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Helen’s Story

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)


There were never any signs that Helen had an abdominal aortic aneurysm. In fact, she never gave it much thought, until a friend happened to mention it.

That's when Helen stopped to consider the real possibility that she could be in danger.

It turns out that Helen's father had died of an aortic aneurysm. And he had no idea that he had one – or that his ruptured aneurysm could have been prevented.

It suddenly became clear to Helen that she needed to get screened – just in case. It turns out that it was one of the best things she ever did.

Helen called her doctor and asked about aortic aneurysm screening. He referred her to a cardiologist, who performed the simple and safe screening procedure and found that she had an aneurysm in the area of her aorta just above her navel.

At the time it was discovered, the aneurysm was not yet of a size that required surgical repair. So Helen went into a period of watchful waiting, during which she made regular visits to the cardiologist to monitor the size and shape of the aneurysm.

The aneurysm continued to grow, and when it reached the size that required surgical treatment, Helen checked into a hospital and prepared for treatment.

Helen's cardiologist at the time believed that open surgery was the best approach. Helen wasn't comfortable with that and wanted another opinion. "We didn't even discuss other options. I felt like he was pressuring me to have the open surgery," she recalls. "Every day he would come in and tell me that the surgery was scheduled for tomorrow."

But Helen wouldn't hear of it. After an extended stay in the hospital, her son had located a surgeon, Dr. Jason Lee, at another facility who was an expert at endovascular stent grafting. So Helen left the hospital in a wheelchair and went to see him.

Helen still remembers the visit.

"He sat me down, held my hand and listened to me. Then he explained the endovascular stent grafting procedure, and answered my questions. It was like a breath of fresh air."

Helen had the stent grafting procedure, and a stent graft was put into place to repair her abdominal aorta. She recovered quickly and resumed her normal routine within a couple of weeks after surgery. Helen feels extremely fortunate and is quick to provide an opinion based on her experience.

"I think everyone should be screened for aneurysms. I mean everyone, just like you get screened for colon cancer," she explains. "Do your homework. Find a specialist you trust who performs the stent grafting procedure and talk to him or her about the benefits and risks."

Your doctor should also discuss open surgical repair so that you can understand both treatment options. In fact, if you are not satisfied, be prepared to find another doctor that you believe provides the best information regarding your care. Then you can discuss with your family and be prepared to make the best decision for you.

"If I hadn't done all of those things," she continues, "I'm sure that I wouldn't be here now." These days, Helen and her doctor are keeping an eye on another aneurysm that was identified during her screening. Soon, she may be receiving another stent graft. But this time, she knows exactly what she wants – and where to get it.

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.