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Be Well, Be Well Informed

Emergency Vascular Surgery Saves Patient’s Life

Posted on Jan 13, 2012

Jim and Barbara Black

Longtime PAMF patient Jim Black, 73, takes good care of himself. He leads an active life and his health was always something he could rely on, until one Friday when his health took a dramatic turn for the worse.

“My first symptom was a tremendous fainting spell, and I literally collapsed on the floor,” says Jim. “I was able to reach a telephone and call 911. That triggered the entire response from the paramedics to El Camino Hospital in Mountain View and to PAMF vascular surgeon Robert Mitchell, M.D., to whom I owe my life.”

Jim woke up three-and-a-half days later in intensive care. It turns out that he had an undetected abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge in a section of the aorta, the body’s main artery. The aneurysm had ruptured, a condition that is fatal 70 to 80 percent of the time. The fact that his aneurysm went undetected is common: aortic aneurysms usually have no symptoms. [pullshow]

Dr. Mitchell met the ambulance at the local hospital. With ruptured aneurysms, the only chance of survival is to repair the aneurysm without delay. Fortunately, Dr. Mitchell suspected Jim had an aortic aneurysm and took him right from the ambulance to the operating room. Jim spent six hours on the operating table and had 25 units of blood and fluids transfused.

“[pullthis]Dr. Mitchell told my family I had a 50/50 chance of reaching the hospital alive, and a 10 percent chance of surviving after the operation[/pullthis],” says Jim. “He then said I had a 50/50 chance of making it through the night, and finally a 50 percent chance of getting out of intensive care with my organs intact and functioning.”

Jim was discharged after 12 days in the hospital with a clean bill of health. Nearly a year later, he is completely recovered.

“Our program is very committed to educating our patients and treating aortic aneurysms in a timely and safe fashion. Many times small aneurysms can be watched and larger ones may be treated with open or endovascular surgery,” says Tej Singh, M.D., director of PAMF’s Vascular Center.

“In Mr. Black’s case, there was not time to plan. He needed traditional aneurysm surgery emergently to save his life, and that’s exactly what Dr. Mitchell did: He gave him a chance at life.”