TALK TO A
Established April 15, 1995
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Born 1929, Jefferson City, Missouri. Presently living in Carrollton, Georgia. Army 3 years. Married 1949. Two sons, both in academia, and four grandchildren. Education: BS (math/physics) Peabody (Vanderbilt); DMS, Gupton-Jones; MS, (math/physics) Peabody (Vanderbilt); Ph.D. (molecular parasitology - pathohistology), University of Georgia. Professor of physics 3 years, professor of biology 37 years. Retired 1993. Hobbies include classical music (romantic period), opera and traditional jazz. After my aneurysm I became an advocate of running, power walking, and a low fat diet for a healthy vascular system. It's still working!
13 May 95
My abdominal aortic aneurysm was discovered in November, 1982. I was 52 years old, and in excellent health - or so I thought. I had a history of heavy smoking and drinking, but had been clean of both habits for two years. I experienced lower back pain the previous two or three years, but I, and my family physician, construed this to several prior motorcycle accident. I was secure with my family, and my profession (university professor), and had little stress in my life.
One night in late November, I awakened with an oppressive and persistent pain in the lower left quadrant of my abdomen. The pain was not unlike the pain sometimes associated with diarrhea or colitis. I took three aspirins and tried to go back to sleep. Two or three hours later, the pain still persisted and only subsided with my morning shower.
For the next three or four days the pattern was repetitious; awakening with a deep prodding pain, relieved only upon setting in a tub of hot water. Consultation with my family physician brought a diagnosis of a spastic colon, without diarrhea. The pain persisted for another week, forcing me to consult my physician again. This time he ordered a lower GI study. Two days in the hospital, numerous tests, and hours of discomfort, revealed a normal colon.
Another week, with constant pain, precipitated another trip to my physician. This time he noted an obvious pulsation of the lower abdomen. He ordered a CT Scan that revealed an extremely large abdominal aortic aneurysm! I was hospitalized the same day. Two days later I underwent surgery to repair a leaky, grapefruit-size aneurysm. Eleven days later I was home, and thirty-two days later, back in the classroom lecturing.
With the exception of getting a unit of incompatible blood that produced a fist-size knot around my eye, and a persistent temperature for several days after the surgery, the surgical phase, as well as recovery, was uneventful. The mechanical phase of my aneurysm repair was apparently good; but the patient/surgeon relationship in the beginning was strained, and remained so, thirteen years later.
My surgeon, unknown to me at the time, but recommended by my family physician, visited me the Friday evening after checking into the hospital. I perceived his attitude and mannerisms, as supercilious and arrogant. He introduced himself with, "I'm Dr. XXXXXXXXXX. You've got an aneurysm...but I can save your life." He continued with, "But I think it can all wait until Monday. If it ruptures - well, you're in the hospital." Every question I tendered was met with a haughty, "Let me worry about that." His flippant arrogance was personafied with his response to my question, "How many aneurysms have you repaired?" He turned to leave the room and muttered, "I saw one, did one, and taught one; is that good enough!" I was frightened, and didn't feel that I had time to shop for another vascular surgeon or I would have fired him on the spot!
After the surgery, and in spite of his report, to my family physician, of a normal aorta above and below the aneurysm, he invoked anxiety in me and my family, by insisting that abdominal aortic aneurysms "always resulted" from generalized atheroslerosis, and I was sure to have "lots of trouble down the road." Each check-up ended with the hint, "Looks OK this time, but maybe next time we'll have to "clean it out."
Twenty-three years later, and no telling how many stress tests, blood pressure tests on legs and feet, sonograms and various other tests, no generalized atherosclerosis or any other problem has been discovered. Six years ago, while he was preparing to retire, the vascular surgeon dismissed me with the admonition, "Well, looks like you're not going to have any problems, but it's mechanical, have someone check it every couple of years."
27 December 2007
This morning Dr. William Paul Maples passed. His passing was not due to the aortic aneurysm but from cancer. He will always be remembered for his amazing knowledge and his abounding love for his family and that included every one of us. Rest In Peace, Dear Bill, Rest In Peace
© Copyright 1995 Bill Maples
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