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I am a 43 year old man and for the most part I had never been ill. Almost two years ago I woke up and began my day getting ready for school. I am a student at the University of Texas at El Paso. I started to have a weird tight feeling in my chest, it wasn’t really pain but I had never felt this way before. I sat at my desk and got my books ready to take with me to school and the feeling in my chest started to get worse. Now I would consider it pain. I began to feel like I couldn’t catch my breath and the pain spread up to my jaw.
I remembered that when my mother was only 55 she complained of having pain in her jaw and only minutes later she died. Now I was scared and I called my wife who was at work right up the street and I asked her to come home and bring me to the hospital. She suggested that I go to a little clinic that was close to our house and let them check me out. I drove to the clinic and my wife met me there. The nurse listened to my heart and said something is wrong go to the emergency room. Hmmm something is wrong...no kidding, thats why I went to the clinic.
My wife followed me home then she drove me to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital, about 20 minutes, I had a very hard time walking through the door. My legs were week and I was very dizzy. I told the nurse at registration that I thought was having a heart attack and she took me right into a room where a cardiologist listened to my heart and called for an EKG. A nurse hooked me up to the EKG and printed out the results, she grabbed the paper and left the room and closed the curtain. We heard the cardiologist say,"this is the worst EKG I've ever seen". Im thinking wow this is really bad.
I was then quickly taken to an operating room where the cardiologist stuck a camera into the artery in my groin and looked around my arteries. I was awake the whole time and it was pretty uncomfortable. He found that I had an aneurism of my aorta right above the valve at the top of my heart. when he finished I was being wheeled to ICU and suddenly I couldn’t breath, the nurse told me to relax and of course I didn’t relax because I really couldn’t breath.
I got to the ICU and was given oxygen which helped but I still was having a hard time breathing. I stayed this way for a few days and continued getting weaker. my lungs were filling up with fluid and slowly I was suffocating to death. The doctor asked if they could intubate me so a machine could breath for me. i agreed and they put me to sleep and had a machine breathing for me. The doctors wanted to do surgery on my aorta but they were afraid I would die because of my lungs so they waited to see if I was going to get stronger so they could fix my aorta.
After 3 days like this the surgeon said enough is enough, without surgery I was going to die. I was transported by ambulance to another hospital where there was an operating room set up specially for the type surgery I needed. The nurse who was caring for me in the ICU asked if she could go in the ambulance with me and continue caring for me until I reached the other hospital. On the way to the hospital I stopped breathing and the nurse had to breathe for me the whole 30 minute ride. I am sure without her I would have died.
This is when things went crazy. I was rushed into surgery and lucky me this is when I decided to wake up. I opened my eyes and saw a huge light above me and two people on each side of me dressed in operating scrubs. One of them took a scalpel and cut my chest open which hurt like hell. I was horrified and I was paralyzed. I had no recollection of being sick or of being in a hospital. All I knew was that I was being tortured. He then started to saw my sternum and thankfully that’s where my memory of this stops.
I was in surgery for ten hours. I was hooked up to a heart lung machine which cooled and oxygenated my blood. I then was clinically dead, no heartbeat, no brain activity. The doctors found that my aorta had ruptured some time between when I left the first hospital and when they opened my chest. The rupture destroyed my aorta and the valve on the top of my heart. My aorta was replaced with a synthetic aorta and a mechanical heart valve was installed.
After the surgery I was sent to the ICU and my family waited to see if I would live or die. Each time they tried to wake me up I would flip out and try pulling the tube out of my throat. They had to use leg restraints on my arms because I broke the arm restraints. What the doctors didn’t know was that I still didn’t know where I was, I had begun to think that I was a prisoner and that I was being tortured. Every time they woke me up they would be yelling at me to squeeze their hand or move my toes. I refused to do what they were asking me to do so they thought I had had a stroke because I was unresponsive.
After a week the doctor said they needed to pull the breathing tube and wake me up. I was either going to breathe on my own or I would die. When I woke up I saw the doctor standing over me and I saw my wife smiling at me. I needed to tell her that this man was bad but I couldn’t talk so I punched the doctor. Luckily I was so weak that I couldn’t hurt him. Slowly the nurses and my wife explained to me what I had gone through and my fear left me.
The next day I asked my wife to scratch my foot and I couldn’t feel her scratching. When the surgeon cut my groin to hook up the heart lung machine he was in a hurry and he damaged the nerve to my right leg. Over the next 24 hours the sensation in my foot went from not being able to feel anything to hypersensitivity. On a 1-10 pain scale it was a 30. I had never felt anything hurt so bad.
Overall I spent 3 weeks in the ICU and 2 more weeks at a therapy hospital. My chest never hurt me a bit. The only time it was uncomfortable was when I coughed or sneezed but the pain in my leg was horrible. After I left the therapy hospital I was able to walk with a walker. I did 6 weeks of outpatient therapy and after that I was able to walk with a cane.
Its now almost 2 years since my surgery and I can almost walk normally. The pain in my leg is still pretty bad but I continue to improve slowly. I am no longer weak. I spent a loot of time in the gym lifting weights and getting stronger. Depression has been a huge factor during my recovery and they say I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, gee I wonder why? Hehe My heart is doing great, sometimes my heartbeat gets a bit wonkey but that happens rarely now. I have finished all my classes and will soon be a high school mathematics teacher.
I thank God every day for the good people who cared for me when I was dying. There have been a lot of people who have told me to sue the hospital because of the pain in my leg. I tell them, “What kind of a man would I be if I sued the people who saved my life?” Its been one hell of a journey!
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