Personal Stories: Debra Berta

Hi Brian:

I am a new member and I am not sure how to enter the conversations so thought I would start by sending you my story and you can reply to give me tips on how to talk with the other members.

At the age of 52, healthy, non-smoking, controlled blood pressure, I was brought to a whole new place on June 18, 2007.  I had just completed a 45 minute cardio workout at the gym and was doing pull ups on a gravity assist machine when I felt a strange sensation in my body.  No pain initially, just a sense of something tearing, then a warm feeling circulating in my pelvic area.  A minute later, severe low back pain.  I had injured my back in the past so thought that was what it was.  I left the gym to go and rest at home, but the pain increased so I headed to my local doc. 

My blood pressure at the docs office was 196/100 which scared me a bit, but they attributed that to the pain.  After he examined me, he diagnosed a pulled abdominal muscle, prescribed pain meds and sent me home.  The next day I still felt terrible and by evening developed a fever so my husband and I headed for the emergency room at the largest hospital in the area.  After waiting 2 hours I was seen by the ER doc who did a quick exam, asked all the normal questions and informed me that he thought I had a kidney infection.

I never saw him again in the ER, just a nurse who gave me antibiotics by IV and my discharge papers. Three days later, with no improvement, I went back to my local doc.  He looked at the lab work done at the ER and was surprised at the diagnosis since it didnít indicate a kidney infection.  So he ordered more labs which looked normal, then sent me for an ultrasound at the same hospital I went to initially.  At this point, I truly believe I had angels around me as I went through three ultrasound techs due to shift changes at the hospital to get my savior.  She was so calm and kept looking at the same area over and over which told me she was seeing something.

After that I was walked down to the ER again where I was informed that I needed a CT because it appeared I had a tear in my aorta.  My mind was racing then.  I had a million questions.  Like, what does that mean?  Am I going to die?  Iím not bleeding so what gives?  I met with the vascular surgeon, who by the way, had very little bedside manner Ė must be a trait for that specialty.  He explained that I have a descending dissection from just under my left arm to the pelvic floor and surgery would be extremely risky but that this could be managed with medications.  He also told me there was a chance of death, but if it was any consolation, he hadnít lost a patient yet on medications.

That was so comforting Ė NOT!  I was sent to CCU for the night, hooked up to all the medications and morphine for pain, the only thing I liked, then to the general population for a couple of days and home.  It was such a whirlwind experience for me with little explanation or answers to my questions.  I have done my research online about this condition and canít find any tangible reason why this happened.  I have no family members with this or any cardiac occurrences and I was a healthy woman before.  Now I take my drugs, try to push past the fear of exercising and wondering if any little ache or pain is going to kill me.

I am glad I found your website to know that there are a lot of us out there in the same space.


Thank you.


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