Hello, my name is Rick Carr. I am 55 years old. My Real Estate career includes sales and property management and my wife Connie is a professional educator in 2nd level. We were born and raised in the mid-west and moved to the Houston, Tx. area in 1978. We live in a suburban area North of Houston that is approximately 10 minutes from Houston Northwest Medical Center. Connie and I have been married for 25 wonderful exciting years. Our 23-year-old son Cory is working on his masters' degree in Physical Therapy.
Hello, my name is Rick Carr. My wife Connie and I have been married for 25 wonderful and exciting years. We have a 23-year-old son Cory who is working on his masters' degree in Physical Therapy. We live in a suburban area North of Houston, Texas called Spring, that's approximately 10 minutes from Houston Northwest Medical Center (very important as we'll discover later).
At 54 years old and in seemingly good health, or so I thought, had no warning that an Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm (AAA) which may have existed since birth would nearly end my life or seriously damage the quality of it.
Tuesday, December 30, 1997 ten days after this photo was taken, was just another day. I had spent most of the day at my Real Estate office where I closed several deals. I took the 3 flights of stairs two at a time to go out for smoke breaks several times during the day as usual. A little overweight (15 lbs.), an elevated cholesterol count (being treated with medicine) and a moderate smoker were perhaps a prescription for disaster.
That same Tuesday at 9:55pm I was sitting at my computer working on the Klein High School Soccer Web Page which I created and publish. Suddenly and without warning a horrible pain shot from my groin to the center of my chest. I felt nauseous, dizzy and could not focus my eyes as I grabbed my chest trying to catch the pain.
Stunned I leaned back in the chair wondering what the pain was when it surged again. I began to sweat, felt flushed and clammy all over. Shaking from weakness, I slowly eased up from the chair using the desk as support and slowly walked doubled over in pain into the Den. Connie was sitting on the couch and I remember struggling to tell her about the pain and how sick I was. I collapsed onto the couch and could not straighten my legs from the pain in my abdomen. I wanted a drink of water but my hands were shaking so bad I spilled it.
The pain was unbearable and I passed out. Connie quickly called to 911 and Cory helped provide urgent information to the paramedics. Ripping from my groin to my chest was the pain from the 8-inch long rupturing Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm tearing flesh and organs. My blood pressure fell to a dangerous, near death level, as the paramedics quickly got me to Houston Northwest Medical Center in less than 10 minutes. From the time the 911 call was placed to my arrival at Houston Northwest Medical Center Emergency Room was about 30 minutes.
The emergency room doctor's assessment and eagerness to diagnose the problem after a CT scan kept me alive. He recognized the rupture, called the vascular surgery team and told Connie there was a very serious problem that would require immediate surgery. I remember a nurse asking how she was going to get me out of my clothes. I screamed at her in some very harsh words to just cut the #*$#&^'s off. The pain was so intense I was begging someone to just kill me and end the agony. I lost consciousness again.
The cardiovascular surgeon on call was Dr. Clifford Kitten. He entered the ER and I regained consciousness long enough to feel his hand over my stomach as he said, "let's go NOW". I remember nothing after that for several days. My friend Maryellen and head of Houston Northwest Medical Center Radiology Department told Connie and my friends that if I needed a vascular surgeon Dr. Kitten was the best there is. She also made several calls to doctors to make sure I received the very best treatment with the finest staff in the ICU.
During over 6 hours of long agonizing surgery to repair the ruptured Aneurysm, my best friends Allen and Joy Baker and other friends gathered in the waiting area and prayed. They prayed for the surgeon, the staff, the nurses and me.
Throughout the surgery on an hourly basis a surgical team spokesman talked to Connie by phone giving her an update and status of my condition. They told her when the surgeon nearly lost me. When the blood flow to my legs through the Iliac Arteries had been compromised they would have to insert bypasses to save my legs. The Doctors had given her a 3 to 5 % survival rate. The outlook was not good when she was told about breathing and blood pressure problems plus the Kidneys had shut down. I know it was very difficult for her, Cory and my friends.
At last the surgery was over and I was in the able hands of the ICU nurses, doctors and God. An ICU nurse named Linda took me into her care and for days she worked with me to live again. My memory of the long 10 days in ICU is very vague thanks to a marvelous drug called Verced that eliminates the memory of the torturous suffering and painful hours. Verced also erased the good times too. Connie told me about some but I don't remember them. Certain parts of days are familiar such as when Cory, Connie and I were holding hands as the feelings of love fear and compassion passed between us. I knew Cory was reluctant to return to college. Earlier Connie had asked me what I wanted him to do. I couldn't speak with the respirator down my throat but I softly waved good bye and nodded my head yes for him to go. I guess it was a while later when Coach Baker came in asking the same thing. "What do you want Cory to do? Go back to College?" I nodded and waved good bye again.
I can't breathe on my own, I thought? Why is Allen yelling at me? I can't breathe when I have this tube down my throat and that machine doing it for me. Wait, I can get a breath in between the machine pumps if I try. He's yelling at me again, "you'll never get better if you don't breathe on your own". I looked at him in a questioned face and nodded OK and began to breathe my way down the long road to living again.
"If you let me I'll walk all the way around this room" I told Billy one of the ICU nurses. I had been sitting up on my bed and now it was the first time for me to use a walker and walk around the ICU dragging this bag of stuff on a pole behind me. Two days later on January 10th Connie's Birthday I was out of ICU and into a private room. My recovery was quick but I didn't realize at the time how slowly it normally took AAA patients to recover. A lot of information had been kept from me in terms of the seriousness of the illness and survival percentages for recovery. The doctors said I would have a problem for a while with short-term memory and they were correct. I would begin a sentence or thought but the words would just stop and I couldn't finish it.
The day I was dismissed I told Dr. Kitten when he was removing the stitches that we had Skiing reservations in Park City, Utah for Spring Break in March and I was going to go. He laughed and said "we'll see how you get along the next two weeks and then make that decision." I was dismissed from the hospital on January 14th and began the long road to regaining my life.
There was a blank and a void of time I needed to understand so one of the first things I needed to do when we got home was recapture those missing days spent in ICU. Connie used her calendar to sort of relive the 10 days. It was strange not knowing what happened each day but having her fill in the blanks filled the void of time. She showed me the notes and papers we wrote on to communicate since I couldn't speak. I was amazed when she told me how many visitors there had been and that the ICU had to cut off the visits to save my strength. During the first 2 weeks at home many nights I would wake up around 4:30am with a strange odd feeling. Connie asked my why I couldn't sleep but I didn't know. I remember wondering why I didn't have dreams. It was just darkness then suddenly I would wake up and not be able to get back to sleep. We thought I must have had some trauma at 4:30 am in ICU and that was the reason for waking up. Perhaps we were right but I don't remember.
Cory came home from college for a few days on January 16th - 19th. We picked him up at the airport and he was shocked to see me to say the least. I was still in ICU full of tubes and swollen out of proportion when he had left to go back to school. Now, here I was 11 days later in the car several pounds lighter at the airport walking and talking like I was going to make it. It was wonderful to have him back for a few days. I really needed to see him. We spent the whole weekend just doing Father and Son stuff.
I could not eat. Food didn't taste or smell good plus I had difficulty swallowing. I knew that if I didn't eat I would not get stronger. I forced myself to eat small bites of food but lived primarily on applesauce, milk and canned pears. Frustrated, Connie tried to cook things but until my appetite returned it was a loosing battle. Skiing in March was my goal and at times I wondered if it was too lofty. It was only 8 weeks to the day when we would leave so I walked every day and thanked God I had legs to walk with. I started out with 1 block and quickly expanded it to 2 then 3 then a ½ mile and finally a mile. I tried to cut the time down to 12 minutes for the mile and when that happened in 4 weeks of walking, I knew I would be on the Ski slopes in March. I was stronger, eating regularly and was back to work. My check up at Dr. Kitten was great and I was cleared to ski. Connie, Cory and I knew we had witnessed a miracle and I had survived.
In the ski chair lift at Park City, Utah I told Connie and Cory I felt very lucky to be here. I knew I was a little closer to God at the top of the mountain and it felt good. My faith was stronger than ever.
Connie and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary in Aruba last July and for eight wonderful days and nights we enjoyed ourselves. We laughed and cried as we relived some of the anxious moments during the time of crisis and recovery. We thanked God we had each other and vowed to make each day worth living.
Now, ten months after the ruptured AAA, I thank God every day for giving me another chance to make a difference. I just celebrated my 55th Birthday with my loving wife Connie and our best friends Joy and Allen Baker. I'm just happy to be here and that's enough of a present for me. The best gift of all is my lovely Connie who is the icing on an already wonderful cake.
There are some collateral issues resulting from the surgery I had to address such as numbness in the top of my upper thighs from the Iliac Artery bypass surgery, abdomen pain from the incision and occasionally my knees hurt. I'm going to have my knees checked to see if there is a circulatory problem. One good thing as a result of all this is I don't have the desire to smoke and have not smoked since December 30, 1997.
Connie and I will celebrate the miracle of 1998 on New Year's Eve and we'll be glad to get it behind us. You don't forget something so life threatening very quickly. It's always there to remind us how vulnerable we are when something that crucial tries to take your life. Self-determination, the power of prayer and God's will saved me so I could enjoy life with Connie and Cory. We don't often get another chance at the brass ring so I'm going to make the most of life while I still can.
We all have some things in common we can share. Please E-Mail me if you get a chance.
Update 27 Aug 2001
A lesson in early detection and an annual check ups was a lifesaver.
In March 2001 during my annual CT Scan and an MRA another Aneurysm was discovered. This one was in the iliac artery bypass conducted in December 1997 to save my legs. Although only 4 cm (only 1/2 as large as the one that ruptured in 1997) it seemed urgent to get it removed so the surgery was scheduled on April 5, 2001 at 10:30 AM. It's very difficult to look forward to that very intrusive surgery again knowing the risks and recovery time. It was nice though to have time to prepare.
Dr. Kitten, my first cardiac surgeon and a hand picked Northwest Memorial Hospital surgical staff greeted my wife Connie and me in pre-op area where we were treated like royalty. The final kisses goodbye and down the hall to the surgery suit I went. "Just count backward from 99", Debbie Dresser the head surgery nurse said. I thought about the possibility of a story I had heard about being conscious during the surgery with no one knowing as the room went black.
I awakened in the ICU suit as they were removing the respirator. Remembering the breathing problems I encountered from the last AAA surgery I knew this was a good sign. Connie and my best friend Joy Baker were there to make sure everything went well.
The following day I was transferred to a regular room where that afternoon was walking (slowly, painfully and carefully) down the hall. Six days later I walked out to the fresh air and an eagerly awaited 10-minute ride home.
Four days later I was admitted back into the hospital with a fever and lower abdomen pain. I was admitted with a complication resulting from the surgery but no clear diagnosis was discovered. Three days later when the blood cultures returned indicating Staphylococcus infection had infected the bladder area. More likely than not the infection was a result of catheter after surgery. I was placed in isolation for 7 days of treatment with high-powered antibiotics, an iridium scan and the insertion of a PIC line. It was needed since nearly every artery in both arms were rendered useless because of the Vancomycn antibiotics that destroy the blood vessels.
I was released under strict care of the infectious disease specialist Dr. Castillo where for the next 21 days received intravenous Vancomycn through the PIC line. The blood numbers returned to normal and the pain diminished.
Now back to work along with the other activities associated with life we know we were blessed once again. Reinforced by our belief in God and the power of prayer we have a normal healthy life again. Each year I will have a routine CT Scan to make certain there's no other Aneurysm's to deal with.
I especially want to thank Dr. Kitten for the gift of a fine surgeon, the nursing staff at Northwest Memorial 4 Tower for their tireless service, Debbie Dresser and her surgical staff for another major surgery well done, Dr. Luis Castillo for his bold and aggressive antibiotic treatment, our best friends Allen and Joy Baker who were there for help and support and of course the Love Of My Life Connie for "Just Being You".
Return to contents
Return to Aneurysm & AVM Support