Personal Stories: Jim from Australia by Monica Knight

Dear Brian,

This story is about my husband who is 64 years young, he had a Triple A that burst. On the 12th March 2003 at approx. 11pm Jim was struck down with an excruciating pain in the bottom of his stomach. This pain was in the same place that Jim had felt a pulse beat about 10 days before this situation occurred. The pulse he felt lasted about 30 minutes and was gone, with no problems until this pain happened as he was leaving a meeting at Williamstown, a suburb near the city of Melbourne Australia.

An ambulance was called and he was conveyed to the Western General Hospital at Footscray some 15 minutes away and admitted to the Emergency Dept. The pain was so fierce that during the trip Jim asked the paramedics to push him out in front of on coming traffic to eliminate the pain. He said later that he did not know that the human body could take so much pain.

Jim was medicated and under observation and told they were waiting for his condition to stabilize to enable x-rays to be taken. The doctors suggested that it could be kidney stones or even renal colic. There was no mention of an aorta problem.

Suddenly Jimís condition worsened and he was rushed to an intensive care area, all at once they were trying to put in an I V. give him oxygen and take x-rays. There were now quite a few nurses and a couple of Doctors attending Jim, one Doctor came in that was dressed for theatre. After examining Jim for a minute or so he turned to me and asked if I knew what had happened. He told me Jimís aorta had burst and that he had to be taken to theatre but he would be lucky if he made it to the operating table. This was about 2 am in the morning.

I was asked for phone numbers of relatives that should be contacted.
There were 4 Doctors in attendance at that time, rather unusual I think to have this amount of specialists at the hospital at this hour but would you believe that there were 2 other patients with emergency aorta operations done that morning. One was an 85 year old lady.

The surgeons in attendance were, Messes A.Chan, Frydman, Lovelock, and Beiles. Jimís operation took about 4 hours and as I waited for him to come up from theatre one of the doctors came to speak to me.
I was told that Jim had a blood clot the size of a football and had lost nearly all his blood into his body cavity. The doctor stated that things had gone as well as could be expected.

A few hours later I was told that it might be necessary for Jim to go back into theatre and again to prepare for the worst. They were worried that his kidneys may have suffered some damage during the operation and were not functioning properly, it seemed as though opinions were divided as to the necessity of returning him to the theatre and it wasnít until 5 oíclock that afternoon that Jim was again taken back.
This procedure lasted 2 1/2 hours. Jimís kidneys were ok but the doctors removed another 1 Ĺ litres of fluid from his body cavity.

Jim was in the Intensive Care Unit, in a coma, for the next 12 days. During that time all his bodily functions were being carried out by machine, including his breathing. After a few days he underwent a tracheotomy, this was to lessen the chance of infection.
From the minute Jim woke, nurses were checking to see if he had any physical disabilities or problems. He had been given some physio in the last couple of days and the only thing that seemed to worry Jim was a numbness down his left thigh.

What annoyed Jim was that he could not communicate with the nurses, all he wanted to do was to tell them everything was alright. He did comment later that he was happy to see the smiles on their faces.

Not being able to communicate easily, was something that frustrated Jim greatly. At first he didnít even have the strength to hold a pen or pencil. When he did hold the pen to write he became very annoyed with me and could not understand why I couldnít read what he had written. When Jim did write, he stacked one letter on top of another. It seemed alright to him. It took couple of days before he realised what he was doing.

Jim had been out of the coma about 4 days when he was transferred to a private room in a general ward. Not a good move. We did not realise until some time later that Jim was still suffering after affects from the morphine that he had been given. He was awake and communicating, he seemed ok. We would realise later, a lot of what went on in the first few days Jim would not remember. His first night in the room Jim buzzed for assistance to go to the bathroom, no one came and he tried to get out of bed. Jim still had a catheter inserted and a couple of I V lines . These were all ripped out as he tripped and fell.

Two or three days later tests showed that it was safe to complete the tracheotomy. The next day after physio tests etc., Jim was given the OK to go home. This was at his insistence not the doctors idea.
We did not know what to do in the way of rehabilitation, how long it would take for recuperation, as the only advice we were given on leaving the hospital was for Jim to take it easy, not lift anything heavy and there could be times of 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. The first couple of days at home Jim seemed just as he was before the operation. Then crash.

For the first few weeks home, Jim couldnít sleep through the night. He would wake after about 3 hours sleep and be wide awake for an hour or more, he would then try to get back to sleep were ever he felt comfortable, the bed, the couch, even the floor.
Anything to get some sleep and all the time I was with him to keep him company. There days when Jim would get up and shower then need to sleep again.

During the day our calendar was filled, sometimes on a daily basis with appointments for doctors, hospitals, rehab. Etc.
In the beginning, one problem was that no one really told Jim what he should be doing for rehab.

He was then given literature for those recovering from heart surgery this really helped. He progressed to walking 20 minutes each day but then it seems that even the slightest stress, upset or frustration completely devoided Jim of all energy, he became quite pale and felt sick to his stomach. No energy to do anything, Jim felt the walking was not helping, that it was making him worse. The walking stopped.

For his 6 month check up, Jim was referred to a local cardio vascular specialist named Mr Alan Saunder. (This was to save time, over 1 Ĺ hours each way, to and from the Western General Hospital) On that visit, the doctors first comment to Jim was ďyou should have some of your energy back by now.Ē He was so right, as Jim had only recently felt he could go back to work. He explained that what Jims body went through was trauma similar to that of a heart transplant patient but with probably more trauma because of the time that was necessary to complete the work. A comment that was good for Jim was that he should let his body tell him when and how long to walk or exercise etc., donít try to be a hero and push to hard and to fast. Do only what you can. Let your body do the talking. Start slowly and when you feel able you can build up the time you walk each day.

When you do exercise, walking or what ever, do it in moderation. DONíT OVER DO IT THINKING THAT YOU WILL GET BETTER QUICKER, IT DOES NOT HAPPEN.

Jim has visited Mr Saunder 3 times and he has said that after Jimís last echo cardiograph he doesnít have to go back for 12 months. His next echo cardiograph will be in 3 years. Mr Saunder did say the doctors that preformed the operation, had done the perfect Stent-graft repair job. It is now 14 months since the operation and everything is just about back to normal.

Here are some of the main things that we have noticed.

(1) Jim was prescribed the drug morphine while in the coma, and he had the most horrific dreams that evolved around his family. When he woke he was not sure of anyone or anything.

(2) A natural therapy that helped Jim enormously was Kinesiology. Our massage therapist who had given Jim some relief from the numbness in his left thy recommended that Josepha van Rooij maybe able to be of more assistance. She helped Jim enormously, both physically and mentally. Jim says that what she does seems like hocus pocus when you try to explain it to others, but in the end it was the results that counted.

(3) Since the operation Jim has been diagnosed with sugar diabetes. Doctors say that this condition could have been brought on by the trauma of the operation.

Jim has control over his Blood Sugar now by drinking the juice of Bitter Melon (Bitter Gourd) (momordica charantia). Every day I remove the seeds and pith of the bitter melon and juice what is left. What a taste. Jim says you do get used to it.

This was recommended by Jimís GP who practices integrative medicine which has been a great help as he looks at natural therapies to help with different problems rather than just prescribing pharmaceutical medicines.
It all seems to be working well.

Doctors should encourage all people to have a simple ultra sound test. This can save all the pain and drama if done early enough.
Advice from the doctors seem to be at 50 years of age.

Truly Yours

Megan Knight.

Contact Jim


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