• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Surviving an aortic tear and living to navigate its aftermath

February 2, 2020

Surviving an aortic dissection is a tale not all patients live to tell. For Eric Salter, living through the traumatic experience was nothing short of miraculous.

Eric Salter was a 42-year-old runner in the prime of his life when in May 2017, on his daughter's 11th birthday, he suffered a life-threatening aortic dissection while sitting at the desk in his home office.

During an aortic dissection, the inner layer of the aorta — the major blood vessel that takes oxygenated blood to the body — tears, causing the inner and middle layers to become separated. For Eric, the dissection resulted in emergency surgery at a medical center near his Florida home. The surgeon repaired Eric's damaged aorta and replaced his bicuspid aortic valve with a mechanical valve. After 13 days in the hospital, Eric went home.

At that point, Eric was told his aorta was fixed, and that was the end of the story. In reality, it was just the beginning of a medical voyage that continues to this day. Eric's journey led him to the office of Sabrina Phillips, M.D., a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida and eventually to the operating room of Alberto Pochettino, M.D., a cardiovascular surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Eric's Mayo Clinic team has guided him through years of monitoring his dissected aorta and provided surgical treatment that corrected the initial repair. Moreover, Eric's team has established a plan of action to deal with future issues as they arise.

"On May 10, 2017, I was told I had an aortic dissection and would have to be flown by helicopter to another hospital," Eric says. "I had just eight minutes to say goodbye to my wife and record a message to my two daughters. I prayed the entire time in the helicopter: 'Lord Jesus, please just give me one more day. I don't want to die on my daughter's birthday.' I only asked for one more day, and I'm blessed with a lot more than that. I'm not completely back to normal, but I can do just about anything I want to do and have a lot to be thankful for. It usually doesn't turn out that way for patients like me."

Read the rest of Eric's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.