Thursday, November 11, 2010

One with a second chance at life

Thank you to everyone who has shown concern, extended a helping hand, or just showered us with kinds words and prayers. We are truly grateful and will never forget it.

Here's the story:

Two and a half weeks ago Al landed in the ER with chest pain. I've never seen him in so much pain. They kept him in ICU overnight and performed three EKGs, a CT scan, and an Echo cardiogram. The last showed some enlargement in the aorta. Al does have genetic high blood pressure which we've known about and had treated for 5 years. Who knows how long this went on before we found out.

The day after Al was released from the hosptial we were called to the office of the reading cardiologist who suspected an aneurysm. He had put in a call to Dr. Fischbein, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Stanford and requested an appoint ASAP. This week we were able to get into to Stanford.

On Monday Al had a CT and an Echo cardiogram at Stanford. We met with Dr. Fischbein and at that point we only had back the CT scan which did not show anything beside an enlargement in the aorta (an aneurysm). We were unable to see the Echo because the Dr. sent the Echo off to have a specialized radiologist create a 3-D Echo. Wednesday morning Dr. Fischbein called and told Al that he needed to have open-heart surgery. We immediately went to the local cardiologist who put Al in the emergency room at Hazel Hawkins as we awaited Stanford's Lifeflight team.

Al was at Stanford by 1 and I by 3. Once there Dr. Fischbein was able to show me the 3-D Echo. There were two large tears which cut horizontally across the aorta, just above the coronary arteries. The largest appeared to go about halfway across the aorta. The fluid in is heart was the leaking blood coming from the tears. There had never been an aneurysm--the bulge was the torn tissue.

This morning, Al went into surgery about 7:30. At 10 they had him open and hooked up the heart lung machine. At noon, the surgical team found themselves an hour behind schedule. They found a lot of inflammation around the tears, which indicated that the body was trying to fix itself. It took the team an hour to pull the aorta from the rest of the arteries and heart--the inflammation had caused the tissues to stick together. At 2 they had replaced the aorta and were beginning to reattach his coronary arteries to the synthetic aorta. They also reattached his own heart valve because it was in excellent condition. At 4:30 they had successfully taken him off the heart lung machine and he was able to breathe on his own. They watched to make sure that there were no leaks and began to close him up. At 5:30 Dr. Fischbein came to see me.

Dr. Fischbein said that he was surprised that when they took out the aorta they found the tear measured 270 degrees. They suspected that this started 6 weeks ago. The Dr. is amazed that he was able to stay alive for 6 weeks. By all accounts it should have killed him. Maybe the inflammation kept the pressure under control. Al is just so lucky to have survived this.

I finally got to see him at 6:30. He wasn't conscious, but when I held his hand and touched his face or talked to him his blood pressure rose. He still had his breathing tube in and at least 20 IVs. The next days, weeks, and month will be a challenge, but I am so thankful that he is alive and can be my husband for a lot longer.

I can't even begin to tell you how I feel. I'm thankful and grateful, and elated that I get a future with Al and that our beautiful children have their father. I can't say I won't ever take him for granted, because I'm human after all. But I will try my best to not take him or anything else in life for granted.

Al is a good man. He's my best friend and my partner. He's the father of our children and my rock. And I remind him every now and then that I was head over heels in love with him before we even went on our first date. And the heavens above must agree because I get to have him for a while longer.



Just your average lesbian said...

Erin, I am so thankful that your family will pull through this entact. The love that you have for him is so obvious and I am so happy to hear that you are still so in love. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I am far away but the power of the internet is an amazing thing. I will continue to send positive thoughts to you, Al, and the kids.

Love, Jen

Brian said...

Erin & Al,

I'm so relieved to hear everything ended up well. You two really deserve each other. Hope Al's recovery is speedy. Alicia and I are in DC -- we miss you guys!

Peace & Love,


Madeline said...

Erin, I am thanking God that he is taking great care of Al and I am sure, of you. I am here for you guys if you need anything. Please call.
Love you guys,