Personal Stories: Mike Morgan

My husband had an acute type A aortic dissection on 6/25 of this year.  I have been reading other people's descriptions of how their dissections occurred and his was pretty much the same way.  We got up that morning the same as usual and I left for work at 7:00 a.m. my oldest son was home until around 8:00 when he left for football practice and his dad was fine, but around 8:15 he said he had the worst pain ever and thought he was having a heart attack.. He took 2 aspirins and couldn't get me at work, so he called the ambulance.  About 8:30 I walked in my office and my cell phone was ringing and it was him, telling me he had called the ambulance because he thought he was having a heart attack, the ambulance was not at the house yet.

I work at a hospital and told him I would meet him in the ER.  He didn't arrive until about 9:15.  He called me from the ambulance about 20 times and kept saying how much he loved me and the kids and he didn't think he was going to make it.  That was the longest 45 minutes in my life, waiting for them to get to the hospital.  We only live about 8 miles away, but I figured if I went home I would pass them on the way.

Anyway when he arrive at the hospital I met him and he was really acting weird.  Kept telling me over and over how much he loved me.  It was very scary to see him so upset.  They did an ekg and blood work and a chest x-ray and couldn't find anything wrong.  Our young male nurse said his blood work looked better than his!! At this point they thought he was having a major PANIC ATTACK, which frankly I did too, they also kept questioning him about what he had taken.  I explained to them that we had nothing in our house to take!  They left us alone in the room and I was watching the monitors I noticed his blood pressure dropping down to 60/48 and his heart rate was in the 40's and so I called the nurse back in and he said the blood pressure cuff had probably slipped and reset it and then all Hell broke lose.  My husband by this point was looking very ashy in color and wasn't making sense.

The dr came back in and my husband didn't know what year it was or what hospital he was at.  Then he started throwing up.  We've been married almost 20 years and he has thrown up 1 time, so I knew he was really sick.  They gave him Dopamine (probably the worst thing to do with a dissection) to bring his bp up, which then jumped up to close to 200/.  They immediately took him for a CT scan w/dye and within 10 minutes the cardio surgeon was in the room talking to us.  My husband by this point really didn't know what was going on.  He was talking crazy.

The surgeon took me in the hall and said, " It doesn't look good, I don't think he's going to make it.  You need to get your kids, family and clergy up here now!  He said even if he did make it he would probably have neurological problems, stroke, be paralyzed, but that he would do everything he could do to save him.  I couldn't believe it.  I went from thinking he was having a panic attack to hearing this.  My aunt brought my kids to the hospital (it only took her 10 minutes) and they got to see their dad as they were taking him up to surgery.  As bad off as he was mentally, he still knew who me and the kids were, and that gave me so much hope.

He was in surgery for 7 1/2 hours and when the dr. came to talk to me he said he had given him blood, WBC's, plasma and couldn't stop the bleeding.  He said he had done everything he could and was going to pack his chest and send him to ICU for continued warming.  He went to ICU and I got go see him around 10:00pm.  The nurse suggested I go home and rest and he would call if anything changed.  Around midnight the phone rang and it was the nurse needing permission to take him back to surgery for the bleeding.  I gave verbal permission and went back to hospital.  He was only in surgery for less than an hour.  When the surgeon came to talk to me, I thought he had died.  But instead he said he placed a single stitch and it stopped the bleeding.  He felt much more positive after that.  He was unable to close him, so packed his chest and sent him back to ICU.

The next afternoon they took him to surgery to close his chest.  They kept him in a drug induced coma for several days and it took a week to get him off the vent.  It was a very scary time.  He stayed in ICU for 12 days and was tx to the floor for 5 more days.  He did wonderful.  2 weeks after being dc'd from hospital they did a f/u CT to check his aorta and found blood clots in his lungs.  Back in the hospital we went and an IVC filter was put in and he is still on coumadin.  They tried to remove the filter the first of October, but were unsuccessful.  Looks like he'll have it for life.  The Dr. said they would keep him on coumadin for sure until next year and then reevaluate it then.

By the grace of God my husband it back to normal.  I know it is truly a miracle.  The first few weeks were very scary and hard.   He could barely walk and had horrible night sweats.  He couldn't lay in the bed, so I went a bought him a recliner.  That was a life saver.  He was able to get some sleep in that.  He's now back working, he's in sales and he works out of the house. He does have to travel some, but mostly day trips.  He's now down to only 4 bp meds, plus his coumadin and Zoloft, I think we're going to talk to the Dr. about getting off of that pretty soon.  He really needed it at first.  He had severe panic attacks and I had to come home from work several times.  He was originally on Xanax, which did nothing, and I finally talked to the surgeon and said can we please try something else and Zoloft has been great!

My husband is 46 years old, was very healthy, didn't smoke, didn't have high blood pressure, (but does now).  We did find out after the fact that his uncle died about 12 years ago from a type B dissection.  His mom died from a brain aneurysm.  So apparently it runs in his family.  My kids are 12, 15 and 17 and we've already send our samples to the university of Texas Genetic study.  I want to find out if my kids carry the gene so we can prevent this from happening to them.

Hope I didn't ramble to long, but I've been reading other peoples stories and it has really helped me get through this.  Thanks.  Stacie M.

We know how truly lucky he is to be here.  They say most people don't make it to the hospital and a lot don't survive the surgery.  Also, the fact they we have such a wonderful hospital and surgeons who were able to operate on him immediately.  They took him to the OR within 25 minutes of the CT results.  In fact the anesthesia list actually started giving him medicine in the ER to speed things up. It only took about 2  hours from the time he arrived at the ER until he was diagnosed.  He was VERY, VERY, LUCKY!

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