Personal Stories: Debbie Bruce

Hi, my name is Debbie and I am an aortic dissection survivor.

Where does my story begin? I met the man of my dreams (Bill) and got married for the very first time on May 6, 2000. I was 38 years old. We knew that we wanted to have children, and with my age, we thought we had better start trying as soon as possible. Well, we got pregnant after two months of trying. We couldn't believe it! I could not have been any happier. I was diagnosed before my pregnancy with high blood pressure so I was taking Aldomet for that but everything else was moving along great. We found out that our baby was a little girl and we even had her name picked out "Amber Lee Bruce".

It was Saturday, May 26, 2001, Memorial Day weekend, a weekend that will always hold many memories for my family and for me. My husband had been asked by a buddy to go fishing that early morning. They started out and it was raining so hard they postponed it until later in the morning. After all, I was only 33 weeks pregnant. If Bill was going fishing, now was the time to go. On that afternoon I noticed I was very out of breath, but I thought the baby had moved into my ribs or something.

I remember my sister asking me if I was okay. Of course I was, just a little sleepy and out of breath. Around 3:30 PM, I called my mother to see how they were and she said she had the grandkids there and I decided to go over for a visit. The whole time thinking maybe I'll get a free dinner out of this visit. I left my house noticed the van needed gas but decided to go to my parents first and get gas on the way back home. When I got to my parents', I headed straight for the bathroom. When I returned to the kitchen, Mom had fixed my a glass of lemonade for me. I took one swallow and thought, "Wow, that one got me in my chest". I felt like I had instant indigestion. So I took another swallow, and wham! My jaw line was on fire. I could not open my mouth. I made to the couch and passed out. She called the rescue squad and they took me to the nearest hospital.

When I arrived there, the doctor wasn't sure what was going on with my heart but he felt sure my baby would have to be delivered soon. They rushed me to another hospital over an hour away. When I left the first hospital, I still had not spoken to my husband. We made it to the second hospital in less than an hour. My neighbor had been contacted and told to be on the lookout for Bill and when he arrived home, he found out that I was been sent to Richmond. I believe he was there when I arrived. I can't remember everything too well. I was diagnosed with an ascending aortic dissection. An operation had to be done now. My baby would be delivered first and then they would operate on my aorta.

The doctors were not sure if I would survive or my baby or either of us. I can only imagine what Bill was feeling and the rest of my family. I felt completely calm while waiting to go into the operating room. My sister commenting that everyone was a mess, except for me. Of course, she told me this later. Someone said that the angels were hold me during this time. To be so close to dying, I really didn't feel that much pain.

Boy, I felt the pain afterwards. As I sat in the SICU, I wondered about my baby. I could no longer feel her movements. My husband assured me she was fine and beautiful but I wondered if he just telling me that. He brought pictures and even bought a camcorder to show me. She was five days old before I got to see her and hold her. I asked my OB doctor if I could have more children and his response was, "Debbie, if you have any more children both Dr. Reynolds and I will have a heart attack".

So I can't have any more but I'm so very glad I have her. She is beautiful, smart, healthy and has so much energy. Much more than I can keep up with. I have often said I don't know if she is aging me or making me younger. Younger, I believe. My husband and I have gone through so much in our first few years together. I really had a rough time adjusting not only to a baby but a preemie and trying to heal myself. My husband was there for me the whole time. Helping out all the time. As Amber got older and I was better, he no longer could handle the poopy diapers. But you know what? He did so much for me that didn't bother me at all. He was and is wonderful. I am so thankful for my little family! Memorial Day weekend has a different meaning for our family because it holds memories for us that changed our lives forever.

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