Personal Stories: Carol Martin-Buck


DYING WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER THAN SURVIVING

I can't believe that 2 1/2 yrs. after my aortic dissection I would feel that dying would have been better for me than surviving. My life today is a pure hell of pain, pills, depression, and the daily knowledge that one day one or both of my aneurysms will rupture. I am a single black female, aged 49 at the time and I live in Albany, GA. Here is my story.

On 1/14/02, I was attending a business meeting in Jacksonville, FL. At about 8:30am while talking w/co-workers, I suddenly couldn't talk or breathe. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Then the ripping sensation and ohhhhhhh the pain. It was unbearable! Everyone acted fast in getting me down to the floor, comfortable (clothes loosened, fanning, etc.) and 911 called. I am told their quick action saved my life. The ambulance was there in what seemed like minutes and I was on my way to Shands (a teaching hospital) in FL. I stayed in the emergency room till almost midnight and occasionally was given something for pain. A co-worker had accompanied me, they told me but I don't remember. I remember seeing my mother some time that night (she had arrived from Detroit) and that's it. The next week was a blur. I was in CICU. Heavily medicated to lower my blood pressure and relieve pain. A couple more days and I was moved to a regular room where I first heard the words "aortic dissection."

The diagnosis and a course of treatment was explained to me. My dissection had just stopped in progress. They didn't know why. Surgery was not an option at this time due to the size and with considerable risk of paraplegic and/or the loss of a vital organ. Medication would be the course of treatment with a focus on blood pressure management.

A few days later, I had a follow-up CT scan and was told I could go home. Several of my family members (nieces, cousins, aunts) had arrived earlier from Macon, GA and along with my mother I was discharged. I had developed a severe pain under my left breast and in my left side. This continued when I was discharged and no one had an answer for it. The day after arriving home, I received a call from one of the doctors inquiring about the pain. Yes, it was still there and yes, it was getting worse. He advised me that the latest CT scan, which wasn't read before I was discharged, showed what they thought was possibly a fluid leakage. To be sure that it wasn't a further rupture, I was told to go to the nearest hospital and explain the situation with a request to contact Shands. My family and I left my house immediately. We arrived at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany at about 2:30p. At around midnight, I was life flighted out to Shands in Gainesville, FL. where they had a bed in CICU. For about another week, everything was a blur. I was heavily medicated again to lower my blood pressure. A few days later I was sent home.

My blood pressure is hard to control and the pain was continuing. Within a few weeks I was back in the hospital. This time the Medical Center of Central GA. which is in Macon. About a week in CICU and a few days in a regular room. Again no surgery but a different menu of medications.

After 4 months, I went back to work only to land back in the hospital after 3 weeks. My blood pressure was 200+ over 120 when I arrived at the hospital one night after work. I spent 5 days in CICU and 5 days in a regular room. Each day my pressure was high until finally another new menu of drugs brought it down. For the next 15 months I tried working through the pain, affects of meds, stress, the high BP readings, etc. I had learned to take my blood pressure and did so 3 times a day. At work I cut back on my hours at first but then fell back into my workaholic tendencies. On 10/27/03, I called it quits at work after 31 years. It was a hard choice to make but I physically couldn't keep going.

I filed for social security disability in January, 04. My doctors (I have a Nephrologists, Internist, Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgeon and a Pain Mgmt. Doctor) and I were all surprised when I was approved in May. My first review is scheduled for 5 to 7 years. I truly hope that in 5 yrs. this will be all over for me.

As of my latest CT scan on 8/13/04, my thoracic aortic dissection extends the length of the descending thoracic and measures 4.8. My abdominal aortic aneurysm is 4.7 with extension into my right iliac artery. The scan indicates that both are stable.

I have gone from zero pills a day prior to my dissection to 15 - 20 pills a day. I am on the following meds:

Atenolol 100mg 3 times daily

Lisinopril 20mg 2 times daily

Indapamide 2.5mg 1 time daily

Clonidine .2mg 3 times daily

Protonix 40mg 1 time daily

Tiazac 360mg 1 time daily

Cozaar 50mg 1 time daily

Crestor 10mg 1 time daily

Zetia 10mg 1 time daily

Paxil 40mg 1 time daily

Lorcet 7.5/650mg whenever necessary

Temazepam 15mg 2 at night, whenever necessary

Nitrostat .4mg whenever necessary

I was a workaholic (6-7 days, 60+ hrs. a week) as a retail executive. I suffer continuous pain under my left breast, lower back, left shoulder blade, and buttocks. My right leg swells constantly and I have difficulty walking any length. I have a hard time concentrating and sleep a lot due to the meds.

I repeat how I started my story, dying would have been better than surviving.

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