Aortic dissection & aortic aneurysm information support group

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

What Doesn't Kill You, Makes You Stronger

Hello Folks,

Back in May of 2010, I was on a business trip in Brazil, a country I had spent a good part of my life in. I was engaged to be married that December to a wonderful woman, and was quite happy. The following is what has been told to me as I have no memory of the events. I began feeling strange and called my fiance who told me She'd be right over.

Upon arrival She saw that I was very pale with cold sweats and took me straight to the hospital (Brazil's best). I checked into the hospital and while conducting tests they rushed me to immediate surgery as my aorta had torn and I was bleeding out. I was told I'd lost 5 liters of my blood and was put on a heart-lung machine. Surgery that was supposed to have take 5 hours lasted 11 hours due to some complications with the surgery. I survived however was left legally blind and paralyzed from the chest down (with my arms working). I was taken to another hospital shortly after surgery and developed pressure sores which got to stage 4 meaning bone could be seen (sores were in my behind). As a result, I could not travel back to the U.S. for post surgical acute physical therapy. There is a window of opportunity in these cases where the sooner You get intensive therapy the better Your odds are of regaining mobility. My pressure sores kept me in Brazil until June 2011 after several surgeries to close the sores (Stage 4 sores - could see bone). I finally was well enough to fly. 

I got to Boston at the end of June and upon landing had a minor heart attack which landed me into Mass. General Hospital where I was kept for a month or so. Best part of this was I got to take a picture with the National Hockey Leagues trophy, the Stanley cup as some of the Boston Bruins hockey players brought it by the hospital to cheer folks up. From MGH I went to Spaulding rehabilitation and was there 2 months or so. I still had a tiny pressure sore so I was not able to take full advantage of the physical therapy but did my best. 

Currently, I am at a skilled nursing facitly near Boston and doing all I can to stimulate my body with exercise. 

As a result of having lost so much blood during the event a part of my optical nerve was not irrigated and I lost peripheral vision ... best described as tunnel vision. I hope to get help with that and do what I can to relearn how I see. Heavans I wish Stem Cell technology was a bit further advanced than it is! 

Well that's my story. Hope it wasn't too long sometimes I tend to get "wordy" when I write. As I'm keeping up a good attitude and plan to beat this thing. The AD does not concern me at all. My vision and mobility are my big issues as far as I'm concerned. I'm very happy to be alive and realize how close I came as told to me by the medics and friends who went though the early days with me. That is why I say "What doesn't kill You makes You stronger"!!! :-)

Cheers and a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


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Comment by Cynthia Lind on January 2, 2012 at 23:36

I'm completely inspired by you.  My aortic dissection and anuerism happened in January 2011 and was completely out of the blue with no pre-existing condition and my surgery took 5 1/2 hours.  Not so unlike you I had no idea what hits me, I was out for a couple of days and every day now is a search for others in my shoes.  God Bless you and when I visit my son in Boston the instructions always are, 'is something starts to happen get me to Mass General immediately'.   I live in Michigan.  Keep us up to date 

Comment by Harry on December 25, 2011 at 17:59

HI Tom,

your right, the AD becomes secondary when one of your senses becomes affected. I lost my voice, althogh not a sense, i may have well been & not being able to talk for 4 months was a nightmare.

I wish you luck with your recovery!

happy Xmas/NY


Comment by Gregory Smith on December 21, 2011 at 11:24

When I read these stories of what some people have gone through, I realise just how fortunate I have been. I, too, have no recollection of the events until after I came out of intensive care some 5 days later. I have been told that I had to be operated on twice in an 8 hour period, being put on a heart & lung machine both times. However, I don't seem to have suffered any long term ill effects and, after 18 months, am more or less back to normal.


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