Personal Stories: Regina Kurn

Hi! It's getting late, but I am so excited to have found this site tonight. I had sort of given up tying to find anyone who had experienced some of the same things as myself with an ascending Aortic Dissection I am now a 48yr old woman. My heart literally "blew up" as I refer to it on March 15, 2003. I am now 1 year and two months out from that day, but some of this never seems to have an end. I was a smoker with high blood pressure that had been treated for a couple of years, but otherwise in great shape and feeling good. I had just changed occupations which was huge, had bunion surgery on my left foot exactly one month prior. I live in a fairly rural area as far as health care is concerned.

As a matter of fact I do not have a general practitioner as there is a shortage in this area of Colorado where I live. Anyway, I had not been feeling well for about two days, just sort of flush. Set out in the morning with a friend to drive an hour away in New Mexico for a day of shopping. I had a strange sensation upon waking that made me think of "Hypertension" but I went anyway. We shopped for about two hours then stopped for lunch before heading home. After a couple of minutes I grabbed my chest. It felt as though someone very strong was pounding my chest continually with a brick wall. We we're right across the street from a small "Urgent Care" facility. I actually walked to the car but knew I was in some big trouble. Shortly after entering I told someone I had to lie down. From this moment things moved at a frantic pace from what I can remember.

I remember when asked to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, yelling, 10!, 10!,10!,10! I am not a chicken as I had previously in my life had surgery on my nose, given birth twice one was a C-Section in which the anesthesia did not kick in. Spent a month in the hospital after being air vaced for a month long stay in Denver so as not to have the second child too soon. Any way, point being I thought I knew pain. I did not!! This was unbearable. I was too much for this facility, so they called for an ambulance to take me to a bigger hospital a few minutes away. Thankfully even in this small town I had a great physician who knew what was going on.

I remember nothing else for days, I am not quite sure how many to be exact. I was air vaced from Farmington, NM. to the Heart Hospital in Albuqure,NM. My Dr, Paul Levy saved my life. My Aorta had dissected all the way from the Ascending through, as far as it can go. The repair was only done on the upper part. I still have the dissection in the lower section. My stay in the hospital was three weeks because of many complications. It took some time to figure out I was allergic to Heparin, and had some clotting issues.

Thankfully I do remember hearing the voices of my two teen age sons and a brother, or I'm sure I would not have had the will to fight. Oh, the depression! It is very hard to get your act together when you can do nothing for yourself. Luckily upon returning home my very large support staff of endless good friends, neighbors and community we're very instrumental to my recovery. I am a single mother with two wonderful boy's who have had to grow up very fast in the last year, a supportive x-husband along with his wife all of whom I could not have gotten this far with out! I was so weak. About two months after my surgery, I had a blood transfusion.

I was a couple of quarts low and felt much better after this and slowly started the healing process. One of the most healing things was massage. After having your chest ripped open, poked and prodded, told that you might loose your feet etc. etc. It's good to have a good cry. My masseuse and now friend took me from a fetal position to being able to return to work. I found this to be a very important part of my recovery.

I was out of work for four months. It is very hard to adjust to new limitations as I was very active and independent. My biggest problem now is chest pain. I just returned from Albuquerque from having a catheter to look to see if they could spot any reason for the chest pain. They had to go in through my left arm as it is too dangerous to go through the groin with my existing dissection.

Anyway they say anyone would be happy to have my arteries and found no blockage of any sort! I do have a stressful job and know that the chest pain that I experience gets worse when I get tiered or stressed, but I seem to have some chest tightness and pain almost every day. This has sent me to the ER a few times. Sometimes the EKG is irregular and sometimes not. Thanks for hearing my story, I would like to hear from someone with similar symptoms.

Regina Kurn

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