Personal Stories: Diane Villano

My story begins the early morning of May 8th, 2004. I delivered newspapers at the time and got up about 4:30am. This morning was no different from the others. I started off to the depot which is about 10 minutes away and I wasn't too far from home when I felt something really strange on the bottom of my jaw. It didn't hurt but I knew it shouldn't be there so I pushed on it. The pain I got was not to be believed. From the top of my head to about my waist I got this horrible hot pain which subsided with time.

I was now on the highway and had to decide what to do. I decided to keep on going, I was feeling a little better but had to sit up in my seat because if I leaned back I would have a little problem breathing. When I finally got to work I knew something was very wrong. I asked my bosses to call for help and the EMT's were there in minutes. My blood pressure was low.

This was unusual because I have a history of high blood pressure normally, and hadn't taken any medication for it in years. Well, everyone was called and off I went to the hospital. It seems they knew what was wrong with me as soon as we got there. They started ordering all kinds of tests and got the family together. Sometime later I heard the surgeon say something about "emergency surgery." I didn't even know what was happening at this point.

I asked so may questions after I got home about that day because I hardly remembered anything. The last two things I remember was going for a CT scan, saying "goodbye, I'll see you later" to my family, and then being wheeled down this hallway into this cold, empty forbidding looking room. I later found out this was the OR. I woke up the next afternoon but not for long. I remember my family kissing me goodnight and telling me they would see me the next day. After they left I tried to turn over and realized I couldn't because there was all kinds of stuff on my chest and I was hooked up to these machines.

I hurt all over too. By this time I knew I had stitches but had no idea how long the scar really was or what they had actually done to me. I got really scared and called the nurse who explained what had happened and where I was. She promised I'd feel better in the morning. The next day they got me out of bed at the crack of dawn. I felt like a truck ran over me.

I made my way to the chair with help but realized that my left leg wouldn't work. It just hung there. It was explained to me that possibly I wouldn't get the use of it back again. I sat up that entire night and didn't give up until I could move at least my foot. By the time my family came I was able to wiggle my toes and lift my foot a little bit. Someone always had to get me back into bed before they left. It was quite a while before I was able to lift it fully on my own. I was in a lot of pain though. Between the moving around and walking with the therapists that came in throughout the day I was ready to go home a week later.

It was better at home but harder. I had help from my husband and children but it was aggravating trying to do some of the little things by yourself. These little things were the hardest. It was hard to get dressed in the morning. The whole ritual took about 2 hrs and then I was too tired to go anywhere. I did nothing but hang around for the first 2 months. Everything was too much, or too heavy to do.

That's when the depression set in. I wasn't working now either and my husband was sole support of everything for the first time since we've been married. Not having money for the bills is depressing, let alone the stray hospital bills that come in from time to time. I've been more afraid of things since this happened to me. I was afraid to drive my car alone again even when the dr said it was ok to do so. I was afraid to go to my daughter's house and climb the 32 stairs. I was afraid to be alone with my grandchildren again.

These among other things are being dealt with slowly but surely. It's been 4 months since the surgery. I'm definitely feeling better, but I still get tired quickly which I don't like. I wonder if it will go away someday? I'm obsessed with things that I wouldn't have thought about in the past. I always think about the operation and I always have questions. I take my blood pressure a few times a day and worry when it's a little higher than it was the time before.

I'm scared to death that I will have to have another dissection again. I think about all the wonderful things that happened in my life and all the places that we went on vacation and I wonder if I'll be around for a long enough time to see more of that. Will I be able to keep up with my grandchildren as they grow up? Before the operation I was doing everything with them now I don't because I'm scared I'll hurt myself. This type of operation may be life saving but it is also life altering. I feel that God kept me alive for a reason but I don't know what it is. At this point I have no job, can't do the things that I used to do and don't really feel the same like I did.

My right leg feels so sensitive sometimes it hurts to the touch. My chest hurts sometimes for no reason. I've read the letters for the other folks who have had ascending dissections and in a lot of ways I am better off than they are. This surgery affects everyone differently. Some have health issues, some emotional. The one thing we all have in common is that our lives are changed forever. I always say "they took me apart, but didn't put me back together right." I want to prove that wrong. Here's hoping someday I will.

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