Personal Stories: Aaron Roberts Story


Events of My Type I Acute Aortic Dissection.

Tuesday September 11, 2007.  I arrived in Chicago for a series of meetings.  The first meeting and lunch went excellently.  I navigated out to the suburbs to get setup in my hotel.  I normally stay near Midway or O’hare, but could not get a room either place and ended up in the western suburbs near Hinsdale.

I had trouble getting my hotel internet connection to work and worked with several folks overseas trying to get it to work.  I eventually went to a nearby Barns and Noble to update my email.

I returned to my room and when I got up of the bed I felt a pain in my chest almost like a muscle tear.  I felt dizzy and light headed.  Then I tried to walk over the phone and collapsed between the wall and the TV stand / dresser.  I just happened to look at the nearby clock and saw that it was about 9:30 PM.  I woke up about 10 PM and made it a short distance back to my bed and called my wife via my mobile phone.  (I have always had her number programmed in the 5 speed dial position because the 5 key has always had a little bump on it, so I could call in the dark or on the road.  It just made it easy and I never had to think about it.)

When I called my wife I told her that I had fainted and I wasn’t sure if I had had a heart attack.  I asked her to look up my symptoms on the internet to see if we should call 911.

She immediately looked and told me I should call 911, I mentioned to her that I could not figure out how to dial 911.  That sent a signal to her that maybe something was wrong, she hung up with me called the hotel and had them call 911 (I generally just have a copy of all my flight and hotel booking itineraries forwarded to her in case she should ever need to reach me.) 

After she spoke to the front desk and got the 911 call going she called me back.  I did manage to call 911 from my cell phone, but they could not figure out where I was and went to the wrong place.  The EMT’s my wife had called arrived in minutes.  I had my door open and was on the bed.

I explained the chest pain, I also was beginning to feel better, almost embarrassed that I had bothered them.  I was very pale and sweating profusely so they told me that they were going to take me to Hinsdale Hospital. 

I don’t really remember much except they kept asking me about drugs and I kept telling them I had a Target Pizza and Garlic Chips. 

Per the medical reports I continued to be very talkative in the ER.  I had low blood pressure and a normal EKG.

The Medical staff told me that I kept asking them to help me and kept telling them that they weren’t helping.

I’m not completely clear on all the events that follow but have attempted to put together everyone’s stories in the correct order.

At some point, the Paramedics and the medical staff called my wife trying to get medical history. 

At some point in the ER or the CT lab I crashed and had to be resuscitated.  The ER doctor also drew the blood off my heart to keep me alive.

Because of the pressure from the internal bleeding, the medical staff had a very difficult time intubating me. (I lost all my blood eventually – my cholesterol went from about 200 to about 80 thanks to health donor blood as every drop of my blood was lost.).  They were eventually able to get me intubated using some fiber optic equipment and amazing technique.  In fact, almost everyone mentioned how that saved my life just to get me to surgery.

The CT scan confirmed that I had an Aortic rupture.  The prepped me for emergency open heart surgery.

The medical team again called my wife for more history, and update on my condition, and consent. 

They told her to get to Chicago as fast as she could that I had a 50 / 50 chance of survival.

One of the ER intake coordinators helped my wife book a flight to Chicago for 6 AM the next morning.

While all of this had been going on, my wife had called her family in New Mexico to pray.  Eventually as things progressed two of her sisters made arrangements to come to Dallas to stay with our kids. 

One of my wife’s friends came over to help her get packed and stay with the Kids until their Aunts could arrive.  My wife also called my mother and my mom decided to go to Chicago too.  She drove the 80 miles from where she lives to be here in time for the early morning flight to Chicago.   Another friend took my wife and mom to the airport.

I went into surgery after Midnight.  It just so happens that two very prominent surgeons were on call that night.  I was told that I could not have scheduled better surgeons, if fact if they had not both been on call together I probably could not have scheduled them together at all.  But, everyone says how great they both are and how good it would be to get just one of them. 

There were a couple of complications with my surgery, but they were overcome.  The Doctor in charge of the cardiac unit at Hinsdale came out and met my wife in the morning afterwards and explained to her how great the team I had was, how well they all worked together.  He said it was like watching a pit crew at the Indy 500, fast, efficient, and, beautiful.

They explained I was still not out of the woods; the next 24 - 48 hours would be critical.  I had all new donor blood; my kidneys had taken a hit and would need to restart.

But at least I had survived surgery and it had gone about as well as it possibly could have.  I now had a new Aorta and mechanical heart valve.

The Cardiac Program at Hinsdale has an excellent reputation.  I could not have been in better hands.  I was admitted Tuesday night (9/11) and was discharged to a local hotel in time for Monday Night Football.  I returned to Texas the following Saturday and have been seeing doctors and recovering since.


Aaron Roberts


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