My name is Merceda and on April 5, 2022 my life changed. I had an aortic dissection repaired of
my ascending aorta and part of my aortic arch. I also had a mechanical aortic valve placed.
Prior to my surgery, I was very active. I worked out 3-4 times/week. I'm a former athlete. So, I
never dreamed of having health problems, as I tried to care for myself. I certainly didn't consider
ever having a heart problem. However, these issues target young, old, healthy, etc. In August of
2020, after having chest pain, I was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm on CT scan. This was
an incidental finding to the pulmonary embolisms/blood clots, for which was the cause of my
chest pain. I was placed on a blood thinner at the time and told that the aneurysm would need to
be monitored. I had another CT scan 6 months later, which noted a stable aneurysm. Again
June of 2021, another CT scan was stable. It was decided for me to have yearly scans. So, my
next scan was scheduled for May of 2022. On March 19, 2022, I was outside with my children
and began having chest pain. I was light-headed, had a strange feeling in my throat, and was
dizzy. It improved within about 30 minutes, but the "throat feeling" remained for the next few
days. A CT scan, 1 week later, revealed an aortic dissection. Thankfully, I was able to have
surgery scheduled for 1 week later, and I'm still here.
Going into the week of surgery was mentally difficult. I was scared and nervous. I am a spiritual
person and stayed vigilant with praying. I also had a strong support system, which was critical to
my staying sane as the day approached. I remember vividly coming out of surgery and knowing
the breathing tube was still in. I felt like I was gagging and almost choking as I realized it was
there. This was approximately a 10–15-minute period, leading up to the tube being removed.
The first 24 hours were spent in the ICU. The chest tubes were the most uncomfortable for me.
However, the next few days were the hardest as they tried to navigate the best pain
management for me. Once the chest tubes were out, I finally started to feel better. Additionally, I
went into atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm abnormality, for a few days after surgery. They
attempted to correct it with a shock shortly after surgery and with medication. However, it wasn't
until several days later, when they planned to do another shock, that I had self-corrected. I have
been on a monitor since being discharged and will have to follow up to ensure a pacemaker
The journey to recovery has been going well. I was tired when I got home. I was walking up to ½
mile in the first week. I was doing light exercises, started prior to discharge. The soreness in my
chest was most difficult. I was only taking Tylenol after approximately 2-3 days of being home. I
was very careful about standing, lying down, getting up, etc. I used my heart pillow constantly. I
ensured I was drinking lots of fluids. I also started on several vitamins. I did have to adjust to
dietary changes as I was now on coumadin due to the mechanical valve.
At now 5 weeks post-surgery, I am up to 2 miles/day of walking. I can take care of my basic
needs, without the assistance of my wife. I am hoping to be cleared this week to drive, lift more
than 10 pounds, stop sitting in the backseat, etc. I continue to monitor my breathing and listen to
my body when it's tired. I get frustrated from hearing my heart ticking all the time, likely due to
the valve. Emotionally, it continues to be a journey. I haven't been happy or sad, but I am
grateful. I am thankful for this forum because many posts have been helpful. I am also planning
to get a therapist, as I see the benefit of needing another outlet to ensure I stay emotionally fit.
If you have yet to go through the procedure, but it is the plan for you, know that you will get