THE BEGINNING OF THE TRUTH
My experience began on August 16, 2009. Although I have been feeling "the elephant seating on the chest syndrome" on and off for the last five years, different tests were done and the diagnosis have been: Acid Reflex or Stress. Additionally, the doctors, hospital personnel, and even family members were raising their eye brows. Needless to say I was skeptical to even talk about it.
August 16, 6 AM, it was time to go running since I have been training for the Chicago Marathon scheduled for Octuber 11, 2009. My schedule showed 10 miles for that day since I have already done 20 miles 2 weeks prior. It was my intention to finish early since after the race I was to take the train to chicago to meet my daughter to look at wedding dresses.
I was feeling great, my running was better than ever, and feeling like Michael Jordan. The first 4 miles went by very easy, and then, there was a sharp pain in my left jaw. I dismissed it convincing myself that it was probably caused by the pillow, a tooth, etc. My denial kept me running since I was still feeling light and wonderful, so about the 4.5 mile, the pain radiated to the front of my throat and it was pulsing. It was around the adam's apple, and from there it radiated to my shoulders back and front. Still Feeling good, I was debating if I should stop since the 5th mile was very close, the half point of my run.
However, my instincts were telling me that something was wrong, and even though a CT and other tests were done in July and found nothing, these were symptoms of a heart attack in women. Therefore, I called my fiance, who immediately came to get me and took me to the local Urgent Care Clinic.
Once we arrived, they took my blood pressure, did an EKG, and although nothing was detected, they send me to the hospital via ambulance.
In the ambulance, they gave me 4 baby aspirins, regular nitro, and asked lots of questions. But most of all, they were very impressed with my heart rate since it was "the heart rate of an athlete".
The hospital repeated the same tests adding blood work and X Rays. It was decided to keep me until the next day to do a stress test since this was sunday. My family came over and stayed the whole day, but since they did not find any thing they left. The next day the Stress Test was done and it came out normal. On Monday afternoon I was released with the diagnosis of possible Acid Reflex.
THE NEXT FOUR DAYS
The next day I was not feeling well so did not go to work, but since "my heart was not the problem", I continued with my training on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Although I was not feeling well on Wednesday, went to work after my regular run of 5 miles. The next day, Thursday morning, through the end of my workout and while doing my final streches using a plactic ball, I felt something rupturing around my chest area and radiating all the way down to my legs. I felt very sick and almost passed out, but was able to sit down. I began to loose my vision but was able do drive myself home and lay down. I was afraid to call anybody since by then my impression was that people will think my symptoms were imaginary. After getting home, taking a nap, and walking up to a terrible pain on my right side, I decided to call my regular doctor, who did not have and opening for that day.
My fiance called, and again, after explaining to him what happened, he immediately came and toodk me to the other local hospital.
The same procedure was done in this hospital:EKG, blood work, medicine for the pain, since by then my pain was unbearable. Again, I was released with instructions to stop my water pill because it was causing damage to my kidneys, and Motrin for the pain.
We came home. The pain medication worked for a while, and then pain kept getting progressively worse. I did not get much sleep on Thursday night and desperately waited for Friday afternoon, my appointment with my doctor.
I arrived early at the doctor's office since my appointment was at 4 PM. Finally, after she examined me, she send me to the local hospital to get an emergency CT, the same hospital that I have been on Sunday and Monday.
In the hospital, they made me drink some poison since it was the belief that I was passing kidney stones. By then, the pain was so sharp, that I was shaking, freezing, and vomiting. Once the CT was done, it did not take long before I was told that my doctor was on the phone wanting to speak with me.
It was shocking to hear her say that there was a teared in my aorta, Aortic Dissection, and emergency surgery was needed. She also added that it was a very serious surgery and there was nobody in the local hospitals that could do it, so I have to be taking to to North Western Memorial Hospital in Chicago by helicopter. While my fiance notified my family, the hospital placed me in the emergency room while they made the arrangements to take me to Chicago.
NORTH WESTERN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL IN CHICAGO
After my family came over, and my pain began do diminished because of the medication, I began to loose track of time and the following events. All I know is that they took me by ambulance because of 911 issues, the hospital does not have a landing area for a helicopter.
By the time everything was prepared my surgery was don on Saturday, August 22, around 5 AM. The next thing I remember is briefly waking up until Sunday afternoon and seeing my mother and other family members around my bed. My mother kept repeating while rubbing my hand: "the Saint of your name will heal you", (she named me after the Holly Trinity because of a promise she had made about a year in a half before I was born).
I was out of ICU on Monday night and that is when I began to realized in the condition that I was.
My released from the hospital was on Thursday night, August 27, 2009 and my first night at home was a nightmare. Although the doctors were very happy because they felt I was recuperating remarkably well, I felt terrible and was so angry and dissolutioned. Why me? I was doing everything right: Eating right, working out, never smoked, used drugs, or alcohol. "It is not fair". I could not stop crying and still did not understand what they did to me, and did not want to know either. I was so afraid!
TWO MONTHS LATER
Two months have gone by, and I am amazed of the miracles of the human body. I feel 90% better and have recuperated my hope almost completely However, I still fear the future and some of my biggest questions are as follow: how long do I have? Why did God left me? What plans does he have for me? What can I do to leave the world a better place? My gratitude to Graeme for this support group which has inspired, taught, and motivated me. It was my fiance that suggested and helped me to looked in the internet for this kind of support.
Since my understanding of the medical terms is very limited, I have quoted the information from my release form, so perhaps you can help me understand exactly what it was done to my heart. The doctors have explained it, but since they used medical terms, it is difficult for the average patient like to grasp it.
"(1) EMERGENT RESECTION AND REPLACEMENT OF ASCENDING AORTA AND PROXIMAL HEMI ARCH USING A PROXIMAL 24-MM GRAFT AND DISTAL GRAFT. (2) REPAIR OF THE INNOMINATE ARTERY BYPASS USING 8-MM DACRON GRAFT. (3) HYPOTHERMIC CIRCULAR ARREST USING ANTEGRADE CEREBRAL PERFUSION VIA RIGHT AXILLARY ARTERY".
Medications: AMLODIPINE BESYLATE, METOPROLOL TARTRATE, LIPITOR, LISINOPRIL, AND BABY ASPIRIN (half of what I left the hospital with).
Thanks for the opportunity to tell my story,