Personal Stories: Ken McDowell
I am writing this on behalf of my husband Ken, who
was the picture of health and exercised every day for years, but
suffered an aortic dissection on December 4, 2003.
By the Grace of God, he is still with us today. We
had one miracle after another the day it happened.
This is what happened when I received a call at
work to get to the hospital immediately (which was only 2 blocks away)
as my husband was having symptoms of a heart attack.
My first thought was probably indigestion - my
immediate second thought was that he had one brother die at 58 suddenly
with a ruptured aorta and his other brother had a similar situation.
My first comments to the ER Doctor were to tell him
about these two brothers. He said he did not think that was what was
happening to my husband and that Ken had already mentioned that to him.
He said the morphine they were giving him had helped a lot and his
vitals were good and showing no signs of a heart attach so they might
let him go home in a little while. (It was about 12:30 when he arrived
at ER and this was about 1:30).
As I was making a few phone calls and feeling a
little better about the situation, the ER Dr. came by and said he had
changed his mind - that since we both had mentioned about the two
brothers he would order a scan just to be safe. Thank God he did! He
came running up to me within a matter of minutes and told me Ken was
dissecting as we spoke and he had to get him to another hospital
immediately. I have never seen a Dr. move so fast or be so concerned -
ever! Within a few minutes they had him (and they allowed me to ride in
front with the driver) in an ambulance on the way to Moses Cone Hospital
They took him straight to surgery with my son and
son-in-law arriving right behind us and in time for them to speak to Ken
before they told him (and us) he might not make it through the surgery.
One of our two daughters had been in China on business and was due to
fly back in to Greensboro that afternoon. The other daughter was home
with our two little granddaughters.
He was in surgery about 7 or 8 hours as family and
friends gathered and we were much in prayer during the long wait. Our
daughter ‘s flight arrived and her husband brought her straight to the
hospital as well as other daughter arriving so we were all there for the
long wait. The surgeon finally came out and told us of the repairs he
had made and that it would be touch and go for a few days. He had
replacement of the ascending aorta and St Jude aortic valve with
reimplantation of the coronary arteries because of type 1 aortic
dissection extending from the aortic valve down to the entire thoracic
aorta and into the femorals .
He really fought the life support while in
intensive care and finally pulled everything out himself not realizing
what he was doing (and while even being restrained!) That gave all of
us a real scare but he started breathing on his on! Again so many
miracles…..He was in intensive care for a week and then in hospital
about 3 more weeks. He had a lot of complications while in intensive
care and also after getting out into a coronary care room. He had to
have a second surgery because the incision that was made in his groin
would not close and fluid kept draining out profusely. They tried
everything but finally had to go back in and take care of that.
And finally he got to come home…… very weak and on
many medications! His recovery was very slow but he has really come a
long way. He still has a lot of ongoing problems but has come off some
of his medicines – others he will be taking the rest of his life. And
of course, he continues seeing his cardiologist (and even his surgeon)
quite often as well as having different test done on a regular basis.
And for encouragement to others, all doctors that
have seen him say he is a walking miracle, that very few survive what he
did and live to tell about it. He is able to work (but doesn’t travel
as much on his job as he use to) and actually there are even times that
I can forget all this ever happened (if only for a few minutes). He
really looks good and seems to feel pretty good most of the time. Of
course, he has to pace himself and he does have a few bad days but
overall, he is doing great and we thank God for that. The children and
I had a “Celebration of Life” party for him with lots of friends and
family on December 4, 2004 as it had been exactly one year since we
nearly lost him.
It is beyond comprehension how often this is