trying to eat better. I’m trying to keep my stress down but work is again making that difficult. I continued my cardiac therapy by joining the health club. I’ve added some strength exercises as well. Anyway, that’s my story up till now. I’ve been told I was lucky, fortunate, it was touch and go, etc. So I will try to do what the doctors tell me is best and hopefully be here for many more years.

Scott Terry-42

Name: Scott Terry
Age at time of Dissection: 42
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 20 January 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

It started off as a normal Wednesday morning. I had just arrived at work and was on my way back to my desk from getting a coffee when I felt an unusual pain in my chest, unlike anything I had ever felt before. I initially thought it could be indigestion which I tried to clear with water. After that didn’t work I told a colleague that I needed an ambulance.

Thankfully I worked five minutes away from the nearest hospital – Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham, UK. In emergency I had the usual ECG and blood tests for a heart attack. While the blood tests ruled out a heart attack the ECG showed a slight abnormality. I also had significantly different blood pressure readings in both arms. I ended up staying in hospital for a couple of days while doctors determined what the problem was. During that time I was allowed to walk around, have showers etc.

On the Friday morning my dissection was discovered after a CT angiogram. After that I was on complete bed rest. I was transferred by ambulance to the Trent Cardiac Centre at City Hospital in Nottingham as they deal with the Type A dissections. To cut a long story short I had aortic root surgery on the following Wednesday, 1 week after my dissection. I now also have a St Jude mechanical aortic valve and will be on warfarin for the rest of my life, along with my other heart meds.

After being discharged from hospital one week after my operation, I was readmitted after a couple of days due to a severe infection in my arm where the cannula was inserted. Following that I was readmitted a further two times – once I collapsed while having blood taken for my INR (it turns out I had flu). This meant another week in hospital. The second time my INR was dangerously low, which was another week in hospital.
It is now almost one year on and life is pretty much back to normal – a new normal. My lovely wife, wonderful 10 year old twin boys and I have now relocated back to Australia, the Sunshine Coast, and I am in the middle of having my first annual check-up.

The amazing thing about my story is that we had moved to the UK (from Melbourne, Australia) 18 months earlier to spend time with my family. We were actually planning to relocate back to Australia on the day of my dissection but had changed our minds about two months earlier, deciding to extend our stay.

Paul Coomer-53

Name: Paul Coomer
Age at time of Dissection: 53
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 13 October 2013
Tell Us Your Story:

Ihad a rear end accident which an hour after I realised I thought was a heart attack but was in fact an aortic -dissection type A ,I drove myself to the hospital on the Gold Coast in excruciating pain ,this was diagnosed thankfully very quickly and I was operated on within 5 hours by Dr Gilbert Ford a life saver I was in intensive care for 2 days then in Hospital for just over 2 weeks ,and 3 months off work ,then a further 3 months part time a long recovery ,I am now living a normal life with check ups once a year ,but I survived something that I have been told on many occasions is very lucky

Gayle Cook-56

Name: Gayle Cook
Age at time of Dissection: 56
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 9 February 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

My name is Gayle Cook and I LIVE in Albert Lea MN. On 2/9/2015, as I was getting ready for work, I began having severe chest pain. I work at the local hospital in ER Registration so finished getting ready for work and drove myself there, however, instead of clocking in for work, I was admitted to the ER. Six hours later after a CT scan revealed I had an aortic dissection, I was flown to Rochester MN.

I think I was aware of the severity of my situation, however, I was consumed with thoughts of my granddaughter, Kinley, who was flying to Chicago to have a REX shunt placed to bypass the obstruction (clot) in her portal vein. Her half brother, Carter, passed away from the same condition nine years ago when he was two. He underwent a liver transplant and, unfortunately, his heart failed two days after surgery. I am happy to say that Kinley survived her surgery and is doing quite well.

Unfortunately, as a result of the portal hypertension, she developed pulmonary hypertension that we are treating with meds. As for me, I was kept in the SCU over night in preparation for open heart surgery in the morning. Upon surgery, it was noted that I had an intramural hematoma which progressed to a type A dissection into the root with dissection into the left main coronary artery.

Well, you know the outcome of my surgery; I survived, but am still trying to wrap my head around what happened to me and the way I am now and it’s been ten months?! I have so much to say and ask but want to keep this short. Just wanted to introduce myself and reach out to someone who can relate to what I’ve been through. Thank YOU!

Romney Mawhorter-48

Name: Romney Mawhorter
Age at time of Dissection: 48
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 7 November 2014
Tell Us Your Story: I was a 48 year old white man who had an aortic dissection deBakey I or Stanford type A who was very physically fit; a college track star and since then an avid gym rat going 6 days a week to lift weights and play basketball up to the day of my surgery. I have a wife of 23 (then 21) years and 3 sons who then were 18, 15 and 11.

Iam from Los Angeles. My wife and I were on a romantic weekend on Catalina Island. We had just taken a 2 hour boat ride from Long Beach and got off the boat and went directly to our hotel to check in. They said the room was not ready so we sat in the outdoor lounge overlooking the beach to have lunch.

After only a few minutes I felt a terrible crushing pain in my chest. It was so bad that immediately I told my wife, “I think I’m having a heart attack!” and proceeded to lay down. My wife described my “laying down” as passing out but I never lost consciousness.

I was helped by the couple at the next table who held my head up to help me breathe, stopped others from pounding on my chest, giving me water, or giving me an aspirin. They calmly told others to call 911 and waited with me until the paramedics arrived.

I was in the paramedics’ care for about 20 minutes with my wife waiting anxiously outside. They were testing me for a heart attack but could find no enzymes or other signals that it was a heart attack. I was unresponsive to glycerine.

At the small local island hospital, the doctor there was calling everyone she knew to help her diagnose what this incredible pain was coming from my chest. Finally she called my surgeon’s “aortic dissection hotline” which instructed her to perform a CT scan. When it was done, immediately the doctor could see I had “two” aortas running the length of where I should have one aorta.

This was a severe dissection from the aortic root to the legs including the left coronary artery and both carotid arteries all the way to the brain. A helicopter was scheduled to fly me to Keck USC Hospital.

On the roof being taken off the helicopter I could see the doctors running to receive me, and for a moment I juxtaposed my memory of the movie “A Few Good Men” when they astronauts came out of the elevator.

While on the gurney in the ICU the doctor was explaining to me all the risks of the surgery, as I still was a little confused as to what was wrong with me. I had survived now with this level 12 pain on a scale of 1-10 for the past 5 hours maybe this would just “go away.” So I interrupted the doctor and said, “can I live without the surgery?” He promptly replied, “no, this is a fatal event.” So I replied quickly, “then stop telling me about the risks and start the surgery!”

After 8 hours my wife was relieved to see the surgeon come out of the elevator and sit down next to her and said to her, “he’s going to be alright.” I remained in ICU for 3 days and released from the hospital in 7. He said my aortic dissection was the worst he had seen on a surviving patient. Immediately after opening my chest, my ascending aorta disintegrated as if it were wet tissue paper. After several minutes trying to determine some real tissue where to attach the prosthetic mesh, the assisting doctors and attendants said it was no use that I was beyond repair. But my surgeon persevered. He did have to forgo removing my aortic root and replacing my aortic valve with a mechanical valve (which I had elected) to save the time in surgery to “fix what was broken and save your life.” So I continue to be on the “probable” list of needing that surgery in the near future

Since then my health has been good, with the only ongoing complications are from my left carotid artery which has the most severe tear all the way to my brain, which slows my blood and causes some ocular muscle problems and once a stroke symptom (but no evidence of stroke found in any CT or MRI scans).

From this ordeal I learned that I must care what I eat. I must eat a low sodium, low red meat, high fiber diet and drink at least 4 8 oz. glasses of water, or better 8 glasses. The thinner my blood the better. While I do take a BP medicine, I only take it when my morning BP reading is above 120. My “normal” BP is 110. My dissection was not caused by hypertension. Doctor says it was congenital.

Christopher Reed-57

Name: Christopher Reed
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 January 2015
Tell Us Your Story:

I am presently 58 years old and my dissection occurred while I was building a fence while working on my cabin at Eagle Lake, CA. I was setting the posts when it felt like someone drove a Bowie knife through my chest. It dropped me to one knee. I was lucky my wife was there talking with me when it happened. She asked what was wrong and I said I thought I had some bad indigestion. She knowing me, said I don’t think and called 911. We have a volunteer Fire Dept. near my cabin.

While she was calling I went down to my butt and then laid down on the ground. I finally picked myself up and walked over to the deck to change my shoes as they were muddy. I got in my truck and my wife drove me to the Fire Dept where the volunteers were headed. When we got there my right arm had lost all feeling and I couldn’t move it. The volunteers took my blood pressure and told me that life flight had been called and we needed to get to our small little airport. When we arrived at the airport, the trauma nurse took control. She check my blood pressure and told the pilot they had to leave now.

The gurney I was on would not lift me high enough to get in the helicopter so the nurse asked me to get in. The platform in the helicopter was about 4ft long and I am 6’6″. so after scrunching I was able to make it work. I looked out at my wife and told her that I loved her and to tell my kids I loved them. Then the nurse told the pilot to get in the air and hurry to Renown Hospital in Reno, NV. The last thing I remember before I past out was flying over the lake and wondering if it was the last thing I would see. I was told later that I died when I past out and the nurse revived me and was able to get me to the hospital. The next thing I remember, I woke up and I was on a gurney and being ran down the hallway to surgery.

I looked at one of the nurses and asked where I was and what we were doing. She explained that I was on my way to surgery and it was serious. I told her I needed to talk with my wife who was driving from Eagle Lake to Reno. The nurse pulled out her phone and asked what the number was, dialed it and handed me the phone. When the phone was answered, my Mother in law was on the other end and said my wife was asking directions from the service station attendant. When my wife got in the truck I told her I was headed to surgery and it didn’t look good, she told me she was 5 minutes away and would be there soon. When she got to the hospital the Dr. was there to talk with her before he went to surgery and explained that I had died in the helicopter on the way and again in the emergency room and was revived both times and was now going into surgery. He told her that I had both an ascending and descending Aortic dissection and that my artery to my right arm, the artery to my right kidney, the artery to my left leg and my carotid artery had also dissected.

He told her it would be a miracle if I pulled through and if I did I would be out for 7 to 8 days and be in the hospital for 30 to 45 days. After 10 1/2 hours of surgery and an ascending graph I woke up a day and a half later and my wife said I reached up and pulled all the tubes out of my throat. The nurse that was in my room called Code Blue and the Drs. came running. The respiratory Dr. told the nurse that I must not like the tubes and for her to put me on a mask. I don’t remember any of this, my wife said I past out as soon as the tubes were pulled out. I woke up in the morning and my wife was in my room. When she saw I was awake she started checking my feet and hands to make sure I could move and then she started asking these stupid questions. I looked at her and said what are you doing, and she said they thought I would have brain damage or possible paralysis. I told her I was fine and could move with no problem and I understood everything she was saying.

She called the nurse and she got a hold of the Doctors. By this time my family was all there and I realized that I had just dodged the Grim Reaper. If it wasn’t for the love of my family and all the prayers I don’t believe I would have made it. The next day I ask the nurse if I could get up and sit in a chair while they changed my bed, and the day after I asked to take a walk, I made it about half way around the ICU Unit, the day after that I completed a whole lap, I then moved up to two laps and at the end of 2 week in ICU I was discharged and got to go home with a pile of pills, 34 a day. The doctor couldn’t believe how fast I was able to go home. I believe it was God that kept me here for a reason that I have not figured out yet.

I will keep thanking him and hope to live a productive second life. I went back to work 1 year to the date of my dissection and have been back to work for 11 months now. I am so happy to be productive again. Being off work for a year was hard, and after gaining 40 pounds I realize my life has to change. I am on a diet and working to get control of my life. Good luck to all that go through this life altering issue and thank you for listening to my story.

William Koch-45

Name: William Koch
Age at time of Dissection: 45
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 6 November 2016
Tell Us Your Story: As told by wife Cricket:

It was a normal Sunday. Watched football and then chores. We are in the process of remodeling our bedroom and Bill needed to get nails from our son’s house who lives about a mile away. He told me he would be right back. I continued the “demo” and my cell phone rang. At first it sounded like Bill was having a stroke as he said, “I….I….I….pulled over.” I immediately knew something was wrong. He told me where he was at and I grabbed my keys calling 911 at the same time heading out the door.

(Later I was told that I was actually Bill’s 2nd call. His first was to 911 who didn’t answer)

I reached Bill right as the ambulance arrived. He was rushed by ambulance to ER about 2pm of a suspected heart attack. Preliminary EKG was normal but still had chest pain and trouble breathing. Dr.’s kept asking what he ate for lunch and dinner the night before eluding to heartburn. They said they would keep him overnight for observation. I sent the kids home (boy 19, girl 15). As morphine wore off, pain increased and I insisted on a CT scan.
CT scan ordered. CT scan showed Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm causing an aortic dissection (rip). Cardiothoracic surgeon and team were immediately called. Surgeon explained seriousness of diagnosis and gave him a 35-40% chance of survival. Dr said mortality rate very high. Thank God his aorta (just) ripped because if it had ruptured he wouldn’t be here with us.

I called the kids to come back at 11:30pm to see their dad before surgery.
Bill went in to surgery shortly after midnight. Surgery done at about 5am. Dr said an anuerysm had been on his ascending aorta at least a couple years but it wasn’t found until it started to rip. They removed and replaced 7cm of his aorta.

Bill has 0 risk factors: non-smoker, low blood pressure, low cholesterol, 45 years old, athletic, not overweight, etc. Dr.’s attribute all of that to his survival but surgeon 100% sure genetic and insisted on having the children scanned and tested on a regular basis.

Bill has been home from the hospital a little over a week now. (He went to ER on Sunday and came home Friday) He is healing but gets short of breath just putting his socks on. Right now, we are just taking it one day at a time.

Rosalie Wetherell-49

Name: Rosalie Wetherell
Age at time of Dissection: 49
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 2 February 2009
Tell Us Your Story:

Hi, I’m Rosalie, AKA, Roe. I’m a Stafford type B ascending survivor. My dissection goes back a whooping 7 and a 1/2 years. It happened on Super bowl Sunday. I had spent the day alone because I had felt to lousy to go to a party with my husband. I was crazy restless and had, had extreme gas building up under my rib cage for the past 6 days. I had been throwing up every thing I tried to eat or drink. That night I finally fell asleep on the couch when an insane tearing woke me up. I knew some thing epic had just happened.

To shorten my story, 3 days later was when a young Dr. had the where with all to order a CT scan. and saw the very small part of a tear. He ordered a second scan on my chest and found the tear went up another 58 cm. They found room for me in an ICU unit in a hospital 30 miles away from my very small home town.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the ride over. I remember doctors swarming around me. Being rolled up and down hallways, in and out of elevators. The sound of nurses telling me to be still. I was in and out of my senses for what seemed a very long time.

Two days later I was being filled in on my situation. I had been admitted with a blood pressure of 260/190. and a heart rate of 136 and climbing. My prognosis was grim at best Here is where my story gets interesting. Three years earlier on Nov.2 cnd of 2006 my dad had been life flight to the very same hospital with darn near the exact same condition. My father was 83 years old when he suffered his AD. His dissection was located at his aortic arch. It was a complete blow out. The arch was actually severed in 3 pieces. He survived this impossible condition for 11 days.

I found out via an Aunt at my dad’s funeral that 1 of his brothers died during surgery at an attempt to fix an AD in 1996, my uncle was 83.

My team of doctors decided against surgery for my case. I was in ICU for 12 days and sent home with a sack of blood pressure medication. At the time of my release my blood pressure was at 138/127, my heart rate was 72, and I was some thing of an oddity. The nurses aid who was wheeling out to checkout area made this very odd statement, “I’ve never checked any one out of here before, I usually take them to the basement.”

On that note, here I am 7 and a 1/2 years later. I’m taking care of myself by staying on my medication and living an incredibly laid back life style. I have to say this one thing. (maybe this is why after all these years I’m reaching out to people who know exactly what it’s like to live with condition.) I’m not sure where or when this amazing turn of events will take me, but I know this for sure, my dissection changed my life for the best. I’ve been reunited with Christ, my family, met some brave,courageous people and found that my own life has meaning and boundless forward motion. I truly believe a positive out look is more than half the battle. I thank you for all the information you have provided. There was a lot of new things I have at my disposal if I decide to look into some different treatment options.

Stay alert and be ever on the look out. God bless you, Rosalie M. Wetherell.

Gracie Stanwyck-47

Name: Gracie Stanwyck
Age at time of Dissection: 47
Type of Dissection: Ascending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 17 April 2013
Tell Us Your Story:


My name is Gracie, and I am a survivor of an ascending aorta dissection. I had been home from work with a very bad headache, as well as something that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I was very restless and had a feeling of doom before my husband showed up at home unexpectedly.

He had just asked if there was anything he could get me to help me feel better when it happened. My heart jerked twice before I lost my eyesight as well as any feeling in my right leg and arm. My husband immediately called 911.

I live in a very small community, so getting an ambulance to my house only took 5 minutes. I was taken to our local hospital and then flew by helicopter to Boise, Idaho, which took 57 minutes. A team was already waiting for me to arrive.

The surgeon that saved my life will always be my hero. I now have an abdominal dissection that I have to live with, and continue to have scans to make sure there are no changes.

It is very hard to live with the knowledge that I have a very fragile aorta, but the good news is that I survived.

James LeClaire-57

Name: James LeClaire
Age at time of Dissection: 57
Type of Dissection: Both Ascending and Descending
Date of Aortic Dissection: 18 April 2016
Tell Us Your Story:

I‘m a recent survivor of an Ascending and Descending Aortic Dissection. I worked full time as an automotive technician, and had just recently switched shops so that I could be closer to family members. I started the job on April 1st and was looking forward to working there, because they are a great crew, and the insurance benefits that I would qualify for would take effect on May 1. I had gone in on the Saturday, previous, to fulfill my weekend obligation, which happened once every month. I had, absolutely, no symptoms that were apparent on that day. My wife had left for Texas to visit relatives, while I stayed behind, because I hadn’t accumulated any paid time off, yet.

The following day I had my 5 year old Granddaughter over for a fun day at the park and we were out, together, for about 5 hours or so. On returning home, I was exhausted, and asked her if she could hang out with her Great Grandpa while I took a short nap. While they played in the other room, I noticed a very slight pain in my abdomen and back that I attributed to, possibly, pulling a muscle in my previous days work (It happens quite often in this business.). My Stepdaughter came by at around 5pm, after her5 work shift, and picked my Granddaughter up. I continued to sleep.

That evening around 8pm, my wife called from Texas and we chatted a little, but the pain was a little worse now, and I told her that I wasn’t feeling well, and that I would call her the following day.

I went to work the following morning after eating a light breakfast and felt okay, except for the pain that hadn’t changed from the previous night. I brought in my first vehicle of the day and had to pry on a part with considerable force to make the new part fit properly. I dropped the vehicle down from the lift and proceeded to finish some other repairs that were needed on the vehicle.

The pain from the previous night was intensified, and I marked it off as probable indigestion from my breakfast, when, suddenly, the pain intensified incredibly. I also began to feel dizzy and somewhat out of breath. I still debated whether this was a true medical emergency, however, which was very dumb on my part. I finally asked a co-worker to call 911 as I suddenly felt very weak, and thought, finally, that I was having a heart attack.

Surrounded by co-workers, the ambulance finally arrived and I was shipped off to a local heart hospital. Nitro and an EKG were started and IV lines were set. The pain was incredible… it felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest while I was still fully awake. I remained conscious throughout.

Arriving at the ED I was given another EKG and a series of blood tests, that, basically, told the staff that my heart was fine. I was pulled out of the triage and moved to the hallway (The ED was incredibly busy that morning, around 9:30AM), to await an X-Ray of my chest. I assumed that my case wasn’t dire, as the staff had moved me out into the hall and seemed far less urgent, than when I had first arrived. I did remain uncomfortable and in a lot of pain, but figured I would get a shot of something, and be told to go home and rest for a day or two. I called my wife and told her that I was in the ED and might have had a heart attack.

I went for my X-Ray and was pushed back into the hallway and noticed that there were a lot of people who seemed more critical, than I was, at the time. I waited and waited, until the Hospitalist came over and told me that I would stay overnight for observation, and have a stress test the following morning. Cool, I thought, maybe a blockage or something and I would possibly miss a little work, but nothing major.

The PA on duty looked at her triage board and my case had come up in the rotation and she came to discuss, with me, how I was feeling. I told her I was in pain and she ordered some morphine and told me to sit tight and relax while she discussed me with her colleagues. I was then visited by a Cadio-Thorassic surgeon who asked me where my pain was and he promptly went away. The Hospitalist then ordered a CT Scan and I was returned again, to my previous hallway location.

Within a half hour or so, the PA returned and brought along a few more people, and I was suddenly back to the head of the line and was being prepped for surgery. I had had many more injections of Morphine and Fentanyl and was pretty much still in the same pain. I remember my step daughter and her fiancee asking me how I felt as everyone around me was feverishly working to get me prepped. I asked the PA to please call my wife, in Texas. I was told that I was going to have my chest opened and I was suffering from an “Aortic Dissection”. I had no idea what that meant, but figured it was “Serious!”. Where was my phone? I need to look that up.

The next several hours (7 or 8, I’m told) vanished, while I was in the ER as the hospital staff worked to save my life. Unknown to me, Te PA contacted my wife, and told her that she needed to get here as soon as she could and that I probably wouldn’t survive the surgery, and prepare to have me removed from life support.

I woke up and noticed that the ICU nurse was sitting beside me and that my Stepdaughter was reading her textbook, from the nursing course she was taking. I remarked that it was awful bright, still, at 8PM in April, and was amazed at how long the day had become. I was informed that it was the following morning.

I made it through the worst of the mess and my wife arrived, to find, to her amazement, that I was awake and doing pretty well, considering. I was in the ICU for a couple of days and was then sent to the Cardiac Care ward, with the intent that I would be soon released to rehab.

Toward the end of that first week, the pain returned and my wife noted to the staff that something was still seriously wrong (I thought I was merely constipated from the pain meds), and she relayed that information to the Cardiac PA who ordered another CT scan. They found that I also had a descending dissection and that a TEVAR procedure was needed, so they brought me back to the ICU so they could administer Lobetalol intravenously to keep my blood pressure below 120 Systolic. The TEVAR was scheduled and I waited. I was, also, informed that the TEVAR procedure may result in the loss of a kidney, and, even worse, could render me a paraplegic.

Unfortunately, the blood thinners they had prescribed (Assuming that the second dissection didn’t occur), had a long half life and my scheduled surgery was pushed back a week. Finally, on May 2nd, I had a successful surgery and spent the following 2 weeks in the ICU and Cardiac care ward.

I am going to lose a Kidney at some point in my life, but it will be a slow degeneration. I still have the use of all of my facilities, and count myself extremely lucky to have, not only survived this killer, but also with virtually no serious complications!

I have to thank all of the people who got me through this, because without them, I wouldn’t be here typing this story.

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