Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
In July, my ascending aorta ruptured (a late consequence of a near-fatal auto accident a year ago when my chest hit the steering wheel 3 times - the driver was trying to beat a red light), but after a 9 1/2 hour surgery, 21 units of blood, and an 8 day coma, I survived the odds, which given the number of hours between the dissection and being sent to two different hospitals, was about 1 percent. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks and while I am grateful to be alive, my recovery has been slower than I had hoped. The fatigue has been constant, even though I have been going to cardiac rehab to get my strength back. I also had to have my aortic valve replaced in my heart. I was interested in this group because I was curious if the fatigue was part of the recovery process. Even though it has been a little over 11 months, it would seem that I should have all my energy back by now. I look forward to sharing experiences and offering support as I can. Elaine
the fatigue is a normal part of the recovery process - to a point. Normally 3 months after your last operation you'll start to notice a marked improvement. If this isn't the case then you maybe need to go and see your cardiologist and make sure you don't have any regurgitation on your aortic valve and everything is healing as expected - i expect you had an appointment at 6 months post-op to check this, but if not, get yourself seen!
Richard - Thank you for the response. I have had two appointments with my cardiologist since the dissection, and at first the problem seemed to be my own blood cells were not producing what I needed because I lost so much blood. Once that had been resolved, he said that even though I didn't remember anything when I was on life support, my body still remembers and is still fighting. I do have some good days, and the heat and humidity have something to do with it, but hopefully I will reach the point where I have more good days than bad. It has been 11 months, and when I first was admitted to rehab, I couldn't even raise my fork and I was so exhausted, it was an effort just to eat. So I have made some progress. Elaine
Elaine, so sorry you had to experience this and pray your recovery goes well. I also am getting ready for surgery for a ascending thoracic aneurysm within the month. Would you mind telling me what to be prepared for? Preparations for hospital stay, ICU experience, daily hospital stay, coming home preparations, when strength returns, etc.? I know I'm asking for a lot, so just answer what you feel you can do. Again, truly hope you get stronger every day and start to enjoy life.
Elaine - My dissection wasn't the result of an aneurysm but from an auto accident a year before it happened. When I was hit from behind at high speed (I was stopped to take a left turn), my chest hit the steering wheel with each car I was propelled into. The aorta had apparently ballooned and tore, shredding slowly throughout the year with no way of anyone knowing. I was fortunate to be at a wedding when I passed out and remember nothing after going up for a second helping of roast beef. I don't remember asking where the ladies room was or collapsing. Fortunately, a nurse that was there found a faint pulse so I didn't get CPR, which would have killed me on the spot. I was rushed to one hospital then to another after an echo showed that I was bleeding out. 21 units of blood and a 9 1/2 hour surgery put me on life support and a coma for 8 days. I had a 1 percent chance of surviving. I had been bleeding so much that they couldn't close off the aorta and had to go in through the groin. They also had to replace the aortic valve in my heart. You are in a better situation because your doctors are on top of it and are prepared for it. I was in the hospital and rehab for 6 weeks, so weak I didn't have the energy to eat. As I said, I remember nothing, but I did have a near death experience. Fortunately, I had my family around to help when I got home, and ultimately I went into cardiac rehab, which I qualified for because of the valve replacement. My body has gotten stronger, but the fatigue remains. Fortunately, I am past the 3 hour nap every afternoon because of the exhaustion. My cardiologist said that even though I don't remember anything, my body remembers and is still healing. As far as the ICU experience, when I came out of the coma, I was in ICU another week before they sent me to a rehab facility. They were really supportive, calling me a miracle walking. I couldn't walk at first, but they slowly got me standing and finally taking a few steps. It took 3 weeks at rehab before I could walk on my own. I wish I could be more helpful, but you will be really well-prepared for this because your doctors know what to do ahead of time. Since yours isn't an emergency situation in the moment, your medical team can control any bleeding from the get-go. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
Elaine, gosh, you have really been through a lot! So glad you are recovering! Thanks so much for this info and you continue to get well.
Thank you, Elaine, and good luck with your operation. I know you will do well because your team is prepared for it.