Personal Stories: Vicki Savage

I thought I would share my wifeís experience as it seems some what unique and may answers some questions about what the future might hold for some of the people that write in.

In November of 2000 my wife experienced a bad cough that turned into pneumonia. We took her to Kaiser in Roseville Ca. for a number of breathing treatments. One night just as she was going to bed she experienced a sharp pain in her back just above the kidneys. She said it felt like a elephant had stepped on her. I tried to massage her back, but it didnít seem to help. She has always had a high tolerance of pain and it only lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. We donít remember if we mentioned it at our next visit to Kaiser, but she didnít have any further problems. She had been treated for high blood pressure for at least 16 years, but was only able to keep it in the 140 range. In the past she did a lot of walking and even a little running.

In April of 2001 we left California to serve an 18 month mission for the LDS church in Manchester New Hampshire. In August of 2001 she seemed to come down with some type of flu. She started to feel bad on a Monday and by Wednesday noon she hadnít taken in any fluids to speak of and hadnít eaten. Against her will I took her to the doctorís office. She was dehydrated. They felt we should check her into the hospital for more tests. They planed on having her check in the next morning, but after talking to the Doctor we agreed to check her in that evening.

The next morning I was there as they brought her back from some test and had her climb off the gurney on to the bed. All at once a doctor burst into the room and told her not to move. They gave her a shot to calm her down; they should have given it to me. The young doctor told me she was going to have to go in for emergency surgery. They took her down to ER and about an hour later they brought in two heart doctors to look at the results.

They kept asking her if she had a sharp pain and were very surprised when she said no. One of the heart surgeons told me she had an aortic dissection on the descending aorta, which was the best place to have it if you had to have one. He told me it would be best treated with medication. I told him about the sharp pain she has last November. He said that could have been the dissection, but it wasnít likely. I understand now that the fact she was still alive made it unlikely, but that was the only time she ever had that type of pain.

I later learned that the dissection started just beyond the great vessels to right iliac artery. So in other words it goes from the heart down to the right leg. In one report is says it is measures 5.2 cm and in the latest, it says 4.15 cm.

She was in the hospital for 9 days. After getting out we decided to head back to California and check in with Kaiser. We left New Hampshire with very little knowledge of what was going on. I remember thinking I hope I can get her home alive. She was not in any pain, but even before going into the hospital she had been having trouble with her left knee which made walking hard. But the day we left that cleared up.

As soon as I got home I began to search the internet hoping to find more information. As you know at that time it was a difficult task. The Cardiologist at Kaiser confirmed that controlling the high blood pressure was going to be the best treatment. I had heard the term aortic dissection and aortic aneurysm used interchangeably. Still do today. He told us it was a dissection and gave us a good explanation of what it was. Our primary doctor left us with the feeling that she might die at any time. So we felt a lot better after our visit with our specialist.

She gets a CT every 9 months and so far there has been no change. She has never been in any pain and the only complication is that she gets out of breath very fast from the handful of pills she takes every day. We have since moved to Utah and have a very nice primary doctor with United Health Care, but I have the feeling I know more about our problem then he does. Although we have been in to see him he hasnít talked in any detail about her heath problem.

I think we were blessed in being sent to New Hampshire, because we had friends that wanted us to go to some remote foreign countries. If that had been the case I donít think she would be alive today.

We donít know what the future holds, but we live day to day and enjoy our family. She has always had a very positive attitude.

Dick and Vicki Savage

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