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Story of Survivor with Stacy Sydenham

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Hello friends. My name is Stacy Sydenham. On June 7, 2019, not only did the baseball player, Big Poppy get shot while in Costa Rica that day, but my life changed that morning also.

I had gotten up at 5 am to workout in my she-shed, as I had been doing for nearly 6-7 years. It's not that I was a health freak, but I was in a constant battle of eating poorly & wanting to lose & maintain my weight. That morning started like every workout morning: a cup of hot green tea, then off to my shed next to our mobile home. In my shed I have a boxing bag; a Total Gym; hand weights up to 8lbs; yoga mat; resistance bands & a balance ball. I have a workout playlist on my phone & a loud blue tooth speaker in my shed. I had just finished my boxing (I have a specific order in which I workout). I usually would post a photo or a few, during my workouts because I have several friends "in my corner" who are supporting my efforts to lose weight. I had just posted a photo of an exhausted me after boxing. I didn't feel any different than usual. I then got on my yoga mat & did what I call "butt lifts". I had done maybe 10 or so, all while the song, Living Dead Girl, (very ironic) by Rob Zombie was playing. All of a sudden, I HEARD & FELT a tearing of what I thought was a back muscle between my shoulder blades. Excruciating pain. At the exact same time, my jaw dislocated & jutted what felt like inches to the left of my face. I had to grab my jaw & pull it into place & hold on to it. My tongue immediately felt furry, not just fuzzy, but FURRY. My vision got blurry. I laid there in unreal pain between my shoulder blades, 10000% sure I tore a muscle. My husband was asleep as per usual at that time of morning. He is also disabled with bad balance & a limp. I, while still holding my jaw in place, on my back unable to move much, grab my phone & texted him, "I need you". Amazingly, he hurried to the shed to find me laying there holding my jaw. I had to have him roll me onto my side. So still holding jaw in place, I could prop myself on my elbow then sit up. He called 9-1-1 & called our son (living with us at the time) to bring the aspirin to the shed per 9-1-1. I was able to get to the house & the paramedics came & checked me out. Everything looked OK to them & they said my heart was fine. They left it up to me about going to the hospital. My hubby insisted I go. By now my jaw was in place, vision was OK but tongue still felt freaky. I went to the ER with the most painful BP cuff on EVER & the unbearable pain between my shoulders.

Upon arrival at the ER, I was given the usual hospital gown & told to go change. I had to use the bathroom & walked down the hall unescorted, with a pain in my back like childbirth contractions. Got back to my ER cubby room, waited for anyone to come in. I kept moving all over the gurney, trying to ease that back pain between my shoulder blades. Nothing was helping. A nurse gave me a shot of Dilaudid but it only lasted about 15 minutes.

I was trying to relax, watching the TV with the news about Big Poppy. I started chuckling & told hubby that there was 1 TV screen but 2 clocks, 2 monitors, 2 of everything on the wall that was smaller than the TV. Right at THAT time, and ER Dr walked passed my closed curtain. She stuck her head in & asked me to rotary what I said & asked why I was there so I told her. She immediately called for a transport & sent me to CT Scan. One person rolled me in. They hooked me up & immediately about a dozen medical people showed up, jumping on the sides of the gurney, all asking me questions, RUNNING me to the ICU part of the ER. They hooked me up to me monitors, got my husband, then started asking questions without telling me right away what was happening. I repeated my story about feeling my back muscle tear & hearing it & about my jaw & tongue.

Two surgeon assists came in, a triage ANGEL NAMED MICKEY cane in & begged me to look at her & concentrate on her.... looking away from what they were doing to me. That's when, with all those people calling on the phones, hooking me up, putting meds in my IV, that they told me & my husband, what was happening: my aortic arch was dissecting & they watched it tearing on the CT Scan. My carotid artery has torn & something else aortic related was wrong. They escorted my husband out & told him to call my family RIGHT NOW because they didn't think I'd make it into surgery. They told him that there was a thoracic surgeon there who JUST FINISHED A SURGERY & WAS PREPPING FOR ME!!!

My ANGEL MICKEY was sent in to keep me calm & keep my blood pressure down so as to not tear my arch any further. As they asked about my family history, hubby went & made the calls. I kept telling the nurses I had simply torn a muscle, but did go thru my family medical info. My father died suddenly at age 66 from an aortic dissection. His aortic flap burst & he bled to death in his heart. Two of his male cousins died from aortic dissections as well. My father passed away within 2 hours before they knew what was happening. That was 27 years ago. I kept thinking that this isn't what's wrong with me. No way was that happening to me. My younger cousin, a male, also had an aortic dissection but they knew what was happening, as his was 3 months after my father died & we were all aware of the issue. My cousin survived. I got to say my goodbyes to my sons & my grandson. My husband was told that I would probably not survive the surgery & that it could take 6-12 hours. My sisters & mother drove over from the east coast, my bosses showed up, friends & family all gathered in the surgery waiting room.

Six hours later, I awoke in what looked like a huge gymnasium. Someone was sitting to my left, SCREAMING my name. I kept asking repeatedly, "am I dead or alive?". Turns out this wasn't the "way station to heaven", it was the recovery room & I was the first patient into this enormous area. Once I was lucid enough, I heard others being hollered to. "John" was next in. Each of us had our own medical person with sooooooooo many machines per patient. I vaguely remember being wheeled to a room. I don't remember seeing my husband or mother, but I remember her holding my hands, telling me how cold they were. Turns out, I had been "cold down" during surgery to a dead temperature. All life support removed for 30-35 minutes while 2 people had their hands in me stitching a replacement arch piece in me. I wasn't fully warmed up when my mom saw me. Two weeks later I was discharged...only to return 2 more times to have a pericardio(?) window twice (fluid drained from around my heart). The staff on the heart floor at the hospital got to know me quite well. I had a total of 5 hospital stays due to all this. I had my lungs drained 5 times. Without insurance, I couldn't afford a doctor or cardiologist for follow ups. The staff told me to apply at the free clinic associated with the hospital across the street. Due to being unable to work for 4 months, I financially qualified, but only for 12 months. I just finally got insurance this month & have a caring doctor who has referred me to a cardiologist, after almost 2 years. This new doctor said that since I've had nothing wrong since all this, I can proceed with low impact exercising. My doctor is also a weight loss specialist & he's going to help me with that as well. I am not living around my aortic issues, I'm living BECAUSE of my aortic issues. This won't define me, this is just part of my past. I wear a medical alert bracelet advising emergency personnel to check my aorta FIRST. It has my surgery date, contact person on it & says that I have family aortic issues. I am in the "less than 2% survivor's club" & am getting a tattoo on my 59th Bday next month to commemorate that fact. I thank God daily for that triage ANGEL, Mickey, for keeping me calm. I thank God for having the surgeon Dr Streitman working that very morning. I thank God that He let my daddy convince Him to keep me here: my grandson needs me & now I have a new granddaughter who needs me too❤😀.

Thank you & I hope this might help someone know what to do if they ever feel like I did. God bless us all.

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