BENEFITING: JOHN RITTER FOUNDATION FOR AORTIC HEALTH
ORGANIZER: JOHN RITTER FOUNDATION FOR AORTIC HEALTH
EVENT DATE: Nov 03, 2013
HOURS PLEDGED: 150
On November 5, 2001 my dad was getting ready for work when he had sudden onset of a “numb, heavy” feeling in his leg. He continued to prep for the day ahead, but when the symptoms did not improve, he decided to swing by the hospital before heading into work. Confident it was nothing serious, he phoned his office to let them know he would be a little late for a morning meeting but hoped to be at work soon. Upon arrival to the ER, his symptoms increased. A CT scan was performed revealing my dad had a thoracic aortic dissection. He was told without immediate open heart surgery, death was imminent within the next 48 hours. Due to the severity of my dad’s rupture, even with surgery, he was given a 25% chance of survival.
Just a few blocks away from the hospital, I was working at a physical therapy clinic when my boss interrupted me, stating he was going to take over the rest of my patients for the day. I looked up and saw my husband standing by the back door with tears in his eyes. I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, my dad's first grandkid. In a brief moment, it was if I couldn't breathe. I remember upon hearing the news I crumbled into my husbands arms, sobbing, feeling as if this was not real.
The rest of the day is a blur to me. I arrived to the hospital in time to see my dad before he went in for the 12 hour surgery. Growing up, my dad and I had a special "thumbs up handshake" he would give me before any big event (before the start of a cross country meet, before I left for school during final exams, after dropping my off for my first semester of college, etc). I remember interlocking thumbs with my dad that morning, extra tightly, extra long, for what I feared would be the last time. Yet, it was not the final good-bye. Today, my dad is an active and healthy grandfather of two grandchildren.
I am thankful for the ER staff who were aware of the symptoms of aortic dissections and the risk factors my dad possessed. It was this knowledge that made it possible for him to be with us today.
The John Ritter Foundation (JRF) has impacted my life in a significant way. Through the JRF’s efforts in research and advocacy, I discovered my family history put me at risk for an aortic dissection. Via the JRF, I was put into contact with the office of Dianna M. Milewicz, M.D., Ph.D. at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Genetic Counselor, Tracy Bensend, provided me with information I needed to assist in receiving a comprehensive evaluation via echocardiogram and genetic testing. I am now followed by my cardiologist on a regular basis and receive periodic echocardiograms to assess the size of my aorta based on protocols set by the John Ritter Research Program on Aortic Aneurysms and Diseases.
Being a part of Team Ritter and assisting with raising funds for the JRF is a privilege I am honored to experience! I am excited to have the opportunity to give back to a foundation that has been an asset to my family, as we navigate and learn more about aortic disease.
Any agony, pain or breathlessness I will encounter running the New York City Marathon, in support of the JRF, will be worth the sacrifice, in order to prevent those same emotions from being experienced by those grieving the loss a loved one due to an aortic dissection related death.
One of my favorite memories growing up was my dad being the first to hug me after crossing the finish line at my high school cross country meets. I can only imagine the emotions experienced when he gives me a hug after watching me cross the finish line of the New York City marathon in 2013 with Team Ritter in honor of my dad!!
Please join me in my quest to promote awareness of signs, symptoms and risk factors of aortic dissections in order to prevent premature deaths by supporting the John Ritter Foundation with a financial donation. Any amount would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!!