Aortic dissection & aortic aneurysm information support group

Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection

I woke up on March 2nd 2011, got out of bed and felt something tear at the level of my diaphragm, which was followed by a pain which didn't feel quite like a heart attack, but was clearly serious. So I called my partner, who sleeps in another room, and we drove to the nearest Urgencias in the Spanish town where I live. I just about made it through the door.

And then it was luck. I was quickly transferred to one of the two teaching hospitals in Las Palmas, which by chance has a team who seem to be world-class when it comes to Aortic Dissection.  I spent about 9 hours in surgery, where the whole ascending aorta was rebuilt with Dacron. The x-rays make my insides look embroidered from throat to groin.

Fortunately, although I apparently have a delicate vascular system (advice on strenghening it welcome) I had no other arterial or coronary problems, so the team are very pleased with the results.

Waking up in Intensive Care was confusing and disorienting. I was there for about 10 days, and at one point a lung collapsed with fluid build-up. I needed a lot of support for my breathing.  I should also point out that Spanish is not my mother tongue, and though I can speak it to do things I need to do, suddenly I was having to use it all the time, which was an interesting challenge, given all the other stuff which was going on.

When I was transferred to a ward, I was so weak I just couldn't get out of bed, and my legs, arms, belly and more were full of fluid. The indignities of nappies etc. were just horrible. Anaemia meant I was given a blood transfusion.

About five days later, I was taken back to the operating theatre for some minor surgery to remove some trapped fluid, this time under local anaesthesia.  One by one, members of the team stepped forward and shook my hand, saying "I operated the heart bypass machine on the day", "I was the anaesthetist". It was an incredibly emotional moment. I cried a lot later.

And then things began to get better. I did get out of bed. I did get to the bathroom. I did start to walk. All the follow-up tests - including ECGs, ultrasounds etc.- seemed to be "estupendo". And they let me go home after three weeks. Bliss.

At 6.00 am the following morning I awoke choking on blood. It was pouring from my nose and mouth, so once again partner and I drove to a nearby private clinic, where I was admitted. Incidentally, stopping a nosebleed on that scale involves shoving something which is a cross between a tampon and a ballpoint pen so far up your nose you worry about brain damage once you get over the pain of it and your eyes stop watering.

The bleed was caused by the damage to my nasal passages from the length of time I was on oxygen and the rest. So another week in hospital, while they restored blood levels, made sure I wasn't bleeding any more and so on. Nearly everyone was wowed by my surgery, and by the amazingly discreet scars, which have now nearly healed.

And I returned home again yesterday. I'm incredibly lucky, and am told provided I take time to recover and really keep my blood pressure under control, I should have no real worries for the future.

I'm still very weak, obviously, and moving slowly.  I have night-time panic attacks, and wake choking or gasping for breath (sleep with the TV on - sound off - was a suggestion I'm using).  And there'll be good days and bad days.

I'm not dwelling on why it is I was lucky enough to survive when others haven't, though I can understand why some may do so. It's an overwhelming experience.

So that's me. Still sore,a bit short of breath, and moving like a tortoise, although the worst symptom I have today is phlebitis in my wrist where they had the IV for an iron infusion a few days ago. It hurts more than my sternum...and I never want to see a diced carrot ever again, as this seems to have been the main ingredient in food in both hospitals.

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Comment by Kimberlee Jones on April 8, 2011 at 0:25
A bed! Already! Lucky you, I had to sleep in my lazy boy for 6m or so before I could sleep in my bed. Your amazing how well and quickly you are recovering/

Comment by Tim Manning on April 7, 2011 at 18:08

Thanks both to Kimberlee and Cher for your helfpul responses. I seem to be a little bit better each day, but I'm pacing myself carefully, and having an hour of rest on the bed, well-propped up, at regular intervals.

One tip - if like me you end up with phlebitis from an IV line, get an electric heated pad and sleep with you hand under it.  It's made a big difference. I'm still taking 500mg of paracetamol three times a day (effervescent works better), but apart from that no pain meds now, and this is mainly because of the pain in my hand/wrist.

Comment by Cheryl Kerber on April 6, 2011 at 2:50

Only one month and you sound great especially after what you have gone through and you add humor to your blog to boot which is a wonderful mind set to be in!

There was one nurse I had in ICU who I wished I could remember her name as I was so drugged up all I could recall was her patience and kindness with me, even though I had told my sister I thought the nurse was trying to kill me - and from that point on, she tried to explain to me everything she was doing so I wouldn't be so fearful - even if it was a drugged induced paranoia.

Through these events - there are many earth angels we come in contact with, and they expect nothing in return.  I know it is their job, but there isn't enough money to compensate for plain human kindness.

As I'm writing, I'm still in shock as to how far you are already along your AD journey and you found this site so quickly.  I searched for 6 years and it has been a God send.

By the way - the panic attacks at night are normal - especially if you are on any pain meds and so forth, not to mention just the plain healing process. 

Your recoop will take time so I hope you can be patient with yourself as I think we expect more of ourselves than what our body apparently does after going through what it just did.  Our bodies are good at letting us know to slow down a bit.

Even though we've all had different procedures done, different aortic parts repaired, and in different parts of the world, we share a common understanding of what you have gone through and if you have any questions along your healing path, don't hesitate to ask as most likely someone on this site can respond.  Or if you just want a listening ear to celebrate your accomplishments or to vent or express concerns - we are here for you!

Thrilled to hear you are doing so well!


Comment by Kimberlee Jones on April 4, 2011 at 19:27

Welcome again, it always amazes me when I read these survival stories. I understand the overwhelming emotions when you meet the people involved in saving your life.  During one of my post op trips to the ER, a Dr. introduced himself to me as the doctor that delivered my daughter, I of course could not thank him enough and cried emotionally. You sound like you are doing very well so soon after surgery. Which I am very happy to hear.  It also sounds like your spirits are doing very well and that is so amazing to me, it took me years to drag myself out of my hole. Happy to meet you and happy to see you jumping in right away.





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