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Survivor Series Featuring Eva Petersen

How Aorta Dissection Has Affected Me

I don’t remember that much from my 911 call that day, December 13. 2019. Before I called, I had a weird sensation, as if I had swallowed something that now was stuck in my throat.

Suddenly the ambulance arrived and the paramedics came in. I was driven to the local emergency room where the doctors were quite sure that I had a coronary blood clot. I was given 300 mg of aspirin and in the meantime, my children came and I was examined.

I insisted on it not being a blood clot and thus I had an ultrasound scan. There they could see that I was right and that it was an Aorta dissection. I could from my bed see my vitals dropping rapidly and overheard my daughter scream to the nurses to remove the screen from my view, as I was getting panicky. I am a nurse myself and understood the ramifications of what this meant. After this, I don’t remember anything as my heart stopped.

I was hasted to another hospital after I was given CPR and put on a respirator. I was driven there in an police escorted ambulance and put into surgery right away. I was operated on for five hours and my chest was left open until the next afternoon , where they went in several times to ‘ mop up’.

At the time I was 57 years old and worked as a nurse at our local hospital

(where I was employed). After this ordeal, I have not been the same. I was lonely of sorts, and anxious. I was lucky to have friends and family help me as well as a boyfriend who helped me ever so much.

As time went by, I felt more and more anxious and frustrated. I couldn’t recognise myself. I wasn’t the ultra thin and muscular woman anymore. I felt my identity slip through my fingers and had a hard time making others understand because I couldn’t understand myself.

After a while, I felt very conscious about talking about it as I felt that as time went by, people would tire of hearing about it. I may at this time look fine but inside I was a mess.

I was supposed to be happy for being alive and at the same time I was like

"why me"? This is unfair, and angry. I understood that I would never be the same again but that I would still have a good life, just different (as a hospital priest said to me). However I still couldn’t  wrap my head around this.

I go through rehabilitation and after about nine months I start work again. However at this point my anxiousness  and also depression are overwhelming, but I chose to keep it inside me and try (even though all my colleagues could see how hard a time I was having) to keep going.

I am beside myself with anxiousness and depression bicycling to work one morning and all of my experiences well up inside me. One of my colleagues saw straight through me and took me under my arm and helped med across the street to the Psychiatric ward where they got me started on anti depressants. I stayed there about five days after which  stayed with my daughter and her family for a week. After this, I went home and literally lived on my couch for two months with some friends coming a few times a week to make sure I got out for a walk and fresh air. 

I have always seen myself as a strong person who could take care of myself. However, I quickly realised that I could not with all that had happened to me.

Now four years has passed and I am of sound mind and retired and happy in our beautiful home in Denmark. I have many physical problems since  my dissection, and there are many things I can’t do because of them. It’s  very annoying for me all these health issues that have come after my Aorta Dissection.

But I am strong again and know how to ask for help so I can live my life as well as possible in spite of it all.

Eva Petersen -Denmark, 01.17.2024

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1 Comment

Thank you for sharing, Eva. Your story is so similar to mine. I stopped talking about it because I felt everyone was tired of hearing about it. No one saw the mess below the surface, or understood when I had emotional meltdowns. I am 2.5 years out from my surgery and still struggle with the physical and emotional changes. Thank you again for sharing and being a beacon of light.

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