Susie's father, Ray
Ruptured Abdominal Aorta Aneurysm
May 12, 1995
Dear Aneurysm Victim or family member,
My father is a survivor of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. It is now exactly 14 months since his life-threatening ordeal, and I hope that his story will inspire others to better awareness of the mystery of this "time bomb" which could be waiting to happen in any of us.
There was no warning to my Dad, except for a bout of extreme abdominal pain 8 months preceding the rupture, which was shrugged off by my Dad's physician (a cardiologist he was seeing for high blood pressure) as "nothing." There is a great chance that if the aneurysm was diagnosed at that time through ultrasound, my Dad would be in better health today. Elective repair would've saved his near loss of life and the "physiological insult" that occurred to his body after rupture.
Anyway, my Dad (Rehoboth Beach, DE) was leaving the Philadelphia Flower Show and walking to the bus to take him home on March 12, 1994 when he collapsed on the sidewalk. A bystander, who remains "anonymous" to this day, assisted him immediately with CPR; not coincidentally, right across the street was the Hospital of the Univ. Of Pennsylvania. Within minutes, paramedics were there, who continued CPR right into the ER. There were no pulses or signs of life. Dad was barely hanging on. The Chief of Vascular Surgery was called in, and with his crackerjack team of resident surgeons, worked on Dad endlessly through the evening. He had lost nearly all his blood supply to the rupture (8 cm.) into his abdominal cavity. The surgeon remarked that he had never seen so much blood. Dad was put on life support and listed in "grave condition." By the time my sister (Phoenix) and I (Atlanta) were notified (the next day; another story in itself) and flew to Philly, Dad had already undergone another "heroically-attempted" surgery to save his life right at his bedside.
He had to be opened again to decrease the pressure of edema's interference with the respirator. There was no time to go to OR. The edema caused his lean body of 165 lbs. to inflate to an unrecognizable human form. His kidneys had failed for 24 hrs., then miraculously started functioning. He was on heavy doses of morphine and paralyzed by drugs. The smell of his room in the ICU was unforgettable; even to this day, there are flashbacks of olfactory memories. Left open with a blanket of sterile antibiotics for another four days, Dad then underwent more surgery to remove his colon which was comprised by lack of blood flow, and close his abdomen.
Dad's survival is a case history now known to almost everyone who works at HUP. He spent 4-1/2 months in surgical ICU, 1 month in step-down ICU and a regular room, and 1 month in rehab. He survived several pneumonias, lung infections, a blood gas problem, blood clots, and shingles, to name a few. He went through tremors and ICU psychosis due to sleep deprivation. He had to have a large skin graft from his thigh to his abdomen due to extensive debridement. He had to train his lungs to work again through therapy, and he had to learn to walk again, his legs a victim of lack of blood flow.
The medical bills are still not settled. Between Medicare and AARP supplemental health insurance, everything seems to be taken care of - some $1.3 million dollars. Between my sister and I, we made 15 trips to/from Philadelphia over the 6-1/2 months, also a financial nightmare for our families. Our long distance phone bills were outrageous. The support of family and friends helped us get through it all. And most importantly, our faith held the family together. We never gave up hope. Dad's strong love of life and strong will to live was a large part of the recovery process, not that it was easy-going, but it helped get through the really tough days of being a hospital resident for so long.
Dad is truly a miracle to be here. The doctors told us that smoking and high blood pressure are leading causes of vascular disease. Dad smoked for over 40 years, but had quit 8 years ago. He had high blood pressure and was on medication for that. Now he is on several medications as he developed a heart arrhythmia while in the hospital, and stomach ulcers. But now, in the aftermath of this event, he faces four more surgeries - two aneurysms, a large incisional hernia from the original aortic repair, and a possible rerouting of his small bowel to his rectum, left intact. All in all, Dad is still positive about life and wants to make the best of his years with minor handicaps and limited mobility. With time, these too can improve.
Public awareness of the potential for having aneurysms needs to be addressed. We need to urge our family doctors to examine our arteries, especially the carotids and the abdominal aorta, as part of our physical check-ups. We need to begin talking amongst ourselves as victims or family members and support one another with our common ground. I especially want to hear from other AAA rupture survivors and your stories.
I believe in miracles!
Update 2 Oct 98
My father is now 72 yrs. old and is doing remarkably well in over 4 years since his ruptured AAA. A little on his background — Ray Langrall was born in Cambridge, Md (Eastern Shore/Chesapeake Bay area) and retired there as an accountant for a private firm. He moved to Rehoboth Beach, Del. in 1971, and now resides near there in a retirement community in Lewes, Del.
Dad was always a very active and busy man before he got sick. After retirement, he still did some local accounting work, and his greatest claim to fame was being a floral designer for over 40 years, doing complete weddings and other events from start to finish. He played the piano well and "tried" to sing, entertaining many every New Year's Eve as "Father Time" in a local restaurant at the beach. He has twin daughters (myself in Atlanta and my twin in Phoenix), four grandchildren, and 1 great-grandson.
After his long stay in the hospital in 1994, Dad had 2 more surgeries to repair the incisional hernia and another aneurysm in his leg. His doctors at HUP in PA. are still amazed at his health at every annual checkup. God continues to bless us every day with Dad in our lives.
Update: 19 Sep 2003
Long time overdue that I am sending you this news, but I didn't want to wait much longer. I am sad to have to tell you that my dear Dad passed away on July 4th in Lewes, DE, following complications from pneumonia after suffering many years with emphysema (from smoking). This year marked his 9th. year after the AAA rupture, and even though he had many disabilities related to that miracle survival/recovery story, he didn't die from them, and he likely would've gone on many more years if he had had better lungs. I miss him terribly but know he doesn't have to suffer any more.
I was blessed to have first contacted you way back in 1995 with the beginnings of the wonderful and now world-renowned support website for aneurysm victims/families. The rich stories and some sad news along this journey through the support community has brought me many moments of peace and understanding, and I have met many people whose lives have truly been touched through the stories and help from one another across the globe. I will ask God for his continual support and blessings for you and the website community.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Susie Lackey
© Copyright 1995 Susie Lackey