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Survivor Series Featuring Nikki Matyasi

Survivor Series
Nikki Matyasi

June 26, 2021 was a normal, yet hot Summer day in Ohio. This particular Saturday and into the next day would turn out to be something I would never have expected.


That Saturday, I woke up feeling normal and went about my morning before heading to my part-time job in the early afternoon.

I arrived at work did my normal duties and helped customers like always but was feeling very overheated. I thought nothing of it, with the fact it was very warm outside.

My co-workers and I ordered some food and the night started to slowly come to an end. An hour before closing time, I went to sit down and from there my night became a blur.

I had passed out and my co-workers rushed to attend to me before I hit my head on the concrete floor. As a couple of them rushed to me, another

co-worker called 911 as I laid there in and out of consciousness and vomiting.

Just a note, make sure your co-workers can get into your phone in case of an emergency. Sadly, my phone was locked and had to call around to get ahold of my family.

When I came to and was alert enough to remember what was going on, I was sitting in an ambulance. They took my vitals, asked me a bunch of questions and told me that my blood pressure was super low (normally my BP was always high).

During this time, they also indicated they wanted to transport me to the hospital. I, however, with my stubbornness, was not wanting to go. I told them, and even yelled, that I had felt “fine” aside from being overheated and nauseous.

I refused the transport and asked my co-worker to drive me home. Note, the drive to my house was about 40 minutes away.

I got into my co-worker's car and the only thing I remember about the car ride was having a bag in case I got sick and giving some directions to my house.

Once I arrived home, my family was there waiting for me as they were notified of my passing out during the time I was in the ambulance.

I walked into the house and sat down on the couch still feeling overheated and nauseous. I said maybe a few words to my family and then went to the bathroom thinking I was going to be sick. Then, after a few minutes, my family found me lying on the bathroom floor and looking a blueish color and they called 911 as something was seriously wrong. Again, I was in and out of consciousness, but remember being put into the back of the ambulance before I was rushed to the local ER.


Once we arrived in the ER, it was late in the evening and still everything was a blur for me. I remember answering a few questions and even had a nurse who was a former co-worker of mine that I had talked to. My blood pressure remained extremely low, and they had to give me fluids to bring my blood pressure up before they could do any testing on me.

Due to COVID, I was only allowed one visitor in the room with me. My mother and father took turns to keep me company and answered questions for the nurses, if needed.

During my time in the ER, I apparently started having severe pains in my back and in my chest. They did bloodwork and some other tests before doing a CT scan. They attempted the first CT scan but failed to get a good image as I was unable to lay completely still since I was in a lot of pain.

It was now Sunday and in the early hours. The nurses said, they would continue to monitor me and that I would be admitted. Since we were in the ER for some time, my family left the hospital to get some rest and would come back later in the morning.

It was now about 3 am and they decided to do another CT scan. This time they were able to get a good image and immediately told me I was going to need emergency surgery for an Aortic Dissection (Type A).

I, of course, was only worried about one thing; will I still be able to go on my trip in 4 days. LOL 😊

Within a half hour, I was being put into a helicopter and life-flighted to Cleveland Clinic main campus. My first helicopter ride and I don’t remember a thing about it. My family had all been contacted that I was headed for emergency surgery and that they should make their way to the hospital. They, unfortunately, were not given much information about my status and what I was going in for until they arrived at the hospital.

They also did not know the severity of my situation and that I may not make it.


Seven some hours later, on June 27th, 2021, I made it through open heart surgery and was moved to ICU. My family talked with the surgeon and was given the news that I was one lucky woman. Again, due to COVID I was only able to have one visitor a day while I was in the ICU.

After my surgery, my father sat at the end of the hospital bed just watching me lay there. I was so heavily sedated that I don’t even remember him being there. I spent 2 days in the ICU and struggled to stay awake since I have a hard time with anesthesia and pain meds. I remember waking up and starting to panic with all the tubes attached to me and down my throat...so much so, that I tried to write in the nurse's hand with my fingers that I had anxiety since I couldn’t talk.


They kept telling me to stay awake so they could remove the tubes, so I did just long enough for them to be removed. There were nurses and doctors in and out of my ICU room constantly. They kept a very close eye on me and told me what I had just been through. They kept saying that I was lucky to be alive, but I couldn’t fully understand why as I had no idea about the importance of the Aorta and what an Aortic Dissection was.

They couldn’t believe that for my age this had happened to me. They asked me if I had any questions, to which I responded with, Yes I Do!!

The questions I asked were….what day was it, can I still go on my trip (in 4 days) and can I call my family? 😂 I called my family and asked them to bring me my cell phone and to call my full-time job and let them know I was in the hospital.


On Tuesday I was moved to a private room on the Heart and Vascular Floor of Cleveland Clinic. I had gained 30 pounds of water weight 😮, was super sore and barely had an appetite. At this point, I didn’t know how to process all that had happened, but I knew I did indeed just have one MAJOR surgery. I tried to push through the days just to rest, get in my daily walks, and even managed two showers in the week I was there. I never knew how much something so simple as short walks and showers could drain your energy.

By the end of the week, there were only two things stopping me from going home. The fluid still on my lungs and that I still needed oxygen.

Before I could be released, I had to have my lungs drained and not rely on oxygen. I begged the doctors to at least try to get me home for my birthday. That Friday afternoon, they drained both of my lungs which was soo unpleasant and painful as they got a total of a liter of fluid out. Saturday was my 43rd birthday and the doctors tried to get me home but wanted me there one more night since what I had done the day before. Sunday, July 4th, after a week of having open heart surgery for an Aortic Dissection, I was released to go home.

Released to start the journey of recovery and doing some research of what to expect. My time in the hospital, though not what I expected, definitely made me appreciate all that the surgeons, doctors, nurses, and aides do for their patients.


Once home, I followed my doctor’s orders as best as I possibly could because I am very self-sufficient and hate asking for help. Luckily, I had my amazing family to help me with just about everything through the next 8 weeks and even driving me around.

I have had laparoscopic and knee surgeries in the past, but this recovery was a lot different..mentally and physically. Mentally, I was scared and unsure how I was going to get through this. Physically, I struggled with numbness in my right arm, walking and not being able to even brush my own hair or lift anything over 5 pounds.

Two weeks later at my follow up, I got more scans and was able to speak with my Thoracic doctor and Cardiologist. From speaking to my amazing cardiologist, I got a better sense of just how important the Aorta was and why I was soo lucky to have survived.

My Cardiologist indicated I had a Cardiac Tamponade to go along with the 2.5 inch tear in my ascending aorta and that I was about a half hour away from death. Basically, the blood from the tear was suffocating my heart.

His knowledge and all the information I was given gave me a whole new perspective on a lot of things in life. Trust me though, the first year was not easy as I battled with PTSD and bad nightmares. I had to push myself physically during Cardiac Rehab and my own workouts and such to make sure I would make it to year one and then year two.

The past two years I have done my research on Aortic Disease and found Aortic Hope and other Aortic Facebook pages that helped me tremendously. Without my amazing family and friends, the Cleveland Clinic teams, Aortic Hope community I am not sure what I would have done. I have learned soo much and am now a big advocate for all those around me to understand the importance of Aortic Disease.

I know from now on that there is no time to be stubborn in such a situation and just go to the hospital even if you feel “FINE”.


Nikki Matyasi

Type A – Aortic Dissection Survivor

June 27, 2021

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