Personal Stories: Anthony B.

I'm new to this website and am happy to have found it. When I first experienced my aortic dissection back on December 1, 2003 I could find very little info on the subject. I had never heard of the condition. I know so much about the condition now that I could probably write a book. Anyway, my story begins on 12/1/03 while working as a dock worker, loading and unloading trucks. I was in the process of unloading 250 lb. metal rods from the truck to the dock when I began to sweat profusely and had some pain in my back and in my chest. I thought if I could just 'sit it out' in my car I'd feel better.


When I got to my car the pain intensified everywhere and I could barely move. I couldn't make it back to the dock, so I ended up driving myself to the nearest hospital. Lucky for me the hospital had a trauma center, or my condition might have been misdiagnosed as happens in so many cases. I was scared, thinking I was having a heart attack, or what I thought a heart attack must feel like. After being seen by numerous ER doctors a specialist was called in and tests were done and I was told I had experienced an aortic dissection (descending, type B). My BP was through the roof. I had never had high BP in my life. After I was stabilized I was transferred to the ICU and monitored round the clock.


The next morning I spoke with the Thoracic surgeon who diagnosed my condition and he went through the steps for treating my condition, which consisted of BP medications (Metroprolol, Enalapril, HCTZ), potassium, aspirin, Vicodin, Oxycontin and Oxycodone. The plan was to treat me medically, no surgery in the near future.


I was in the hospital for 8 days and was sent home to rest. No strenuous anything - lifted nothing heavier than a gallon of milk. My doctors continued to monitor my condition for about six months. I was told that the tear in my aorta went all the way down into the Illiac artery in my legs. I experienced numbness in my right leg off and on. At the six month point a CAT scan showed that the tear was expanding and surgery was my only option.


On June 22, 2004 I endured a 8 1/2 surgery to replace a portion of my aorta, about mid-way down. The doctors didn't want to go lower, because of a chance of paralysis. I was in the hospital for 7 days following surgery. I was like a newborn baby -- couldn't do anything for myself. I could barely walk, was hurting in and around the 16" incision which extended from below my shoulder blade to the front of my stomach. I had 2 chest tube 'holes' which also caused me pain.


Thank God for my wife...she had to clean and bandage everything for me for weeks, in addition to showering me, helping me eat, giving me my meds and helping to stabilize me when I attempted to walk. I got winded easily (and still do). I am 'healed' up now, but still face days when I struggle just to get out of bed. I sleep off and on most days and my energy levels have dropped. I also now have chronic pain and am being treated by a Pain Management clinic. I wear Fentanyl patches for 72 hours at a time.


The doctors say I have nerve damage as a result of my surgery, which will more than likely never go away. During the aortic replacement my left side vocal cords were paralyzed, so I've had 3 surgeries to repair them. For some strange reason I also lost 50% of my hearing in my left ear, which no doctor can explain. I had been tested prior to the surgery and had perfect hearing. I've gained about 30 pounds since this all happened due to the inactivity. The most recent CAT scan shows the abdominal section of my aorta is now expanding, though slower than the upper section had.


I am facing another surgery within a year to replace the abdominal portion of my aorta. It is riskier, because we're dealing with the chance of paralysis when the legs are involved. The doctors say they may put a stent in there or have to replace that section...they won't know until the time comes. I haven't worked since 12/2003 and am in the process of trying to get Social Security benefits. I have been turned down once already, but have just re-applied. I think the fact that I am only 41 years old may have something to do with the SS Admin.'s decision to turn down my request.


If any one of those SS workers spent a day in my shoes, they'd see things differently. I am thankful for a supportive wife and family. I am lucky to be alive and I thank God and my lucky stars every day. My life has changed completely. I use to hold down two jobs at a time and now I have trouble holding a couple of books! I still drive, but sometimes the meds prevent me from getting around due to tiredness and fatigue.


Seems every aspect of my life has been affected. My moods fluctuate from good to bad. The pain patches don't work 100% of the time, so I'm having to deal with constant pain and discomfort. Thanks for reading my story. Felt good to share it with people who understand what I've been through.


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