Personal Stories: Robert Housman

Hello, my name is Rob and I live in Aurora, Colorado. I would like to thank Brian S. Tinsley for his terrific website. The information his site provides has helped educate me about my dissection. I was diagnosed with a Stanford Type B DeBakey Class III dissection on 12-04-04. The dissection begins at the level of the aortic arch and left subclavian origin. It continues inferiorly with the celiac axis fed by the true lumen.

The dissection extends into the superior mesenteric artery. The dissection terminates at the level of the renal arteries, both fed by their true lumen. WOW! That's a mouthful...I was stunned when the doctor told me the news! I was 54 when this occurred. I'm a non-smoker, non-drinker. I was taking vitamins and working out 3X a week. I thought was doing all the right things to stay healthy!

On Saturday evening (12-04-04) at approx 6 PM, I had just finished exercising and went upstairs to get some sleep before I had to go to work. I worked the graveyard shift as an aircraft mechanic for a major airline here in Denver. I tried to fall asleep but was extremely restless. Suddenly, I felt this sharp, excruciating pain in my chest. I had difficulty breathing and I tried to find some sort of body position that would help alleviate the pain.

I tried to sit up and get on my hands and knees while still on the bed. No change in body position seemed to help! I began to think I was having a heart attack. I picked up the bedroom phone to dial 911. The light on the phone did not work and I was in too much pain to get out of bed and turn on the bedroom light. I had to use my fingers and feel for the correct buttons to push.

Thankfully I reached the 911 operator. I told her "I think I'm having a heart attack." My wife and son were out and I was home alone. I was beginning to get scared because the pain was so intense. Breathing was extremely difficult and the pain was almost unbearable. I crawled out of bed and down the stairs to the front door with the phone in my hand. It was somewhat comforting having the 911 operator still on the line. I opened the front door about 6 inches and began flashing the outside porch light on and off with my free hand. I hoped it would help the ambulance driver find my house.

I was fearful they would not find my house! The paramedics arrived soon after and was I glad to see them. I was still in a lot of pain but it was comforting to see help arrive. I was afraid of dying and never getting a chance to see my son and wife again! The paramedics sat me on the couch and began asking me questions like "Where is the pain radiating?" "Are you vomiting or nauseous?" I answered NO...

They seemed uncertain as to why I was in so much discomfort, yet I didn't have any heart attack symptoms. They put me in the ambulance and I was on my way to the hospital. I seemed to feel every bump in the road. It really hurt. I wanted to tell them to drive faster!

When we arrived at the ER entrance (Medical Center of Aurora). I was still experiencing the same level of pain as I had at home, but I was happy to be at the hospital and under the care of the ER doctors. I was put in a room and they began treating me for a heart attack (EKG, nitroglycerin). They examined me for almost 2 hours and still could not reach a diagnosis.

I was still in a lot of pain. The curtain to the room was partially closed and I would call out "Help me!" Some of the staff would just walk by, ignoring me. I did not have an emergency button at my bedside!

I was wearing some Merrell's (slip-on style) shoes. I took one of my shoes off and tossed it into the hallway, as a nurse walked by. She ignored it. I tossed my second shoe and moments later the nurse came in and told me to stop throwing my shoes at the staff. She turned and walked out of the room. I'm not a violent person, but if I had been healthy, I think I would have liked to put my hands around her throat! Someone suggested months later that I should have used my cell phone and dialed 911 for help.

My cell phone rang and it was my wife. She wanted to know how I got to work, since my jeep was still in the garage. I told her I was in the ER. She arrived a short time later. She is a PA (Physician's Assistant) and questions the doctor about the status of my condition. He said they were puzzled as to my condition.

She told the doctor that my father had a Type A dissection 17 years earlier. That's when the doctor ordered a CT scan and they found my dissection. I can thank my wife for remembering that small bit of medical info which helped the ER doctor. I spent 8 days in the hospital. I was cared for by Dr. John G. Propp, a thoracic surgeon and an extremely excellent doctor.

He decided against surgery at the time, and I'm being medically managed with a BP med (metoprolol). Sometimes dissections occur because of obesity, high BP ,trauma that torques the aorta or genetics. I have a BP (110/60), weigh 135 lbs and stand 5'4". My dissection could possibly be genetic since my father had one in 1988. I'm doing OK now. I struggled with depression for the first several months, and I tired easily when doing simple chores around the house.

I would get this substernal pressure that would last for about a day. Sometimes I get these stomach cramps and numbness in my right foot, as if one ties the shoe too tight. I was having CT scans done every 6 months and my scan on 9/2005 showed no change since the original dissection.

I had an episode the other day while at home. I became extremely light-headed and nauseous. I threw-up once on the way to the hospital. The CT scan (02-09-06) showed that the ascending aorta has grown from 4.3 cm to 4.9cm! I have an appointment with a thoracic doctor in 4 days, so I hope things go well! I want to wish everyone the very best!!! I use to feel sorry for myself until I read some of the other testimonies people have written to Brian. Some of you have had it a lot worse than me! God Bless you and your families!

 Rob (RPhousman@hotmail.com)

 


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