Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
I had an emergency Type B, descending aortic dissection on Christmas day 2014. I would love to share my story. While we were opening gifts on Christmas morning, I reached for a present and I literally felt something tear in my chest and abdomen. I had no prior health issues of any kind. I was fit, had low blood pressure, was never a smoker....basically I had no risk factors. I knew something was very wrong as the pain was severe in my chest and back and I was having a difficult time breathing. By the time the ambulance arrived, I had lost feeling in my left leg. While in the ambulance, the EMC ran an EKG only to find that my heart was fine...he suggested that perhaps I had a case of 'holiday anxiety'. Hardly. I knew something was very wrong. When I arrived at the local hospital they immediately took a CT scan and diagnosed me with a descending aortic dissection. I was fortunate that the hospital took the appropriate test and diagnosed me so expediently. They also transferred me to a renowned hospital in Philadelphia, PA to handle the surgery. Within 15 minutes I was medevaced to The University of Pennsylvania Hospital. As my family gathered around, the surgeons discussed the situation. My aorta tore from my heart, down through my chest, my stomach, my pelvis and my femoral artery in my left leg. It was an extensive tear and the prognosis was poor. I was given a 30% chance of survival and it was highly likely that I would lose my left leg and my left kidney. I was not prepared to say goodbye to my daughter or anyone...it was a whirlwind as I was given ten minutes to say my goodbyes and then into surgery. I was blessed to have such an amazing surgical team. They pumped me up mentally as if I was heading into an Olympic event. I remember the positive energy and encouragement. I am so very thankful for the kindness of the entire team, especially the anesthesiologist who made me a pinky promise that we would both do everything we could to pull through and held my hand as I went under. That could have been the last human contact of my life. The kindness meant so much. It was a difficult surgery that took 9+ hours and fortunately they were able to save my life and my leg. I did lose the functioning of my left kidney. My left arm has reduced blood flow and circulation challenges due to the placement of stents to repair my aorta. They were unable to repair the aorta in my abdomen during the surgery due to time constraints and the number of blood vessels etc in the area. The blood is channeling correctly right now and I am being monitored but there is a potential that an additional, scheduled surgery may be needed down the line. I have learned that my aortic dissection was a result of a genetic mutation on my ACTA 2 gene. I had my daughter tested and she also carries the defective gene. So now she will be monitored too. I am amazed at my recovery but still I struggle with knowing how to exercise and recognizing my limitations. I travel for work and I'm very active and sometimes forget that I need to take it easy. That said, I have not gotten into a good exercise routine and need to do so. I honestly have learned to look at my situation as a blessing. It is a miracle I'm alive and I now have much more empathy for others and never take one moment for granted.
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