Smoking leads to unseen problems like cancer and heart disease. Had I known what would happen to me I would never have smoked those grape leaves. Most smokers think they will beat the odds and die at an old age of natural causes.
My problems began in 1994 and '95 in getting enough air into my lungs to breathe. It was difficult to do the simple things and I also began to cough.
Ruptured aortas lead to sudden deaths. The person is fine one minute and dead the next — then only an autopsy reveals the cause of death is an aneurysm. Seven in ten people with aneurysms die when the aneurysm ruptures.
My aneurysm was discovered by Dr. Donald P. Wharton, our family doctor. He found it by feeling the abdominal area at the conclusion of a physical examination. He felt certain it was an aneurysm and sent me to specialists to undergo a long series of tests. During these tests, it was established that the aneurysm was 6 to 6.5 centimeters (about 2.5 inches in diameter) and ran vertically in the descending aorta from near the heart into the right leg. It was also discovered that I had suffered a heart attack that had damaged the Left Ventricle (above); one artery was 100% blocked but had rerouted itself; and, another is 25% blocked.
The doctor who performed most of the tests was Dr. Joseph Askenazi. His skills in probing the aorta with a device that enabled him to see all of the problem areas was amazing to me, and when we saw the 100% blockage that had rerouted itself, I looked up at Dr. Askenazi and said, "You know what that looks like?" He asked me what I thought it looked like and I said it looked like a Praying Mantis caught in a spider web. The whole mass was jiggling each time my heart beat and that is what it looked like to me.
Dr. Askenazi felt certain I could stand the aortic aneurysm surgery and gave his blessing to Dr. Ronald L. Pohl who would perform the surgery.
After the surgery when I asked Dr. Pohl how he got to the aorta since it is near the backbone and all of the organs are in front of it. He explained, in layman's terms, that my insides were taken out, put in plastic bags and set aside while he did the surgery. Once done, the bags are emptied into the cavity.
The lower part of the surgical incision ruptured on the third day after surgery when coughing after taking a breathing treatment. That prompted another operation with a different doctor.
In July, another youngster, Dr. John A. Dutro, performed surgery to repair this rupture by sewing a Dacron mesh screen into the muscles.