Aortic Dissection

I became a widow at 29 because of aortic dissection-this is a perfect opportunity for me stand up and wave the “widow flag.”

Many of you know, our circle also lost another close friend to this about a year before Howard.

So what is it?
In short- Howard’s aorta had a weak spot that developed over time. The night he died that spot tore and the blood from his heart filled his pericardium (sac around the heart). All of this made the heart unable to pump blood to his body- therefore depriving his brain of oxygen.

A cardiologist told me, he likely felt lightheaded or a little queasy, stood up (he was working at his desk) and passed out. The sound I heard that alerted me was likely agonal breathing.

I was also told that even if they knew exactly what they were dealing with, and his chest were open in an OR- it still would’ve been a fire drill.

The medics worked on him for over an hour because the situation just didn’t make sense. Thus making me, appear suspicious.

I didn’t learn any of this until the autopsy.

The biggest component is the lack of oxygen to the brain.

Those who survive the trauma to the heart may often have already lost all, most or some brain activity.

I have learned this is more common in older men, there is a genetic factor and also a trauma factor; making it common among contact sport athletes (football, rugby, hockey) and within the the military.

Overall heart health is also a major component. High blood pressure takes its toll on the heart over time. Howard’s heart was enlarged at the time of his death. The heart is a muscle. The harder it has to work the stronger and larger it grows.

Last year, I had an Uber driver, an army vet, 23 years old-he survived 3 aortic dissections and is happy and well. They did a study on him.

It can happen. It does happen.

Howard was active, healthy, and happy. We were in love and he was trying to drag me up 14ners and through mud runs.

Howard had heart palpitations leading up to his death. We had just gotten married and I had just nearly killed myself in a car accident. Between all of my familiarity with palpitations from my issues and the stress in our home- well, we chalked it up to life.

And Howard was dead a month after turning 30.

Let’s talk about this.

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