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Established April 15, 1995
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17 July 2007
It all started in 2002. My mom was diagnosed with a thoracic aortic aneurysm, severe aortic valve regurgitation and she also needed a single bypass. She was only 54 years old at the time. Her only syptom was that she was short of breath. We lived in New York and she had the surgery done at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. We knew then that the surgery was very risky. She had the bypass and aortic valve replaced with no problems. However, when they went to graft the aneurysm, the "healthy" part of her ascending aorta had tore into shreads so she needed to have a 30mm hemashield graft put on the ascending aorta. Because of this major complication, the surgeon told us that he had to leave the descending aneurysm alone. One week later, she started to internally bleed so they had to open her again and evacuate 500cc of blood and 500cc of blood clots out of her sternum. They never thought she was going to make it then but she did. It took many weeks of her fighting to stay alive on a vent and fighting infections. After 3 long months, she was doing fantastic. Although still having the aortic aneurysm, the doctor's felt that they would give her some time to heal from the ordeal she just went through, so they put the next surgery on hold for a while.
We moved to Florida in 2003 and she was doing great. The only complaint that she would have was fatigue and some back pain. My mom didn't look like she was sick. She was being monitored closely by CT scans that would show that her anuerysm was 5.5cm x 5.0cm. However, as the years went on my mom's lungs weren't doing that great. The doctor's had decided that surgery was no longer an option because they didn't think she would be able to come off the vent after surgery. My mom at this point didn't seem too upset though because she felt after all that she had been through, she didn't wanted to tempt fate again. So, she would just take it easy, take her meds as directed and all was fine.
It wasn't until April 15, 2007 when my whole life came crashing down. It was an uneventful Sunday morning. She lived with me, my husband and my 3 kids.( She was such an awesome Grandma!) At about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, my daughter came out of the room that she was in with my mom and said that Grandma says she dying. My mom came out of the room and was clutching the center of her chest. She said that she had never felt this way before. She was a little short of breath, but nothing else was going on. But she knew it was bad because all she kept saying was is that she wasn't going to make it.
We called 911 and they came. I rattled off her medical history as fast as I could and I had all copies of her pertinant medical records waiting. You see, although my mom looked great, I knew in the back of my mind that this day was going to happen. And although I thought I would be fully prepared, I wasn't. Not for a long shot! So we go to the ER where it looked to me that they didn't seem to be as concerned as I was. They seem to be taking their time assessing her all the while she is screaming in pain. But her EKG showed a normal sinus rhythm and her other vitals were fine, so they didn't think she was as emergent as she actually was.
It wasn't until the CT showed an acute descending aortic dissection. The dissection had gone all the way down to her abdomen. Now, 3 hours later, they are scrambing to have her transfered out to a skilled hospital to get her fixed. Shand's hospital finally accepted her and they were arranging for her to be air lifted there. The whole time this is all going on, I didn't leave my mom's side. She knew she wasn't going to make it. I kept telling her she was wrong. She was apologizing to me the whole time because she was sorry that she was going to leave me and my kids. I told her she was crazy. The pain was so severe in her chest. All she wanted me to do was to rub it away. I wished I could. It was at 4:50 in the afternoon when in mid sentence my mom coded. I was the only one in the room and I wish I didn't have to see that. I started screaming for someone to help me and the staff all came running in. At 5:20 she was gone. Gone at 59 years old. She was my best friend. How could this happen so fast?
It has been 3 months she left and I miss her more and more each day. She was my moral support, my confidant, my everything. She was the best Grandma anyone could ask for and it was all over in less than 4 hours. No signs that this was coming, it just did. That Sunday she looked great, felt fine. We were laughing, talking just like every other day.
I live with the guilt that if maybe I had been more pushy at the first hospital to transfer her faster she would have had the surgery and all would have been ok. However, all of the doctor's that I know (who took care of her in NY) said that with the severity of her dissection, if this would have happened in front of Lenox Hill where she had the first surgery, the outcome would have been the same.
So the moral of this story is life is a gift. My mom Josephine was my gift. I will cherish her forever in my heart and soul. And for all of you living with an aneurysm or dissection, don't ever hide simple symptoms from your family. Don't ever feel like you are a burden. Talk to your family about everything. Take good care of yourselves and warmest wishes and support to all of you.
Discussion, comments, or questions: Lisa Llovet
© Copyright 2007 Lisa Llovet
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