Anniversary, Of a Sort

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.

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7 Responses to Anniversary, Of a Sort

  1. Frank says:

    Really a testament to the miracles of modern medicine, and your own indomitable will to recover. Wonderful & inspiring to see you back in such good form.

  2. CZHA says:

    Glad that your recovery has been mostly uneventful and complete. Continued good wishes for an accident-free life.

  3. joel dobris says:

    Congratulations, Michael

  4. What a harrowing ordeal. I didn’t like those statistics…but I like you and I am glad you are alive to share your wisdom with your students and us online!

  5. Just me says:

    Glad things worked out well.

  6. dilbert dogbert says:

    Yikes! You are one lucky tough hombre!! I had an ordinary back operation, the kind that is performed thousands of times, and spent much time in a walker, crutches, cane and staff. It took two years to get back to 80% of preop activities. The back pain went away only to be replaced by pain in the feet. Ah! the miracles of modern surgery.
    Wishing the best for you and for continued recovery and a long productive life.

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