Personal Stories: Cathy Mordecai
I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am for this site. Because
of the information you have presented here and the people I have had
contact with, I am able to walk through this unusual course of events in
my life. I am still recovering and not sure how long or what the final
outcome will be. And even though I am physically limited in activities,
my emotional state, my attitude and my hopefulness is far better than it
was just a few weeks ago. As a result, I am now able to tell my surreal
It all began when I went to have a TEE in search of reasons why I
have been having bouts of double vision. Since the test is an outpatient
procedure, I had planned to go home that day and get right back to my
regular routine as I never expected the doctor would discover anything.
Next thing I know is I wake up in ICU. I am told that I have an aortic
arch dissection which is more often than not--FATAL. The date of the
tear is unknown as there are blood clots around the area, with a flap
moving every time my heart beat, which also has blood clots in the shape
of a hammer head on the end of it. The doctor’s fear is the blood clots
will break off; the flap will tear more or tear off, or the site will
aneurism and/or rupture. The location is very rare making it inoperable.
The prognosis is very gloomy. However, I am thinking the doctors and
nurses have me confused with someone who is really sick. In fact, I ask
the nurse "Don't you need this bed for someone who is really ill?" It
took them 5 days to convince me I had something very serious.
The 5th day the doctor came in to tell me the only thing he can do
for me is to keep me on the medication to slow down my heart, lower my
already low blood pressure, lower my already normal cholesterol, and
thin my blood. "Don't do anything strenuous, no lifting, and don't get
your heart rate up. My hope is that the blood clots will slowly
dissipate, the flap will lie down and the place will heal itself even
though in my 15 years of practice I have never seen this. Since the
location is so rare and the mere fact that you have survived this long,
I don’t know of anything else I can do for you.”
Since I live in a very small town in Texas I asked the doctor if we
should move closer to the city so that if something does happen I will
be close to a hospital familiar with this condition. He looked me
straight in the eyes and said, "If anything happens, there is nothing we
can do for you even if you are here." I turned to my husband saying
"take me home." The next statement from the doctor was a suggestion “I
get my affairs in order.” Oh my God! I know I am going to wake up any
moment from this horrible nightmare. I am in the Twilight Zone. This
cannot be happening. So many unanswered questions, so much life not
lived. I am confused and dumbfounded.
Of course, the emotional trauma was stressful in and of itself. I
feel like a walking time bomb, not to mention all the medications slowed
me down like a “snail on valium.” Know when this all started I had been
tired, but did not feel as if I were about to die any moment. When I
returned home, I begin to update my will, write letters to all my
children (5), my husband, father, and friends, telling them all those
things I hadn't told them and contacted a Pastor friend planning my
funeral. However, through the process of “getting my affairs in order” I
felt an overwhelming peace everything would be alright. I was not afraid
of dieing, but I was more afraid of having debilitating strokes that
would incapacitate me to the point my family would either have to put me
in a nursing home or nurse me at home. Like all of us, neither scenario
was one I wanted for my family.
Each day was long yet so short. Emotionally, I was wiped out. And,
out of my need to understand exactly what I had, and my desperation to
survive, I began to search the internet for everything I could find. I
searched and read everything possible from case studies to articles
written by doctors, and research data. All the while comparing the
information I read with my reports and films. Still, not finding
anything that was exactly like my "sub-acute aortic arch dissection
beginning in or at the base of the left sub-clavian artery” I kept
searching. I even listed a medical dictionary on my favorites for quick
reference so I could understand the unfamiliar medical terminology.
After a month of searching, crying and agonizing, I found this site.
Thank God, more information and others who have similar situations.
Links explaining things I could not find anywhere else. Thank God again.
What a relief. And thank God for Brain who promptly wrote me back with
encouragement. He forwarded my email to Doctors who have experience with
dissections who were willing to write me back with encouraging
information and information of who to contact for other opinions. As a
result, I sent my records and films to Mayo Clinic in MN who set an
appointment in one month. Dr. Liang wrote to me explaining things I
still did not understand, along with making a recommendation of a couple
of different doctors. He also told me he would see me the next week in
CA if I could not get in to see Dr. Coselli at the Texas Heart Institute
in Houston, Texas. Since I live in Texas I preferred to stay closer to
home because it would be easier on me and my family logistically and
financially. Dr. Coselli’s office scheduled me an appointment within 2
In the mean time, while waiting for my visit with Dr. Coselli, the
doctors still did not have an answer or explanation for the double
vision which was the reason I had the TEE test in the first place. So,
my neuro-opthomaligist scheduled me to have a MRA of the brain, which
resulted in detecting a possible dissection in the "Right Supraclinoid
Intracranial Artery" Just when I thought my condition was hopeful, I
received a set back. Now things are more complicated than I could have
ever imagined. Along with the MRA, Dr. Coselli wanted me to have another
CT scan before I saw him. So, with all my many reports and films in hand
I headed for Houston.
When I saw Dr. Coselli he said, the Aortic Arch dissection in the
arch was "slightly improved" but before we do anything, we need to find
out about the suspicious place in my brain. So he wanted me to see Dr.
Mawad, Chief Radiologist at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. He worked me
in that afternoon. He did not understand why I was on some the meds the
first Doctor (who admitted me to the hospital had prescribed.) So, he
took me off Zocor, gradually removed the Coumadin, and then added Plavix(
my teflon pill). His recommendation was to have an Arteriogram for the
arch and the brain in 10 days.
I thought the last 2 months passed slowly, well the next 10 days were
even slower. I made it through with the encouragement of others from the
site, family, friends, and Dr. Liang. Now I have a big Valentine's date
with Dr. Mawad February 14th! When I went in for the arteriogram, the
anesthesiologist came in to talk to me, I was confused because I had not
known anyone who had general anesthetic for an arteriogram. I realized
Dr. Mawad wanted me to be very still, no chance I would move. Four (4)
hours later when I woke up in Surgerical recovery, the nurse would not
tell me what was found, nor could my family come in to see me. It was
another hour before I was sent to my room. My husband and father came in
with tears running down their cheeks smiling saying "He could not find
anything." "What? Nothing." "Nothing" my husband said. A couple of hours
later, I was released from the hospital to go back to the hotel to go
home the next morning.
So what does that mean, I thought. I am healed, healing, never had a
dissection or a miracle has happened? On February 18th I was finally
able to talk to Dr. Coselli's nurse who hesitated to answer my question.
She then responded with "Probably all the above. You need to stay on
Toporal, Plavix and Ecotrin, have another CT scan in 6 weeks, no
strenuous activities, and continue to keep your heart rate down.” Now
what does that mean? I take to mean there is no explanation of the
miraculous results. Which I choose to believe it is just that--a
miracle. Remember just two weeks ago the dissection in my aortic arch
was only “slightly improved” with the possibility of another dissection
in my brain.
Usually for me so many situations in my life become clear when I look
in retrospect. The signs and symptoms were there, I just did not know
what it was at the time. So in retrospect, I know the day the dissection
happened. One day around the first week in September I was sitting at my
desk, typing on my computer when my left hand went limp, simultaneously
a severe pain in the left side of my chest began, my neck was hurting, a
sharp pain under my scapula (under the left shoulder blade) joined the
pain in my chest and began slowly moving down my left arm. It was
absolutely one of the most excrutiating (sp) pains I have experienced,
as if a baseball was ripping through my arm tearing everything in its
path. I moved my left hand from the computer board onto my lap, I stood
up, bent over with my left arm hanging down, intentionally rubbing my
left arm with my right hand. I stood up, walked to my office doorway to
get the attention of a worker in the building to call 911 as I was sure
I was having a heart attack. I could not see the worker in the hallway.
With the same quick onset of the pain, the pain just stopped. I knew
something strange had happened, but since the pain quit as quickly as it
began I ignored the episode. After all, I had been moving file cabinets
and redecorating my office, so I discounted the pain explaining it to be
a pulled muscle or tendonitis.
For several weeks I had bouts of nausea, persistent pain in my left
arm, exhaustion, the ability to sit down and fall asleep
anywhere--anytime, restless sleep at night, forgetfulness, and
irritability. Not to mention I was just plain tired all the time. The
double vision was happening longer and more intense about every 8 days.
Much more often and longer than ever before. FYI--We still do not know
why or what is the cause of the double vision.
Brian, I have written my story in such detail because it is my prayer
that someone else may not have to go as long as I did before realizing
and accepting the life threatening event of dissection. Also, it is my
prayer for others to get more than one opinion or at least get the
opinion of an experienced Cardiovascular Surgeon who is familiar with
dissections. There are many great Cardiovascular Surgeons and
Cardiologist but unless they have experience with dissections their
treatment could be more harmful than good. In addition, I pray my story
will give hope to those who are hopeless in a seemingly hopeless
Brian, again thank you for providing this site. Fortunately, I have
met Deb who also has an ascending aortic dissection that has not been
operated. Like me, it seems her dissection is healing. I am thankful for
our new friendship. I pray others will find the same. God Bless you. And
God bless all who have experienced a dissection or had a loved one with
a dissection. May God's healing power touch those families who have lost
loved ones from dissections. And God Bless those doctors who treat
Furthermore, to all of you, remember to tell your stories of triumph
or tragedy, as your story will help someone else and bless you beyond
May the grace of the Lord be with you all.
| Contact Us |
Link To Us
2003-2008. All Rights Reserved.