Unfortunately I didn't think to call 911 and parked in the parking garage on the opposite end of the hospital campus from the ER.
Walking from the car I just really wanted to sit down in the cold night and close my eyes. But I kept walking until the glazing lights of the Emergency Room sign shown close by. Sliding glass doors opened, I walked up to the desk and thankfully the ER doctor on call quickly ordered a CT scan.
And the the rest that followed is detailed on other pages in my blog here.
But what has living for seven years with a Dacron ascending aorta, a St. Jude mechanical valve and an existing extensive dissected descending aorta taught me?
Medical technology is amazing and with every day new procedures are perfected. No longer is an ascending dissection always lethal. The first year I was sure I was going to die any day.
I still think I could die any day but so could any of us. Even my cardiothoracic surgeon often says, "if I didn't see you sitting here talking to me I'd think from your CT scans you would either be dead or on an operating table". Yet I still wake each morning. I call it successful adaptation and LUCK.
Seven years has dulled the anxiety of living on a thin line between life and death. Living with a connective tissue disorder (Marfan Syndrome - for more info visit The Marfan Foundation website) I know genetic challenges are always present. Today I am really surprised but happy and grateful when I awaken each morning.
Seven years has impressed on me the importance of awareness. Every ER medical staff should think CT scan first sign of chest or jaw pain.
Seven years I've read and repeated the 'Ritter Rules' every day.
Seven years is time enough to reflect on love of family and show me how much I appreciate my wife, parents, children, grandchildren, siblings and nieces and nephews.
Seven years has given me an opportunity to make and reestablish amazing friendships.
Seven years opened my eyes to how much people really care and will do to help.
Seven years has allowed me to meet many other aortic disease survivors, many of whom I am close friends with, one whom I've emailed back and forth every day for six years, others of whom have untimely passed away.
Seven years has expanded my neuroplasticity to where my mind is now open to on-going learning. Even though my cognitive function has been compromised due to small strokes from my time on the heart-lung bypass pump, other brain areas have opened up offering opportunities to see life as I never could have before.
Seven years have replaced once fluent speech with ability to express ideas through fun and (I think) amazingly beautiful art rather than spoken broken words.
Seven years has allowed me to take an extra step each day, strengthening my body from not being able to sit up to now move about (though my cane or crutch is always at hand).
Seven years has been time enough for me to learn appreciation of nature and just how beautifully amazing our universes and cosmos are.
Seven years has gone by so quickly I've learned accumulation of things is of no interest to me, rather giving and sharing love is much more my want.
Seven years has been plenty of time to learn about a natural diet of real food. I call this way of eating 'LIFE', or Local In-Season Fresh Eats and I avoid sugar, processed foods, am a vegan/pescetarian for most days and feel healthier for it.
Seven years has taught me to appreciate the hard work of nurses, doctors, technicians and all health care workers and yet too I've learned that I must be my number one health advocate.
Seven years has taught me what disability life is truly about. Though cities have many disability assistance efforts, it is amazing to see just how difficult disabled living in the 'normal' system can actually be. However as with speech difficulties replaced with other abilities, so too living in a world designed for 'normal' healing persons spurred me on to discover new abilities and open new doors and explore new ways of surviving near death.
Seven years has been plenty of time to learn arts of adaptation. Adaptation is survival.
Seven years has gifted me with love for each breath, each moment.
Seven years has allowed me to see the children become launched and self supporting.
I've talked to my parents on the phone every day for seven years now.
Seven years has taught me to love rubbing my wife's feet and realize she is my best friend.
Seven years allowed me to experience the best healing therapy - finding what you love to do best and plunging headlong into the fun of what you love to do.
Seven years has brought along 221 million (221,000,000) successful opening and closings, or 'beats' of my St. Jude mechanical aortic valve. That is precision bionic manufacturing. In another seven years that'll be close to half a billion beats.
Seven years has allowed me to listen to the songs of birds. I am especially fascinated by the mockingbird's mimicking tunes, the wren's fuss and osprey's screech.
Seven years has given me the opportunity to study flower petals and sepals in detail and realize mother nature is the ultimate artist and teacher of color theory.
Seven years is only a minuscule amount of time compared to the age of the earth and in fact seven years has flown by so fast it seems like a blink of an eye.
Those seven years have molded my brain to where I know that I do not know. So now I am free to learn and experience new each moment without cliché meme type prejudice.
And seven years is only the beginning.
I am so very grateful for it all. I would not be who I am today without walking through the aortic dissection experience.
I am so very grateful for all those I love today.
I am so very grateful for the earth, sun, moon, nature, fresh air, clean water, fresh food, good medicine and so much more.
My words I want to write won't form in my mind even though I want to say so much more about gratitude and love.
But I am really very happy for every challenge, every joy, every experience these seven years have gifted to me.
I don't wish aortic dissection on anyone.
To all those succumbed to dissection and rupture, RIP. We miss you and always will.
My aortic dissection has been my genesis.
It has been a hell of a seven year ride. One I'd never trade away.
Δακρυόεν γελάσασα, Homer, Iliad VI.