Personal Stories: Cynthia Fisher

I had been employed in a Veterans Affairs hospital for 35.5 years.  I had one of those thankless and prone to being harassed jobs in the Clinical Laboratory Service.  Approximately a year before my ground zero, the laboratory hired a new manager who, apparently, had determined that all supervisors (GS-11) should be eliminated...the goading began.  Approximately 30 years before, the nursing staff had taken blood pressures of the staff, gratis.

Mine was high. I continued to work all shifts and all units, pursue two master degrees, and did get medical pharmaceutical treatment for my high blood pressure.  Treatment was moderately successful until a hastily called staff meeting, the manager goaded a lot.  I left the meeting to return to my office and work...I felt this excruciating  pain between my shoulder blades.  I considered sliding out of my chair onto the floor but did not trust my suddenly absent coordination.  Eventually, my room-mate came in, helped me to the floor and called 911....and my husband.   

The circus that followed was extraordinary.  I was taken to the CAT scan, bypassing Radiology.  The emergency room physician treated me as if I had had a coronary...stuffing me full of heparin...and was totally bewildered by the scans....thought she was seeing blood clots in the aorta.  Since I was not a veteran, I was sent to a large civilian hospital in the area.  (That was good and bad.)  The physicians there were able to diagnose the problem...a complete aortic dissection, from root all the way into the right leg.  I was admitted to the cardiac unit, given

blood pressure medication to drop my blood pressure from over 200 to less than 100, percodan and morphine for the pain, and dropped the temperature of the room to 65 degrees F.  After freezing for five days I was  sent home. Several physicians have said that I should have the dissection repaired but the two options I am aware of
seem unlikely to help.

Local surgeons have been experimenting with repairing (closing) the dissection at the beginning, but have only attempted partial dissections.  Similar caution seems to apply to using a stent. Have surgeons at Mayo, Cleveland, John's Hopkins, Mass General any recommendations?


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