Like so many others, I too stumbled upon this site purely by accident. My father passed away from complications due to surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm. I know medical capabilities have improved 10-fold since the late 1970's but I thought I'd share our story anyway.
It was June 1977 when we first learned of his medical situation. He was just 44 years old at the time and out enjoying his favorite past-time - bowling. Thinking he was having a heart attack, he had an ambulance called for him. After approximately 36 hours in the hospital, they were able to determine and confirm that it was not a heart attack causing the pain and that they wanted to do some more testing. Looking at some old chest x-rays, they noted a slight enlargement of his aorta and pondered if that might be an aneurysm.
Anyway, fast forward 24 hours. Not only did he have an aneurysm, it had ruptured (type II dissecting). With all of the troubles they had attempting to repair it, they ended up running his blood through the heart-lung machine cooling his body temp to 61 degrees F. At that temp, they were able to drain his entire body of blood and shut the machine off. They had him in that state for approximately 35 minutes while they cut and removed a 4" section of the upper asending aorta and replaced it with an equal size dacron tube.
Miraculously, he survived this radical and first time ever surgery and returned to work in just a couple of months! The most ironic thing about the procedure was that the medical team proceeded with this course of action without consultation with my mother (his wife) or anyone else in the family. It wasn't until the hospital staff was preparing to hold a press conference to let the world know of their medical miracle that my father learned of the procedure used to save his life. The story made the papers around the world.
Later that fall during a follow-up appointment, they found another place on the aorta that was beginning to develop an aneurysm. They basically did a preventative "patch" over that area. During that surgery, they had to enter from his side (rib cage) area due to the location of the new aneurysm. In doing so, they had to sever an important artery into his left arm, creating circulation problems to his lower arm and hand.
In the spring of 1979 they found a severe aneurysm in his lower aorta which resulted in the final series of surgeries that he died from. Over the span of approximately 8 weeks they had done several experimental types of procedures in an attempt to make the repair. After several radical surgeries to redirect blood flow via the carotid artery (yeah I know, it is in the neck!), he died due to infection and hepatitis.
Nearly 25 years later, I find myself wondering about the extra-ordinary measures people (patients and medical professionals) will go through in an effort to live longer. In my father's case, while I was very happy that he had those extra 18 months to live, I have struggled with the price that was paid by him in suffering through the medical procedures and the financial costs that resulted.
I had heard that the surgical procedure used on my father in 1977 that was new and previously unsuccessful with adults, had later become a medical option for other medical conditions, particularly brain tumors and aneurysms. So to that end, I suppose it was beneficial for the advancement of medicine and the longevity of others. I have also heard that the procedure is rarely done today, due to the continued issue of complications and additional aneurysms located elsewhere in the aorta.
I wonder if there are any medical professionals who participate in this forum who might be able to comment on this.
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