Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
Where to start... I had no warning or symptoms, and was swimming 2-3 miles a day up until my acute Type A dissection on November 5, 2012. My sister and I were visiting our terminally ill mother in Chicago and were packing to fly home (she to Idaho, I to Philadelphia) when I felt a ripping sensation in my chest. I had time to call out to her to "call 911," which she did, thank God (I'm glad we were on good terms!!!). I remember thinking I should sit down, then lie down, and the next few things I remember are spotty. The EMS techs kept telling me I was having a stroke, and I remember being very angry because I knew that wasn't the problem, and trying to tell them so.
The Emergency Room personnel were a little more astute, and after a Chest x-ray and CT, they figured out the problem and called in the heart team. I was very fortunate that the cardiac surgeon on call was a specialist in aortic disease. I had dissected from root to bifurcation, also affecting the left carotid, right iliac and both mesenteric arteries. Also ripped the aortic valve. Apparently, there had been an undiagnosed aneurysm of approx. 9cm in my ascending aorta. Surgery lasted 9 hours, 21 units of blood, replacing the valve and repairing part of the dissection with a graft. Several complications followed, including ischemic colitis, which nearly led to a temporary colostomy, but I was spared that, thank goodness. I was in the hospital about 2 weeks, at which time my son, who had flown in from New York, rented a car and drove me 12 hours home to Philadelphia.
Then things got dicey again. It was difficult to find a cardiologist who wanted to take me on, and I was still in what seemed to be more than the usual amount of pain. A couple of weeks later, they decided to do a CT scan, and diagnosed sternal dehiscence. So on January 4, 2013 it was back to the OR for sternal reconstruction. Wires and plates and screws (oh my).
Even after all this, I really thought I would "get better" and then just maintain. Once I was told I could start exercising I was back in the pool and back up to swimming three miles a day by July, 2013. I was also back at pilates class twice a week. Then it was time for my 6 month CT scan. I was shocked and devastated to be told that I am now developing an aneurysm in my descending aorta, below the repair. It has grown .5 cm in 6 mos. Now I'm not allowed any exercise except "light cardio" (e.g., walking). But of course the worst thing I can do is gain weight! So. I've started consulting a dietician who is really very helpful in managing my food consumption, but this is really HARD. I'm struggling, but working at maintaining a positive attitude.
I'm so glad I found you all!!! I didn't think I would find anyone who really "gets it," but as I read your stories I feel so much less alone. Thanks for being here!!!
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