Monday, December 6, 2010
No Day at the Beach...
Watch this week's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFnKjZoewOY
Brandon Quigley was enjoying a game of volleyball three years ago when an ordinary day suddenly turned south. He felt a tearing sensation in his chest, and overwhelmingly unwell. He had the good sense to sit out the rest of the game, and follow up on his wife’s advice to see a doctor right away. Good thing he did. No one at the beach that sunny day could have predicted what this 32-year-old-father was up against. After extensive testing at Sunnybrook, a big problem was detected. Brandon had an aortic dissection, a tear in the big vessel coming off his heart and supplying blood to his entire body. It kills some instantly, and most within two weeks.
Brandon’s surgery was done by heart surgeon Dr. Gideon Cohen, who says aortic dissections, dangerously, are commonly missed or misdiagnosed. Because this condition causes chest pain, it can be easily mistaken for a heart attack, which is treated with blood thinners. But that’s the worst thing you can do for an aortic dissection, as the risk for bleeding is already through the roof. He says an astute medical team and CAT scan are essential to pinpointing the problem.
But there are many things you can do, like knowing the risk factors and red flags. Symptoms of aortic dissection include a tearing feeling or pain in your chest, abdominal discomfort, back pain or even paralysis. Conditions like high blood pressure, pregnancy, male gender, angiograms and even acute trauma, like a fall, can cause a tear. You’re also at higher risk if a blood relative has had the condition, meaning you should talk to your doctor about being screened with a chest MRI.
I met Brandon at his home after work a few weeks ago, where the success of his treatment became even more apparent. 4-year-old Emma happily leapt on her daddy’s back for a piggyback ride and he tossed her playfully around the living room. She was only a year old when her father was rushed to Sunnybrook, and will have no memory of this close call. Neither will 2-year-old Sara, whose life was made possible thanks to the saving of her father’s.
Brandon has been through cardiac rehab, which is recommended for all patients who have experienced an aortic dissection. After his own experience, and losing his mother to an aortic dissection, he’s now being proactive about screening his daughters. He’s also hopeful that others will learn about his story and come away knowing more. That includes recognizing the signs of trouble, and of course, how important is always is to take your wife’s advice.
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