Saturday, March 9, 2013

Chuck and Cheri Sheridan - Aortic Dissection and Hope

 by Marie LoParcoCheri wrote that this artist's proof, created by her friend, is to be shared with others as an expression of hope. It is fitting that a picture of it be shared here, with their story.
 This story of hope was written in  May 2007 by Cheri Sheridan about what she and her husband, Chuck, experienced almost three years earlier. 

Before you read Cheri's words, I will add a little background to this story. At the time Cheri writes about in 2004, I was privileged to work with Dr. Raissi on a limited basis in his Aortic Surgery Program. And that is how I know Cheri and Chuck.

I still have not met them in person, but I know Cheri especially well. We have walked in the same shoes. The first time I heard Cheri's voice, I recognized in it the timbre of fear that has at times gripped me also.

 Aortic disease does that. An icy fear penetrates to our very core. 

It is the fear of losing our loved one in a fight with an enemy we scarcely understand. Cheri mentions being "frozen with fear". 

She was afraid there was no hope

This is one of the reasons that the Bicuspid Aortic Foundation emphasizes creating a climate of hope. Hope empowers us to keep seeking  help. Cheri and Chuck did find hope. They found choices they never knew existed and skilled hands to save Chuck's life.  

Today, as you are about to read, Chuck and Cheri "have their life back". Thank you, Cheri and Chuck, for sharing your lives here and giving hope to others. We all need hope so much. - Arlys Velebir

The rich, warm colors that the artist chose for this work,
seen in this close up, remind us that icy fear melts away in the warmth of hope.
                                                                         May 2007
                                                         Here is Chuck and Cheri's story . . . .

I am writing this almost 3 years after the fact: I would like to express my feelings about the compassion, encouragement, and care that we personally received from Arlys and Dr.Raissi at the Cedars Sinai Hospital. My husband had had 2 surgeries after having an aortic dissection while swimming in 1996. It was a miracle that he survived his first episode. Several years later after another operation repairing another segment of his aorta his yearly CAT scan showed that he was in need of yet a third operation. His medical reports were sent to Cleveland Clinic without our knowledge and a physician's secretary left a message on our answering machine saying that my husband needed to get in touch with that doctor immediately for a consultation.

We did and that doctor told us that my husband needed to have 2 sections of his aorta that were previously repaired redone in two more radically invasive operations, to be scheduled a month or two apart. When my husband asked what his options were, he was asked by the doctor if the word mortality meant anything to him. It was a very long drive home to central NY from Cleveland, Ohio. I was frozen with fear, believing that my husband would not be able to "get his head around" two more invasive surgeries and that I would loose him.

Fortunately for us, when we were at the Cleveland Clinic that day, waiting to see the doctor, we met a nurse who had had the nearly same experience that my husband had had in the same year. We spent the entire day together waiting to see the doctor. It was through her, after comparing similar experiences that we finally learned what much of the medical jargon meant. She gave specific details about stroke, heparin causing bleeding ulcers, and how low her blood pressure was being kept and what specific medications/doses that she was taking. I wrote everything down as I had been doing with each person that my husband had met within the 2 days of testing/evaluating procedures prior to our meeting with the doctor.

Still not knowing what to do, several days later I found the Cedars Sinai Web page and discovered it to be very easy to navigate. It even had a space to write in a specific aortic question. It also offered a page that you could go to that would answer general questions that were asked about aortic medical problems and I knew that each aortic dissection survivor has different/individual circumstances. So I wrote in something about our situation; it was processed and shortly I received an email that said a Cedars Sinai Hospital liaison person would be in touch with me within 24 hours.

That happened! Arlys called me and she asked me how she could be of help. I told her our situation and I said to her that if we were "just tilting at windmills and didn't have any hope" that someone should tell us and that we would just live out our lives in the time that we had. She said,"Oh no! You are only looking for the least invasive procedure that you can find for your husband…you have so much hope and many possibilities!" She gave me her work number and her cell number and remained in constant contact with us and introduced us to Dr. Raissi. 

We sent all of the medical reports that we had received about my husband's condition to him. He spoke personally to my husband, our local family doctor, and me. Over a period of 3 months he got my husband's blood pressure to a safer level and referred us to medical help on the East coast near our children who both lived in NYC. Arlys and Dr. Raissi never let go of us! We also knew that if we didn't find the medical care that we were looking for in NYC that Dr. Raissi would do the operation. We felt their care and concern immediately from the first time I heard Arlys' voice.

We had the surgery in NYC and it proved to be successful. Arlys and Dr. Raissi directed and guided us through a very rough time in our lives and held us close. My husband is back in the pool for exercise, just won his division in our local Canoe/Kayak Race, and works full time. We will forever be grateful that we have our lives back!  - Chuck and Cheri Sheridan

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