Updated: Feb 15
Today we bring you a story about surviving a congenital heart defect and multiple open heart surgeries from Scott Lindhardt.
Scott shares in his blog, details of how he overcame a congenital heart defect, experienced surgery from having the “widow maker” and is living his best life with a TAA.
I am currently a 50 year old Male. My story starts out about 27 years ago. I was 23 years old and working construction. One day while at work, I climbed up a set of stairs...one flight, and was out of breath. This made no sense to me. I was in the best shape of my life! This continued to happen, so I decided to get checked out medically. After numerous tests, I learned that I had an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), hole between my two ventricles about the size of a quarter. I was scheduled for open heart surgery (OHS), which occurred on St. Patrick's Day, 2 days after turning 24 years old. I appeared to be the youngest heart patient at the hospital or so it seemed to me. At the time of my OHS, I was a volunteer firefighter with a first responder medical certificate. I remember half joking with my surgeon, asking him if I could remain awake and watch the surgery...of course I knew the answer. I remember getting wheeled into the operating room and focusing on a large 4 foot diameter light full of numerous flood lights shining down on me. The next thing I remember was waking up to see my parents and then a sheriff's deputy which was my friend’s parent, who were able to visit in the ER recovery room. The surgery was a success... as you may have figured out. In the hospital, I had many visitors. This was great because its easy to feel a little depressed during hospital recovery. One visitor was a Mended Hearts Volunteer. This person was a tremendous help and I didn't even realize it at the time. I was given some documents and kind words of advice. Looking back, it was much appreciated. I went through the recovery process and ended up, six months later, having a few broken sternum wires removed. After that it was rehabilitation, checkups, and finally cleared and back to 100%. Fast forward a number of years to about six years ago. I was doing "preop" testing for cervical disk replacement and fusion. This is when I learned about my 4.7cm thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA). I have been monitored ever since. CTA scans yearly and echocardiograms in between at 6 months. Its been stable at 4.7cm since I've known about it.
When I first learned about my TAA, I had a million questions. I was nervous, concerned, worried, confused, and curious. I began researching, asking questions, and talking with people about it. This is when I found out that one of my best friends brother's death was due to an aortic aneurysm rupture many years ago, about the same time that I had my OHS. By the way, my friend has been checked for aneurysms and has been cleared. Another connection to this disease came a few years ago when my wife (who was adopted at birth), lost her favorite Aunt to an aortic aneurysm rupture. I have also since learned that my paternal grandfather was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm (not the cause of his death). In addition to my TAA last year, I had a stent placed in my LAD or better known as the "widow maker" artery, which was 80% blocked. Therefore, I am currently watching two independent cardiac conditions. I should probably mention that just prior to having the stent installed, I had a CTA scan done. I was told that my TAA may have grown to the point of needing surgery. So, I began to prepare myself for another OHS, only to be told a few days later that upon further reviews, that was not the case. Follow up tests were done which confirmed that my TAA was unchanged and still at 4.7cm. I try to focus on living a heart healthy lifestyle, which includes diet and light exercise, and raising awareness whenever I can. Fortunately, now I have a less strenuous career focusing on Safety along with a wonderful wife and supportive family...and my dog, Annie, who is in the attached picture with me. I believe that aortic aneurysms are an issue that may be more common than was ever thought. It’s important to : 1. Know about them. 2. To know if you have one, and 3. If you have one, its important to know how to life smartly with it. Life is good, and this, certainly is not the end of my story.
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