On Tuesday October 5th and Wednesday October 6th I had not been feeling very well. I had been having a lot of body aches and shortness of breath which is not uncommon for my once a year brush with bronchitis. Finally, on the morning of Thursday October 7th, I decided to go to the doctors. I was told that I was suffering from a nasty virus that had been going around. The doctor did hear a murmur, and asked if I had ever been told before that I have a murmur. I stated that I was told six months prior that I had a murmur but it was very faint. I was told that this was not faint at all and I was given an EKG. The EKG showed nothing out of order and I was told that an Echo Gram would be scheduled for a later time. I finished up my work day as normal and entered into the evening feeling pretty lousy. At around midnight, I went to bed. My jaw was so achy, that I had to sit up in order to alleviate the intense pounding. At about 12:30am, I went to the basement to watch some TV, as I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to sleep anytime soon. As it neared 1:00am, the intensity of the pain and pounding in my jaw got worse and I started to have chest pains. The pain became so intense, that I did not know if I was going to be able to make it back upstairs. I did make it up, and my wife called 911. After about 15 minutes, the ambulance arrived.
The Paramedics ran an EKG and other tests as they were about to take me to my local hospital. The test did not show that I was having a heart attack. On my way to the hospital, I received a couple Nitrous pills and by the time I arrived at the hospital, the pain had subsided. At this point, I was sure that I was just suffering from the virus. After a battery of tests, they decided to run me through a CAT scan. The news of the result of this test will forever change my life.
Not too long after the CAT scan test, the doctor came in and said that I had suffered an Aortic Dissection caused by an Aortic Aneurysm. I was told that this could quickly turn catastrophic and that they would immediately need to begin to slow my heart rate down for emergency open heart surgery.
I do not remember anything from about this time, which was 5:30am on Friday October 8th, until mid morning on Sunday October 10th. I have been told that I did talk to people before the surgery, but I do not remember it.
One of the big concerns was my heart valve. The hospital that I was at thought that it was possible that it did not need to be replaced and knew that the best place to send me would be the U of M Hospital in Ann Arbor. This decision was made, and a team was available, and they took me by helicopter to U of M. At approximately 9:40am, I entered into an eleven hour emergency open heart surgery. The tear that I suffered was nearly my entire Aorta, and nearly my entire Arch was replaced with a Dacron graft. The rest of the tear will be monitored closely. The technical term of my Dissection was a Type A Acute Root Aneurysm.
The odds that were given were that nine out of ten people, who suffer the Aneurism/Dissection, do not make it into an operating room. If you do make it into an operating room, than one out of four do not survive the surgery.
I was told that I would be in the hospital 7-10 days, but left after 5 days. I was requesting at least one extra day, but I appreciated the surgeon taking the time to explain to me why he thought it would be best to get home as soon as possible. A good part of the reason is to get back to a familiar environment as there is many times depression that could come with having a surgery such as this. I came home on Wednesday October 13th. I am now approximately ten weeks post surgery and am recovering. I have had some difficulties with PVC’s (Heart fluttering), and some other issues. I have made a few trips to Ann Arbor to see specialists about my issues. I have an appointment in February for a follow up CAT scan, as well as an Echo Gram to see how I am progressing. No one knows what could have caused my Dissection as I have never had high blood pressure, there are no issues in my family history and I have never smoked.
I am going through daily struggles, but am thankful to be alive.
IM – waltsem
IM – waltsem