Personal Stories: Tina Smith

Hi everyone. My name is Tina Smith and I'm 38 now. I had never heard of this before and when it happened to John Ritter I thought what a loss of a funny man. That's it. I had been sick a lot with pneumonia.

On two different occasions I went to the emergency room and was sent home after xrays and CT scans with pneumonia as the diagnosis. I was finally asked to see an Internal Medicine doctor to discover the cause of my pneumonia. She diagnosed me with a heart murmur and suggested that I see a Cardiologist for treatment.

The cardiologist told me that I had a bad valve and would in the distant future have to have it replaced. I went in a week later to have a echocardiogram and a ultrasound of my neck. The ultrasound showed that I had both carotid arteries dissected and the echo came back with the aortic dissection. Immediately I was checked into the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at St Francis Hospital in Blue Island Illinois.

There I learned the severity of my situation and the mortality rate. On December 11, 2003 in an 11 hour operation I had my aortic semilunar valve replaced and my aortic arch replaced (or ascending aorta) and my carotid arteries were bypassed.

I don't remember waking up after the procedure. I can't remember anything for 4 days. Basically I lost 4 days, but it's a small price to pay for my life. I'm grateful to be here everyday. The road to recovery was long, hard, and painful but it's worth it. I will be celebrating 1 year of re-life this December 11th. I'm scared everyday about the unknown.

The cause, could it happen again, will it affect my children. I was a normal healthy mother of two before all this. Just couldn't shake a bad cold. Today my ticker is crisp (according to my doctor) but my carotid arteries haven't healed like they should. So now we are talking about stints in my carotids. I don't know how I feel about that right now. I'm just trying to understand the problems I have occasionally with my vision.

Currently trying to see a specialist in neurology and ophthalmology to rule out them as possible causes for my vision problems. I haven't wanted to find out anything about my condition because I was too afraid. I haven't as of yet let myself cry or grieve about it.

My support team throughout all of this has been amazing and without them I don't know if I would of made such a quick recovery. This all happened to me during finals week at school. I missed finals but went home 7 days before Christmas. Returning to school was my goal and on January 14th I was cleared to begin classes again. Today I'm taking Phlebotomy and I have to write a research paper and thought that this would be a good start to my emotional recovery.

I'm glad I came across this site and hope that everyone whose posted before me is doing well. Although I have to be honest I hate seeing people I haven't seen in awhile and them asking, Are you okay? How are you feeling? I just want to be normal again.

Contact Tina Smith


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