Personal Stories: Jeri Enk

I would first like to start out by thanking Brian for establishing this web site. After my dissection, I was afraid to read about my condition on the internet because the outlook seemed bleak. Your site Brian offers hope and support to all.

My life changing experience happened on January 17, 2006. While talking on the phone I started to feel nauseous. Within moments I had a crushing pain that started in the chest and radiated to my back. It felt as though a band was tightening and I was unable to breathe. My husband called 911 and as we waited for the ambulance we prayed. Thinking that I was having a heart attack, I thought I might die. When I arrived in the ER, I hoped that maybe this was a severe gall bladder attack. After all, I had trouble with that before and I know that they can sometimes mimic heart attacks.

I had a CT Scan and was told I had a descending aortic dissection, approximately 10 inches in length, starting just under my left arm area to my renal arteries. (Later, I was also informed I had decreased blood flow to my right leg.) I thought I was given a death sentence. Normally, I would not have know what an aortic dissection was, but 2 weeks before mine happened, my mother had a dissection too. Sadly, she lived less than 24 hours after hers happened. I was in her hospital room talking to her when she clutched her chest in pain and died. Her doctors had told her an hour earlier that her condition could be controlled by medications. My mother was 86 years old. So, when the doctor told me about my condition, I wondered if I would share the same fate as my mom. I was in the hospital slightly over a week.

I never suffered from high blood pressure, in fact I prided myself for having a BP of 120/70. However, I was a smoker for many years. I have since quit. Smoking, and the tremendous stress I had been under in prior months was the most likely cause of my dissection. Doctor's do not think genetics played a part in my dissection because of my mom's advanced age. It was just a tremendous coincidence.

Three months have passed. My last CT scan has showed my dissection is stable. I am on an ACE inhibitor, calcium channel blocker and beta blocker. My BP is 110/50. Although I feel better, the medications make me tired all the time. Any physical activity, even walking up a flight of stairs causes shortness of breath. This has been a tremendous change in lifestyle for me. I can no longer do many of the activities I did in the past. Consequently, I have gained more than 15 pounds due to my non-smoking and inactivity.

Sometimes I become scared, because I wonder what my future will be like. I hope I become stronger, and am able to do more as time passes. There is much uncertainty right now. I do know however, that I am very happy to be alive. I give thanks to God each night for the day he allowed me to live and pray that I wake up to see the next one.

I will continue to read the personal stories, check the message board and glean any other information about dissections. Your site allows us to give hope and support to all who suffer from this.


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