I am a 57 year old retired police officer after 25 years on the job. After retirement, I took a position as Superintendent of the local Juvenile Detention Center for 6 years before all my health problems forced me into involuntary retirement I was not ready for retirement but with God's help, I am trying to enjoying the leisure life. I have 2 grown children and 3 beautiful grandchildren. We are all computer junkies with our own Home Pages and keep in touch via the Internet.
I was a 52 year old man who, other than controlled high blood pressure, was in pretty good health. I thought! Even though a heavy smoker and social drinker, I didn't think either was doing me all that much harm. I had spent 25 years in a very stressful law enforcement career and after retirement took a job as Superintendent of the local Juvenile Detention Center; pretty stressful in itself, but I had a good life and a good income
Unfortunately, I began having chest pains in the front and back of my left chest area. Nothing bad. I just took over the counter pain medication. I came home from work one day and started having severe chest pains. I told my wife to call 911. She thought I was fooling until I fell to the floor. The ambulance came and rushed me to the ER. I was in severe, really severe pain. They started shooting me with massive doses of morphine but nothing seemed to help. They then did a heart cauterization and found "nothing" unusual. I was discharged and went home. I continued to have the chest pain and continued to complain to my doctor. He finally ordered a complete work-up, including a MRI.
Well, I was sitting at my desk at work when the doctor called and told me to get to the hospital immediately. I called my wife and rushed to the hospital where I was told I had a Thoracic Descending Aortic Aneurysm that was about to burst. I was then told that it was so bad, no doctor in this hospital would touch it. The next thing I knew, I was on an emergency evac helicopter flying to Houston, Texas.
I know they saved my life in Houston and I will be forever grateful, but that was the worst 15 or so days of my life. I spent about a week in ICU in pain so bad, I begged God to come and take me away. After about a week or so in a room, I was released to come home. I was told that I had another aneurysm. An abdominal aneurysm that I needed to monitor and have taken care of when I felt better. It was not dangerous I was told. A ticking time bomb in my stomach, but not dangerous. God Help me and give me the strength.
Three months later, after a follow up from my doctor, my wife and I were summoned to his office where we were advised I had another aneurysm right next to the last one and must return to Houston. This was not the abdominal aneurysm I was told about in Houston but a new one. I refused to go because I could not put myself though that again. After much soul searching, pressure from friends, relatives and daily calls from my doctor, I agreed to go back to Houston. I knew this would be a one way trip. I did not think I would live through another surgery. I visited church and asked for a special communion. I prepared my will and other papers, kissed my wife good-bye because she couldn't bring herself to go with me again and left for Houston saying I had put the entire thing in God's hands because I couldn't handle it. Because my wife wouldn't go, my brother Dick drove me to Houston and agreed to stay with me. My children flew to Houston to see me and brought my new grandson whom I had not seen before. I think we all thought this would be out last time together.
Well, God took care of me. After numerous painful tests I was informed I did not have an aneurysms at all. In fact they found nothing at all. No explanation as to what the local hospital thought they found or saw that led them to believe I had a new aneurysm. I went back home ever thankful to the Lord.
Unfortunately, since that day in 1994, I have suffered from constant, acute, and chronic pain. I have been to two different pain specialists at two different hospitals for a battery of minor surgical procedures to alleviate the pain. Nothing has worked. The only alternative was heavy narcotic medications. I refused to take narcotics and decided to suffer the pain.
For three long years I endured the pain and went to work everyday. I did finally give in and allow my doctor to prescribe some strong pain medication. It helped a little but not much. I used to close my office door and lay on the floor on my chest because this was the only position that offered any relief at all. Unfortunately the pain continued to worsen. I told my doctor I couldn't take it any more and agreed to take STRONG medications. Because of the medication, my doctor suggested I try for a disability retirement from the detention center. In the meantime he scheduled a complete work-up to verify the need for my disability. Little did I know?
The results of the "work-up" found my heart, or at least the upper portion was not pumping properly. I was put on a strong blood thinner and told to come to the hospital several days later for a heart echogram and heart cauterization procedure. The heart echo showed the medication had straightened my heart rhythm out. Unfortunately, the heart cauterization news was not as good. I had another aneurysm.
No doubt about it this time. This time it was an Ascending Aortic Aneurysm that was already at 7cm and growing. Surgery was recommended. The alternative was not even a choice. What could I do that I had not been doing for the past three years? I put it all in my Lord's hands. It was just too much for this mere mortal to handle alone. I agreed to the surgery. At least there was now a very competent surgeon here that would do the surgery. Ironically this fine doctor was also scheduled to do heart surgery on my brother Dick in the same hospital. Scheduled that is to do surgery if and when a heart donor could be found. You see, my brother had congestive heart failure and was hospitalized awaiting a new heart.
My brother and I laughed and joked and planned a "heart party" when we got out of the hospital. We also prayed a lot. My brother was a devout Christian who never once lost faith in his God. He helped me keep my faith alive because I was very frightened about my pending surgery and had to give it to God.
My Lord came through for me again. I survived the surgery and came home six days later. Unfortunately, the Lord decided he needed my brother. A few days after my discharge, my brother passed away. He is with his Father and will suffer no more.
I went home and fully retired and fortunately was approved for a small disability pension from the detention center. I had a lot of post surgical pain. It is so bad, that I find myself praying for my old "regular" unbearable pain will surface. Oh yes, it is still there, lurking in the background. Believe me, I know!
Eventually the post surgery pain subsided and "yes" the old pain was there as strong as ever. As my doctor had finally persuaded me to go on a strong narcotic medication, I got a little relief, I think. I stayed on the medicine for nearly two years. I really don't know if it helped all that much or not. Unfortunately, there were numerous side affects to this narcotic. Not the least of which was E. D.
I think this was the straw that broke the back so to speak as far as my marriage was concerned. You see my wife was a lot younger than I and as she put it, "in her prime." She tried, I think, but finally got tired of being with an "old sickly man." She found someone younger and I assume in better health and left me for him. I loved her with all my heart and I was devastated. I wanted to just give up. I had nothing left to go on for. Then I began, thinking of my brother, who was my best friend, and a better man than I. I wonder why did God take him and not me? I got down on my knees and prayed to God for strength and asked him how many more trials must one man go through before just a little peace is achieved. Then I remember what my brother said to me in the hospital. "Don't question the Lord. He know what he is doing. He will not put anything on us that we cannot handle."
So I will handle the physical pain and the heartache and thank God for my life. I will wonder and worry about the abdominal aneurysm I still have lurking inside of me, waiting to explode. However, like everything else in these past years, I will place that in the hands of the Lord as well. He knows better that I what is to be.
I had to sell my beautiful home as part of the divorce settlement so I decided to move to Oklahoma to be near my children and grandchildren. With a doctor's help I have gotten off the narcotic medication and am back to just enduring the pain. It is bad sometimes, but if I don't do too much, I think I can handle it. I have only been here in Oklahoma a short time and get so lonely sometimes, I find myself wondering why. Then I get to see my beautiful grandchildren almost everyday. I listen to them laugh and play and I am again thankful to God for my life. With His help, I'll make it...somehow.
Update 11 Jun 1999
What I have been waiting for over five years has happened. My abdominal aneurysm has grown from under 3 cm to over 5.2 cm in the last year. I have been to three different vascular surgeons in Oklahoma and Texas trying to find someone who could and would do the surgery. None will do the surgery.
I got some really bad news today. Talked to the third vascular surgeon today in Texas. He trained at Baylor College in Houston under the doctor that did my descending aortic aneurysm surgery there 5 years ago. At least this one was more honest with me than the others. He will not do the surgery either and really doesn't know of anyone who would be willing to do it. He said the risks are too high for me because of my medical condition.
He said this surgery would be worse than I had in Houston 5 years ago. I wouldn't have thought anything could be worse than that was? The surgery and resulting recuperation from the surgery in Houston was the absolute worst experience of my life. I was in Intensive care 8 days that time. This doctor said I would be there a lot longer than that this time if I even lived through the surgery. They would have to go back into my chest the same way they did then and attach a new graft to the old one because this aneurysm is above my kidneys and close to the first graft. I could not put myself or my family through that again. I will not put myself through it again!!
If I even made it through the surgery, it would mean a long hospital stay and a long recuperation period. I say IF I made it because the risk of heart failure, kidney failure, and paralysis are really high for me. All of the surgeons have told me the same thing.
So, it looks like I am nothing more than a walking dead man waiting for this thing to burst. Don't know how long I have because no one could or would tell me. Guess I will be seeing my brother sooner than I expected. Hope he has a place for me. I am so numb right now, I am not even afraid. I guess that will come later.
All I can and do ask for my friends of aneurysm support is for your prayers for me and for my family. God Bless each and every one of you. You are the greatest people in the world.
Update 7 Jul 1999
Well, I received a bit of good news today. I had written a special letter to Dr. Keith White, the heart transplant surgeon in Shreveport who did my ascending aneurysm surgery there 2 years ago. He is a great surgeon, a good family man, and most important, a Christian. His head nurse/secretary was apparently touched by my letter because she took it into the OR where Dr. White was operating and read it to him. Dr. White has agreed to see me next Tuesday and at least discuss my condition and options. I am so very frightened, but trust Dr. White to be honest with me so I will be driving to Shreveport and talk to him. He may not have anything to tell me the others have not already, but I can only pray. So, friends, all I ask of you is your continued prayers. You are the best people in the world. GOD Bless each of you.
Update 18 Aug 1999
Just wanted to let you know that all my doctors finally got together and I will be returning to Shreveport Monday, August 30, 1999 for my third aneurysm surgery. My cardiologist did find some arterial blockage but it is no worse than it was two years ago so my surgeon agreed to go ahead with the surgery. I kind of feel I may be pressing my luck with this third surgery for an aneurysm, but as with the first two, have given it to God for His wisdom and help. Hopefully, with the Lord's help and blessing I will be able to post a positive update after the surgery. So, friends, God Bless you and I again appreciate all your prayers.
Update 16 Sep 1999
Well, Praise the Lord and the surgeon's skilled hands I am alive and home. Sore and weak, but home. I went into the hospital in Shreveport on Monday, August 30, 1999. I was being prepped for surgery; had one leg shaved, and the other half shaved, when they came in and said the doctor had an emergency heart surgery and had to cancel mine. I left the hospital, apprehensive and with one and a half shaved legs. I figured I would start a new fashion trend.
The surgery was rescheduled for September 1 and went off without a hitch this time. My doctor said the AAA was really big, but easy to repair. I was only in intensive care two days and left the hospital 6 days later. I had to stay with relatives in Shreveport for another week before I was released to travel back home to Oklahoma.
An interesting and wonderful bit of news came out of all this. I think it is worth mentioning and I shall try to explain as best I can from my memory of what was explained to me and, of course, in the broadest of lay terms.
If you review my narrative you will note that several local surgeons had declined to do this surgery, claiming I had two aneurysms and one aneurysm was above my kidneys and in a dangerous location, presenting a possible high risk of heart, kidney and renal failure, etc., This would require extensive surgery such as I underwent five years ago in Houston. Well, my surgeon in Shreveport had an aorta gram performed prior to the surgery to verify what he thought he was seeing in the CT Scan films. He found what he thinks maybe the others were seeing; the Old original descending aortic aneurysm that has been repaired five years ago. After the repair and dacron implant, the "dissected" part of the aorta had sealed itself off and no blood was flowing threw it. He said it was not unusual if the surgeons were not used to doing that many aneurysm repairs to reach this conclusion from viewing the films. They possible saw the dissection and position of the "old" aneurysm and thought it was an existing volatile aneurysm.
After learning this, I am convinced this is exactly what happened to me five years ago after my descending aneurysm surgery when I was told they found a "new" aneurysm right where the old one has been repaired. After a terribly emotional time, I returned to Houston to find that I did NOT have a new aneurysm. (refer to my original narrative for details) In any case, the AAA I had has been repaired and I have a new lease on life. I did develop a heart rhythm problem after this surgery but it can be controlled with medication.
The lesson to be learned here is not to be a pessimist like me and tend to give up hope. If you have questions or concerns about yourself or a family member, get a second, third, and even fourth opinion if necessary. After all it is your life. No one is perfect and that includes well meaning physicians. So I am home and may be a while recuperating, but I made it. I want to thank all of you for your continued support and prayers. If anyone doubts the power of prayer, tell them to talk to me. After surviving my third aneurysm repair in five years, I feel I am living proof of the power of prayer. God Bless you and thank again.
Update 5 May 2000
Since my AAA surgery last September, I have been experiencing unusual swelling in my left abdominal area. I recently learned I have developed an abdominal hernia, as a result of the AAA surgery I had in September. I knew it had to be something. While I know I have gained some weight, I have not gained that much. However, I have gone from a 38 to a 44 inch waist in the last 6 months.
The worse of it is, I had a REAL BAD attack of pain in my right stomach area last Sunday that I thought was some kind of muscle spasm. It hurt so bad, I just fell to the floor and couldn't move. If I had been able to get to the phone I would have called 911, but I couldn't move. Fortunately it only lasted a few minutes, but it really scared me.
Well, it was not just a muscle spasm. It seems I had a strangulated intestine. This is where there is a small hole (hernia) in the abdominal wall and a small piece of intestine sticks through and gets pinched.
So I was referred to a surgeon and I not only have 2, I have 3 abdominal hernias. One is gigantic; 13 cm across. No wonder I have gotten so fat. All my insides are falling through the holes in my belly. Ha HA.
Oh well, while I am not looking forward to more surgery as I have been cut on enough for this lifetime, I have no choice I guess. At least they can do it here locally so I don't have to travel out of town for it. I will go in the 17th and be in the hospital 3 to 5 days.
I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this problem after AAA surgery and if so, what your outcome was?
Mainly, once again, I am here asking for the prayers of the greatest people in the world. My doctors tell me compared to the surgeries I have already had, this will be like a walk in the park. However, it is still surgery and with my medical history and health problems, it still frightens me a little. Here I go again Lord, asking for your help, protection and guidance.
Update: 18 Oct 2003
Haven't contacted you in a long time my friend, but I find myself in need of prayers again from our special group. I had a CT Scan the other day for unrelated problem, but the old Aneurysms showed or maybe it is a new one. Doctors say it is 9+ cm aneurysm of the descending aorta.
This is the SAME place I had my first one 9 years ago. The doctors today seem to think it is NOT the same aneurysm but a new one or perhaps the same one that has failed at the implant point. They don't know for sure and want me to come to Houston and check in the hospital so they can evaluate me.
I've been through this twice before only to find out it WAS the same old aneurysm that had been repaired. The pain, agony, uncertainty, worry almost killed me those two times. I am not sure I can go through it all again. I told myself I would NEVER go through that kind of surgery again nor put my family through it. I don't know what to do. I have prayed hard to the Lord for help, but no answer yet. I just don't know so all I can do is ask for your prayers.
Update: 27 Oct 2003
Well, my family talked me into going to Houston at least to be evaluated for surgery. I went! Three days of grueling tests and more tests Not good news.
I am back at home from Houston. Am really worn out, but glad to be at home. Doctors would not do the surgery and I agreed with them after learning of the potential risks. The Cardiologist said I would probably not even make it off the operating table. The lung doctor said if I did make it through the surgery he could not guarantee he could get me off the respirator (life Support) at all. At best he felt I could be in intensive care and on the respirator 2 to 3 months. I would be a raving lunatic after half that long on one of those machines Then with a long hospital stay after that. This would be for the first aneurysm. Yes, I have not one new aneurysm but two of them, an ascending and descending 6cm and 9cm. So if I made it through the first surgery I would have a second one worse than the first to go through. The surgeons would only give me a 30% chance of surviving the operation Also it seems my kidneys are not functioning as they should be. Am I not a physical wreck? One of the doctors in Houston said I was an aneurysm factory. These two new ones make five I have produced.
Anyway, I came home to be with my family and give the whole thing to God. If, or rather when, these things burst I will likely be dead before I hit the floor so only God can handle all this anyway. They could bust today, tomorrow, next week, next year. Just no way of telling. So it is all truly in God's hand.
My daughter Charlotte and her family are going to move in with me. Doctors said I should not be alone anymore. Can't do any lifting at all. They discourage any driving or any physical activity at all. So I will be pretty much stuck at home from now on or Until. I am happy my daughter is moving in my house as I am a little afraid to be alone now. So that is good news for me among all this bad news.
I feel I made the right decision and am happy with my decision. I know the risks but again, have just given it to God. Far too much for me to handle.
God Bless you all and I pray you will continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. It is all in His hands now. I sincerely ask for your prayers
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