At 2 am on 8/22/16, Doug said he hurt. He stood up out of bed, then sat down hard. I turned on the light, asked him what was wrong. He laid back on the bed and was unresponsive with very labored breathing, very pale, and hand on his left chest. I called 911 thinking it might be a heart attack. Medics arrived very quickly, got him on oxygen and within half an hour, he was at the North Memorial ER. His blood pressure dropped very low, but heart was beating strong. They gave him lots of blood and did an ultrasound and found a large tear in the aorta, the big artery leading from the heart.
Called an aortic dissection, the inner lining of the artery had torn letting blood bubble between the first and second layers. It is life-threatening. They had him in emergency surgery by 4 am. At 9 am, Dr. VanCamp met with me and told me that surgery went as well as could be expected. The aorta had ruptured, leaking blood into the pericardium around the heart. They tear was very long, from the aortic valve up to the arch of the aorta above the heart and down the other side of the arch. They replaced the aortic valve with a bovine pericardial valve, replaced the first part of the aorta up to mid-arch with an artificial woven tube material, and reconstructed the vessels to the heart. They weren't able to replace all of the aorta with dissection because it would have been too much at once, and told us that there they would monitor this area aggressively.
Doug's heart and the aorta are enlarged. This might have been be due to high blood pressure, though he wasn't aware of having it. Long term treatment is to aggressively manage blood pressure and continue monitoring size of aorta.
At 10 am, I was able to go (alone) up to the intensive care unit. Doug was heavily sedated, and on a ventilator. The plan was to slowly wake Doug up over the course of a couple hours. Once his blood pressure stabilized, he could go off the ventilator and have family visit.
Blood pressure didn't stabilize. He continued to receive blood and coagulants, but continued to bleed out of the chest. By 3 pm, the doctor decided there was likely a leak somewhere. At 3:45 pm, they went back into surgery to find and fix the leak.
Pray that the bleeding will stop and his blood pressure will stabilize high enough to allow him off the ventilator.