Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
I am glad to have found this site/forum because I realise that aortic dissection is quite rare, so to find some fellow survivors is quite reassuring. I am now 3 months (13 wks to be exact) post op repair of a Type A aortic dissection. Before this happened to me I considered myself a fit 62 year old with no medical problems except mild asthma!
My dissection happened on 27th June 2014 at 3pm and was completely out of the blue like many other people. I was having a day off from work (nurse at the local Health Centre )and was vacuuming the sitting room. I stopped to have a conversation with my husband who was just about to leave to do the grocery shopping, he asked me if I wanted to go with him but I decided not to. Just as I had said this I suddenly had a terrific pain in my right jaw which then moved to my chest and then my back. I felt very unwell. My husband suggested I might like to lie on the bed (we live in a bungalow so the bedroom was close) which I did. I then passed out very briefly according to my husband but came round to hear my son on the 'phone to the emergency services. We live in a very rural part of Devon so ambulances can take up to 20-30 minutes to reach us- fortunately on this occasion they were with us in 20 minutes. I actually walked out to the ambulance where the paramedics checked my vital signs- a rather alarmingly low blood pressure and low pulse but good oxygen saturation. The journey to the hospital was another 35 mins and I was still in pain across my upper back in spite of being given intravenous paracetamol.
I was taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital and straight into A&E with no waiting. I was seen very promptly and eventually was sent for a CT scan and chest X-ray. The Doctor then informed me that I had a tear in my aorta. This rang alarm bells as my Father had died of a burst aortic aneurysm at the age of 68 and I was only 62!I had told the Doctors this when they were taking a history and my husband told me later that he thought it might be a burst aneurysm. They then arranged for me to transfer to Cardio-thoracics at Derriford hospital in Plymouth for surgery that evening. This meant another ambulance journey of about one hour plus. By now it was getting on for 9.30pm. I had already called my sister to let her know so she could inform the family and sent my team leader a text who replied using choice expletives which I cannot print here- she was so shocked! My husband let our 3 sons know who were equally shocked. I was remarkably calm throughout which in retrospect seems a rather strange reaction!!
I was taken straight into the High Dependency Unit (HDU) and after a few preliminaries went straight to theatre. I had a Dacron graft repair and re-suspension of the aortic valve. After 6 hours of surgery I spent the next 2 days/nights in HDU then to the Cardio ward for 3 days. Home on day 5 as I could walk and manage stairs! Since then I have had a few setbacks and had to be admitted with an unexplained raised temperature which was put down to a virus. This has occurred a couple of times since so is rather puzzling, although I feel it is less troubling than the first time I had it. I have also had ongoing pain in my right hip and buttock when I walk very short distances which the Consultant surgeon thinks is intermittent claudication affecting the internal iliac artery due to the dissection. I have to have a CT angiogram next month to ascertain what's going on.
All I can say is that I know how fortunate I am to be here and how lucky we all are to be living in the 21st century when surgical techniques are so advanced. Living in the UK I am grateful for the excellent NHS who provide fantastic care. I am also very grateful to my husband and son who acted so quickly on that awful day. I know I have to live with the consequences of the dissection repair such as a double lumen, taking medication for the rest of my life and a weary tiredness like nothing I have ever experienced but I am coming to terms with these things although at times it is quite hard.
Look forward to reading other blog posts and comments!
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