Aortic dissection & aortic aneurysm information support group

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

Understanding life after dissection

January of this year, my husband and I were in FL.  I  returned home on a Friday, the following Monday, he called me at work from a local ER - there was good news and bad news he said....the good news was he didn't appear to be having a heart attack, the bad news was they weren't sure what was happening.  I told him he would be fine (that's what I wanted to believe) and he said they were getting ready to transport him to a larger hospital, about an hour away.

(My husband had gained quite a bit of weight over the past few years and had high blood pressure as well as other assorted problems.  Retrospectively, I realize there were signs of heart failure - swollen legs (which his GP seemed to ignore), feeling bloated, sleeping more than usual.  But at the time, back in January, I couldn't believe this would be anything more than a generic heart attack, he would pull through and after the "wake up call" would get serious about his health.)

Next call was from the hospital - he mentioned "crushing pain" and was quickly taken to surgery so there wasn't time to talk.  That night I spoke to his cardiac surgeon who said although my husband underwent a catastrophic event, ascending aortic dissection with aneurysm, he had come through surgery surprisingly well, especially considering his condition when he arrived in the OR.  The surgeon anticipated my husband would be out of icu at the end of the week.

My husband did not do well with intubation after surgery and had post operative pneumonia.  He spent a little over a week (it's all a blur so not sure if that's exactly right) in cardiac icu before finally being transferred to pulmonary icu.  He was there at least a week - at my last visit, the pulmonary doctor came in and said from a lung perspective my husband was fine to go home BUT from a cardiac perspective -the cardiologist would need to decide.  A major problem after surgery was constant AF - he was on AF medication and had been given a bolus of Coumadin.  On my husband's last day he was standing, tubes out, looking forward, he hoped, to leaving the hospital by the weekend (probably overly optimistic but he desperately wanted to leave). 

My husband died that night. 

There were so many thoughts - how could he survive the hour drive to the hospital, the surgery - all the hell after the surgery only to be brought down (presumably by thrombosis) when he was so close to going home...and always in the grieving process the wish to have him back....and in one of those awful moments of grief I suddenly realized - had he survived he would not have been the person he was prior to the dissection - the person I was so desperate to have back would not have come back regardless of the outcome - and so I needed to understand what his life would have been like had he survived aortic dissection.

I can't thank you enough for sharing your stories.


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Comment by lisa kamp on January 4, 2012 at 9:36

Cheryl, thank you so much for your response - you've really helped me understand what life for my husband would have been like after ad.  I am fairly certain he would not have coped well with that life - the life changes he would have to make were already starting to sink in the few days before he died.  He desperately wanted to get out of the hospital, to get some normalcy back in his life but clearly his life would have had a completely different "normal".  You've helped me immensely - again, thanks so much.


Comment by Cheryl Kerber on January 3, 2012 at 3:00

Thanks for sharing about your husband.  Everyones personal experiences are so humbling to how human each of us are.  That we can be so different in so many ways, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty we are alot a like.  Whether it be do to an accident, an illness, disease, cancer, or even just old age, there is usually a loved one left behind to experience the emotional pain after a loved one has passed.

I have survived three times starting at the age of 38, then 39, and now most recent at 45.  I can only imagine how my husband, family, and friends felt watching me go through these events.  It is hard enough going through it yourself, but to watch those who love you watch you is even harder and there isn't anything you can do to stop it.

I too ended up with blood clots in my left leg post surgery, and it was after I got home that it got extremely painful to walk and put me back in the hospital with a Heparin IV for about 3 weeks til they could get my numbers down to "normal" range.  I lost 25 pounds that first week and it was difficult to even feel hungry to try and rebuild my body to make it strong enough to handle the healing stress - even though they sent me home twice (and I really really wanted to go home) the surgery took a huge toll on my system and other innards are effected by the stress whether kidneys, stomach, lungs and so forth.

I can say at 6 months post surgery (2nd time around) I am better and stronger, but yes, there are still after affects from the surgery - and as Richard stated - the emotional part is harder than the actual physical part.  You would have got your husband back physically wise, but yes, he most likely would be different in various aspects after he got home.  Being extremely dependent on those around us can be very debilitating and you can easily slip into a depression.  But knowing that, won't make it easier for you to not have him back and I'm sure you would have been willing to work through it.

My sister in law lost her husband to cancer 2 years ago this upcoming August.  He was only 60.  She still has good days and bad.  She states she shouldn't feel such sadness still, but grieving is a process and there is no time limit as to what is the appropriate amount of time for it.

I found this site last January after searching for any kind of understanding as to what I had been through - there just wasn't anyone any of the doctors could guide me to as "most just don't survive" as they let us know. 

We can't bring your husband back and I feel for you whole heartedly.  Post surgery would have been an uphill climb no doubt -- but I don't know if knowing that will help you.  But I hope by connecting to those with similar experiences can even if it's just a little bit.  One thing most of us have commented on after going through this though, is how much we appreciate life and the little things in life.  We don't stress the same over little things and we become very aware of how life can change in an instant, no matter whether it's from an aneurysm, a heart attack, a stroke, or from a loved one dieing.

You obviously are a loving, caring person ---- I send you the same hugs as I do to my sister in law.



Comment by Harry on December 25, 2011 at 18:31

Hi Lisa,

I am very sorry for your loss.

I have often asked why me & why did i survive & the person in the bed next to me didn't. I am told age & general body condition have a great deal to do with it. Also a strong desire to live & not let this take over your life. The general medical support you are given at the time also has a contributing effect when in hospital.

All that said, there is no reaon why your husband passed away so suddenly, i really feel for you & my heart goes out to you. Maybe our existance after such an episode is on a flick of  a coin, who know?

My thoughts are with you....



Comment by Richard Deal on December 20, 2011 at 13:58

hey there lisa,

what a sad story. my deepest condolences for your tragic loss...

it is difficult to know how anyone would react to the condition, as such. i am sure you can tell from some of our blogs that the most telling part of it is without a doubt the psychological aspect. the physical healing is a big part, but it pales into insignificance when compared to how a person processes the trauma. this condition is a great leveller - it does not discriminate, pity, revere or take any prisoners. it just IS what it is. you can learn to live with it, you can even fight against it if you are so inclined, but it will always be there like a damoclene sword hanging over you, or a bad smell that you just don't know how to get rid of.

from what i can gather about your husband from reading your post he would have pulled through ok if only he had had the chance. you seem to be the sort of support that all of us have at some time or another needed and you would have made it easier for him to adjust to his newly acquired "smell". such a tragic loss, at such a tragic time - i am really sorry...

take care,



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