Hi, this is Margaret Glidden, one of the writers of your weekly Synod Scene newsletter and editor of The Messenger.
On a personal note, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be marking Aortic Dissection Awareness Week (September 19-26) by checking into the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute this Sunday in preparation for surgery to repair an aortic dissection I had in 2015.
Okay, maybe I didn’t have much input into the timing of my surgery, but it made for an interesting lede, didn’t it? I should mention I have Marfan syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder that puts me at greater risk for things like aortic aneurysms and dissections. Since being diagnosed with the syndrome as an infant (my father and uncle both had Marfan, as do my sister, brother, niece and nephew), I have received excellent cardiac care at the University of Alberta Hospital. Like my brother, and most recently (this July) my sister, I’ve also had surgery to repair an aneurysm in my aortic root.
Five years ago, I was getting ready for work and felt pain in the center of my back like I’d never felt before. My first thought was, ‘this can’t be a dissection, I’ve already had surgery to prevent one. But what else could it be?’ When the first responders arrived, I made sure to tell them our family history of Marfan and that my dad had suffered a fatal Type A (ascending aorta) dissection at age 41. But my vital signs looked okay and on the way to the hospital, the EMT said he thought I was having a back spasm. I was sent for a CT scan in emergency which showed my descending aorta had torn from just below my shoulder blade to just above my kidneys.
My Type B (descending aorta) dissection has been medically managed to this point. I take medications to lower my blood pressure and keep my heart from beating too intensely. An aneurysm caused by the dissection was stable, however recent MRI and CT imaging showed its size has increased significantly. My cardiologist and her colleagues thus determined that surgery now, rather than 10 years down the road, is the best course of action.
Aortic dissections can be difficult to diagnose and fatal if not immediately treated, so awareness and education are vitally important. The Genetic Aortic Disorders Association of Canada (GADA) is a tremendous source of information and they are hosting a free virtual conference with the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health next week.
I’ll need to step back from my role as communications director for the diocese while I heal from the surgery. In the meantime, please email my colleague the Rev. Shelly King at email@example.com with submissions to the Synod Scene or The Messenger.
Thank you for taking time to read this and please take care, everyone.