Personal Stories: Jay Zielinski

My name is Jay Zielinski, I am 53 years old, and from what I've read on this site so far (about 30 stories) I have been one of the fortunate ones. God definitely has plans for me yet on this earth.

I am a very active person who runs daily and works out on our elliptical machine. Most people consider me a work out nut. I have to be honest and say I was a light smoker, kind of ironic. Some people used to tell me that all that exercising would not keep me from heart trouble, and you know, they were right!

My story starts out in our canoe at our property in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was doing clean up work in our pond, noosing fallen trees from the canoe to the winch on our truck, by myself, in total wilderness and isolation. The canoe got the better of me one time, threw me overboard and cracked me in the ribs. I don't know what happened at the time, I thought I was just bruised. I was pissed off to be in the water and didn't think I was hurt to bad. I did have a life jacket on.

The next day I drove back to Illinois and was frankly very sore. I told my wife what had happened and she thought that was pretty funny. So did everyone else. I wanted to get some x-rays at the local hospital, but she thought it was a waste of time and we would just incur another doctor and e-r bill. I agreed and just suffered, not sleeping well for 5 days. On August 28th I said that was it and threw in the towel on my suffering. It felt like something was sticking me in the back and I took off for the Morris Hospital ER. They didn't do an x-ray, but a cat scan instead. I didn't know why. I just wanted to know if I had broken ribs, give me something for pain and send me on my merry way. The ER doctor came in with my cat scan results and said I had a fractured rib, but something else was troubling her. She said, "You have an aneurysm on your aorta." I laughed and said jokingly "What are we going to do about it? Am I going to blow up?" She said "We're going to keep an eye on it. Contact your local physician, when he gets back from vacation." In the meantime I did nothing different, and continued to run and live life. We had a business trip to Dallas. My wife and I drove it there and back.

Now, on September 5th I stopped in to check with my general practitioner and asked if they had been faxed any results from my hospital visit a week or so earlier. She said "No, what was it about anyway?" I said the words "aortic aneurysm" and the whole office got quiet. The doctor coming down the hall overheard the conversation and stopped dead in his tracks. He was on the phone in a flash with his cardiologist in Morris. I was in that cardiologist's office 20 minutes later discussing surgery. He did an echogram to check the size and nature of the ascending aortic aneurysm. The cardiologist said the aneurysm was a 6.0, and that scared me. He was on the phone with the aortic specialist setting up an appointment for consultation and surgery. His recommendation was the aortic specialist, Dr.Jeffrey Schwartz, at Loyola Hospital in Maywood.

The next couple of weeks were kind of scary for me because I had a lot of time to research this type of surgery and weigh the risks. Surgery or death, big decision, huh? Without surgery, they gave me 2 months! This is where I am very grateful that I didn't tear or rupture like a lot of folks on this site.

On October 2nd was the morning of my surgery. 7 hours. I don't remember the dreaded ventilator tube. Thank God. They had some problems stabilizing my heart rate. What got me was before surgery I was in pretty good shape, after surgery I was reduced to silly putty. I came home after 7 days in the hospital at Loyola, and was on oxygen for about 2 weeks. I have been getting slowly back to a new normal with drastic mood swings.

My advice, for you folks that want to get your life back in order as soon as possible: do not try to rush the healing process in the healing of the sternum and muscle tissue the organ that was repaired on your insides. You will go backward instead of forward.

Brian thank you for connecting us aortic people with support and hope for our future. I look forward to speaking and continued support on this site.


God bless you all,

Jay Zielinski

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