About two years ago, I was worrying about whether I could fly to DC to go to a great conference. To my enormous good fortune, I was snowed out.
As a result, when my aorta burst on Feb. 12, 2010, I was home, and the drive to the hospital to find out why I felt like I had been stabbed in the back was quick and easy. And as a result of getting care quickly, I survived an emergency aortic dissection, serious surgical complications, and the implantation of a metal aortic valve. It would be 11 days before I was recovered enough to be allowed to emerge from my induced coma. And it would be five weeks before I returned home, much enfeebled, barely able to walk with a walker.
Today I feel almost fully recovered. I tire a bit more easily than I used to. I have to watch what I eat in order to avoid the foods that counteract my medicines. But I’ve returned to a pretty full schedule. Things are basically good.
There’s quite a lot I probably will write about the experience someday, maybe on the anniversary of my return home, which seems to me to be a much more significant date than the date I collapsed while filling out forms outside the local emergency room (a good place to collapse, as it turned out).
For now, four statistics:
(1) People whose aortas burst have at most 60 minutes to get treated, or they die. After a little dithering, I made it to the hospital in about 20 minutes or so.
(2) The survival rate for aortic dissections is not great. Wikipedia gives the statistics for aortic emergencies as “80% mortality rate, and 50% of patients die before they even reach the hospital.”
(3) The rate at which people make a full recovery without heart or brain damage is, I gather, even worse than that. (Much aortic surgery is planned, when a problem is detected before the crisis; the success rate for that surgery is much better so don’t panic if you are diagnosed with this problem — be grateful it got caught in time.)
(4) I do seem to be one of those very lucky people. And people who survive two years past their valve replacement surgery generally have a life expectancy almost equal to what they had before — the “almost” being due largely a greater propensity to die in accidents because the blood thinners one must take to keep the metal valve unclogged increase the chances of bleeding out internally when hurt.
As I said, I’ve been very lucky. I beat some bad odds. And people have been so very supportive during my recovery.
I am very grateful.