My husband said to me this morning, "today's the scary anniversary...tomorrow's the good one." 14 years ago today my aorta dissected. Now you have to pause after you read that because I can't ever say it without a pause in my speech.
Backing it up, I knew the possibility existed. And the possibility terrified me. I was sure if my aorta dissected I would die. But I had always been told I was fairly low risk, mildly affected, my aorta was slightly dilated, but it hadn't changed much. I went in yearly and lived my life basically ignoring the fact that I have Marfan Syndrome.
Then, bam, on January 25th, 1996 my cardiologist called to tell me that she had been reviewing my latest echocardiogram and didn't like what she had seen. We scheduled an appointment and another echo and she told me I was probably looking at surgery within the year. Wow, I had a 10 month old baby and a little girl who was 4, I couldn't have heart surgery, I didn't have time.
January 28th was Superbowl Sunday and we had plans to go to my sister's house. We woke up to lots of snow and ice and decided to go hang out with my sister and her family anyway. But I didn't feel good. And we had a nice day but I really wanted to stick close to my husband and the whole way home I kept feeling like I couldn't breathe. I thought it was because of the heater blowing in my face.
So we got home and I nursed and rocked my baby to sleep and then just sat and held him for a long time. Finally I laid him down and went to brush my teeth and noticed that the vessels in my neck were all standing out. And I felt this horrible pain in my neck. I told my husband something was wrong, that my neck really hurt. He offered to rub it and I told him he needed to call 911, to tell them that my aorta was probably dissecting. The pain radiated from my neck up to my jaw and finally down to my chest. Sitting on the floor in my living room waiting for the ambulance was horrible. I hurt so bad and I was so scared that I was dying. 2 rescue crews came up to the house and the first thing I said was "don't wake my kids, you'll scare them", the second was "don't let me die". I was terrified, I was 28, too young to leave my husband and babies. Then a woman walked through the door with the 2nd crew and I felt this relief. I didn't know her but I felt something. She came and sat next to me and I told her they couldn't let me die. She said they were going to take care of me and then I asked her if she prayed. She said "all the time" and I said "then please start praying." And she did. She didn't pray aloud, but I instantly felt peace. All of my fear evaporated and I knew that God was taking care of me and I was going to be ok.
Now that's what I knew, but my husband, my parents, my siblings were all still terrified. I was transported to the hospital closest to my house and I told the ER doctor that I was probably dissecting and asked what they were going to do to assess that. He told me an EKG and cardiac enzymes. I told him that wasn't going to tell them anything and they needed to do a CT scan or at the very least an xray and echo to look at my aorta. So they ordered the CT scan and found that my aorta was really big, but they missed the dissection. They needed to transfer me to a hospital that could handle heart surgery and I wanted to be transferred to University of Washington Hospital. They were going to air lift me and then decided that I was stable enough to make the 33 mile drive via ambulance. The roads were sheets of ice and what should have taken 40 minutes actually took hours. The chains on the ambulance tires broke twice and they stopped and both workers got out to fix them. I remember lying there alone thinking "wow, God, this would be really scary if you weren't here and I was actually alone." But because I knew God had this one, rather than fear I just felt this amazing peace, that peace that's beyond all understanding. I am a person who goes to fear and anxiety easily. But I truly didn't have any. I felt like I was wrapped in the arms of the one who had made my body and he was the one who would make sure that I was taken care of. So I didn't need to be afraid.
Tune in tomorrow to see if I survived...;-)