I just came across your website while I was on the John Ritter Foundation website and I'd like to share my story with you. I am only 24 and I was diagnosed with a 4.6 cm aneurysm 2 months ago. When I was doing research about the condition online and I found the John Ritter Foundation I was completely astonished to learn that is what sadly killed him. I remember hearing about his death but it never "hit home" that anything like that would ever affect myself. Even though at the time of his death my aneurysm could have already been growing without my knowing.
About 9 months ago I started to feel "not right." The symptoms I can now describe as hypertension were confusing to me at the time. After about a month of wondering what was going on with my body and just thinking I'd feel better, I went to my primary care physician. They ran blood tests and took an EKG... both came back with no red flags. Without further testing, my doctor diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. Although my blood pressure was reading high they said it was probably due to the anxiety.
Seeing as I had always been an outgoing, bubbly, and fun loving person, that answer did not satisfy me. Anxiety disorder? No way! I told him I did not want medicine for it and that it had to be something else. I left the office in tears... not because I found out something was horribly wrong, but because I knew something was horribly wrong and had no answers. Four months went by. The "anxiety" did not go away and I also began to develop a strange shortness of breath. Back to the doctor I go. He tells me that sometimes shortness of breath can come from anxiety and insists on giving me a prescription for a low dose Zoloft. I told him that I would take it but I wanted to do further testing.
A week after my appointment I had blood drawn (again) and had an echo cardiogram and chest x-ray scheduled. The very next day after blood work I went for the echo. During the entire test, the tech who was conducting it kept telling me how great my heart looked, until... the statement I'll never forget : "Almost finished, I just want to check your aorta then we'll be done," she said in a rather cheerful voice. Then her demeanor began to change... she had a quizzical look on her face and her voice became shaky. "You know, I'm just a tech," she says, "but there is something on here that I'd like you to see the doctor about before you leave today." Part of me already knew that my fears were about to be confirmed. I asked how long it would take because I had to be at work in about an hour. Her answer was "you should probably call off." Everything in me went numb. After looking at my scans, the doctor on duty immediately had me transferred to a nearby hospital by ambulance. I was poked and prodded for more blood and scheduled for a CT scan.
According to my echo cardiogram it appeared as if I had a dissection, which was ruled out by the CT; however, the aneurysm was confirmed as well as a bicuspid heart valve that I never knew I was born with. Also, at the time, they told me my aneurysm was 3.6 cm. I had to stay in the hospital over night for monitoring (so much for the baseball game I was supposed to go to) and I was started on atenolol to lower my blood pressure. The next day I was released having no idea what any of the information I was just given even meant. I was in utter shock. I was also under the impression that I would be needing surgery within the next 5-10 years... until I met with a cardiologist a month later. He told me that the aneurysm was actually 4.6 cm and that because I was "smallish" in size that the he recommended I meet with a surgeon immediately. A week later I did so. I am scheduled for a transesophageal echocardiogram this Thursday to get better imaging and surgery to replace the aorta will be scheduled for the beginning of the year.
Before I found out all of this information I ran every day, lifted 3 times a week, ate a healthy diet, and played rugby. I've played sports my entire life and have always been conscious of my health. It's upsetting that regardless of how much I took care of my body something like this could still happen. Not to mention, I am not allowed to even so much as go for a run until surgery. I teach acting, voice, and dance at a performing arts school as well. I am directing a play that is due to open at the end of January. My students don't know yet, but I might have to schedule surgery before that....... I'm devastated. Each and every day I struggle with breathing problems and occasional chest pain. It is driving me nuts that I cannot work out or go out on the town with friends in fear of something happening. Yes, I am lucky they caught this before it dissected, but walking on egg shells each day is extremely hard. If any good can come out of this it is that my 4 brothers and sisters can get checked out as well. My father was adopted so we are unsure of half of our medical history. Now we know.
On top of teaching acting I work as an actress myself so I cannot say that I'm thrilled for the scars of surgery... but hopefully someone will find that characteristic likeable. I'm lucky to be alive. I'm lucky they found it. I'm lucky that I stuck to my gut and kept asking for testing even when I had no idea what to expect. I know that God had his hand on me and I have full faith that my surgeon will do a great job...
I appreciate your website so much. It has made me much more informed and I only hope to spread awareness myself. In each of the photos below I had the aneurysm without knowing... it's unbelievable some of the activities I was doing and survived.