Personal Stories: Michael Madsen
Hello. My name is Lori Madsen, and I lost my father Michael Madsen on
July 18, 2004. He was 63 years old. They tell us it was an aortic
dissection. I need someone to "talk" to about it.
He had several earlier warning signs, that went undetected as to the
aortic dissection. After a completely healthy life, in February 2003
he had what they called a mini stroke. He felt confused fell to his
knees, had trouble communication and could not speak.\
lasted for about 15 minutes. He was taken to emergency, tests were
run and they determined that the cause was unknown. "Just one of
those things" He was put on Plavax and aspirin. Then
in November of 2003, he had an episode where he had been home, he felt
some type of strange pain, he had a hard time describing it.
Said it felt like it was in the center to right of his chest extending
upward and resulted in a burning pressure sensation into his ears.
He described the initial pain as "being shot".
He was a tough man. He felt it went away some and likened it
to bad indigestion, took an aspirin and went to work. An hour
later it presented again, he called my mom, who picked him up,
took him to emergency and he was kept in the hospital for several
They did numerous tests, determined that he had
a small amount of narrowing in one vessel and they did surgery to put
in a stint. He was switched from the first hospital to a second for
surgery, and the doctor there told us that the narrowing was so minor
that in his estimation, it didn't cause this episode, but that it
could be done none the less.
We thought based on his symptoms that it
could have been a pulmonary embolism because of the location of the
pain and because he complained of additional pain upon deep
breathing. In the end, they still didn't know what it was. In
February of 2004, he had another episode with some chest pain and alot
of coughing. Although he had no other signs of illness (like fever,
or expressing mucus) they did a chest xray and told us he had
Life went on, he was extremely frustrated by the lack of the medical
staff's ability to really find out what was happening with him.
He hated hospitals and didn't have much faith in them. With this
last episode on Saturday (July 17, 2004), I came home from shopping to
find him sitting upright on the sofa. I said hello and he didn't
respond at first. I approached him and asked if he was okay, he
He answered ":he was not feeling well, woke up from a
nap on the couch with a pain in his back. Told me it felt like
the last time because it was radiating up his sternum and into his
ears, burning and giving him a headache.
Mostly on the right side. I wanted him to go to the
emergency room immediately, but he balked, saying it could be nothing
and they would leave him sitting there forever. He got up and went to
use the the bathroom. He was there for about 15 minutes, Then he came
out and agreed to come to the hospital. He said his legs felt a
little as if they were falling asleep.
He laughed that he sat on the
toilet too long. We drove to the hospital, he walked in himself. We
had called his doctor beforehand, and they expected us. They did a
brief information and then got him in in about 10 minutes. He was put
on a gourney. Blood was taken. Heart monitor and pressure
cuff were put on. He wanted to sit upright, said it felt better.
He determined his pain was a 5 on a scale to 10. His blood
pressure was taken, it was very low, like 87 over 37, and they asked
about it. We told them that he always has had low blood
pressure. We were there maybe 20 minutes and the doctor examined
him. I told her he said his right leg felt a little numb.
He said he mostly felt like he had been in a fight, and that the
pain in his chest was not bad anymore. She asked me repeatedly
if he had a heart murmur, we told her no.
Then they put him on iv fluids. About ten minutes later, they
rushed in and were very worried about his blood pressure. It was down
to about 76 over 27 and they said they had to get it up. They made
him lay down and raised his feet so he was laying in an inverted
position. They were also giving him alot of iv fluid and II believe
dopamine to raise his pressure.
They didn't have the mobile cat
machine because it was a saturday night and whoever ran it wasn't
there and they had to get his pressure up to send him to cat scan.
All of this caused him excruciating pain. He begged me to help him
sit up, I had the nurse in and she said he had to stay that way until
his pressure came up. He lay there writhing in pain. Telling me that
"this isn't right, they are making me feel much worse, ever since they
laid me down I can't stand it. The pain was excruciating he begged me
to help him. I tried to get a nurse.
He told me that he was dying.
That he was sorry, but this one was killing him. I ran into the hall
an yelled for help. I went to his side again before they came and
tried to hold his had, he as clenching so hard I couldn't get a hold
of it. He said "lord please help me, somebody help me, I'm dying,
Lori, I'm sorry, I'm not going to make this one." They got there
then, told me they had to put a urinary cath in and intubate him to
get an open airway.
He would be put to sleep. They did this and then sent him off
to cat scan. The cardiologist then told me that he had a tear in
his aorta, and aortic dissection. Either in the top or arch, in
which case he would be air lifted to another hospital for surgery or
if it was in the lower abdominal region, a vascular surgeon would do
the surgery there. He couldn't call anyone until the cat scan
came back because it was a Saturday night, and the first thing they
would want to know is what the cat scan shows.
I asked him if he had a chance to survive this and he said," oh
yes, once we get the cat scan, and know where the location is, we'll
get him to surgery" I went outside to call my sister out of town
and let her know what was going on. A nurse ran out of the
hospital to get me, and told me my dad had coded on the cat scan
table. I asked if he was alive and she told me they did all they
could, but he died.
The biggest problem I now have is the fact the if they thought he was
having an aortic dissection, why did they try to raise his blood
pressure. He was alert and talking the whole time, he was showing no
signs of lack of blood to his brain. It seem to me the wrong thing to
I feel now that he was not diagnosed earlier, and should have been. That
he was not treated properly in the ER and I want to know what to do.
Can you help me understand?