Wife, Mother, Volunteer and Cardiology Patient
“I feel blessed. They saved my life . . . It’s a true testament to the
professionals we have at MidMichigan.”
Routine Trip to Urgent Care Helped Identify a Rare Heart Condition
Denise Hus still finds it hard to believe that she underwent emergency heart surgery in March 2011. “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” she said. “Those things happen to other people.”
It started with a cough. “I had a painful cough I couldn’t shake,” Denise said. “We were getting ready to leave for spring break so I stopped by Urgent Care one morning hoping to ward off a vacation illness.”
Although an initial examination showed Denise’s lungs were clear, Jamie Poliskey, M.D., the physician who examined her, suggested a chest x-ray to see what was causing the painful cough. While Denise’s lungs were clear, the x-ray image showed some unusual thickening around her aorta. “I never thought anything was seriously wrong even when Dr. Poliskey asked a radiologist to check the film,” she said. To get a more clear view of the aorta, the doctors suggested she have a CT (computed tomography) scan at the Emergency Department at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland.
After the CT scan was completed, Emergency Department personnel consulted with Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D. “Even after the CT scan, I still was innocently thinking nothing was wrong,” Denise said. “Then Dr. Jones came in to see me and said I needed a second scan. They initially thought I had a blood clot but that was not what was causing the thickness in the aorta. While all this was going on, my blood pressure was steadily rising.”
The second scan revealed that Denise had a rare and life-threatening condition called aortic dissection. “All I knew about aortic dissection was that John Ritter, the actor, had died from it,” she said. “I couldn’t believe what was happening. I had gone to Urgent Care that morning thinking I had bronchitis and now I was facing heart surgery.”
Aortic dissection is the result of a tear in the inner wall of the aorta, the major artery that moves blood out of the heart. Blood pools between the inner and outer walls of the artery causing the walls to separate, or dissect, and the artery to bulge and possibly rupture. This rare condition, usually the result of uncontrolled hypertension or advanced age, also causes extreme pain. Denise, a healthy 46-year-old, only experienced pain with the cough.
Dr. Jones and his team repaired the tear in Denise’s aorta early the following morning less than 24 hours after her trip to Urgent Care.
Looking back, Denise is glad she didn’t have time to think about the surgery and its implications. “I was worried about my kids of course, but I really didn’t know what to expect as far as the operation and recovery,” she said. “After the surgery, it was smooth sailing. They had me up and walking the next day.”
Denise said the care she received, from her visit to Urgent Care to the visiting nurses who monitored her blood pressure at home, was outstanding. “The nurses and doctors at MidMichigan are fantastic! I was almost embarrassed by all the attention,” she said. “I had an awesome experience. The Critical Care Unit is amazing – I felt like we were family by the time I left. Dr. Jones came to see me every day– you would have thought I was his only patient.”
A week after surgery, Denise was home. “Other than being a little sore, I felt great,” she said. She still carefully and closely monitors her blood pressure and is now working with a cardiologist and rheumatologist as they explore what caused her condition in the first place. “The cough that drove me to see a doctor in the first place had nothing to do with the heart problem,” she added.
Denise has a naturally positive outlook on life and she chooses to not dwell on what could have been. Instead, she is deeply grateful for the support of her family and friends. “I look at things differently now,” she said. “Unless a problem is life-threatening, it’s not that big of a problem. I’m thankful just to have my family around me.”
She is equally grateful for the care she received at MidMichigan Medical Center–Midland. “I feel blessed. They saved my life,” she said. “I was diagnosed because the doctor at Urgent Care took the next step when he saw something that wasn’t right. I’m alive because Dr. Jones repaired my heart. So many things could have gone wrong but didn’t. It’s a true testament to the professionals we have at MidMichigan.”
Health offers a full array of cardiovascular services, including open-heart
surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced
interventional procedures. With more providers and more locations for
diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation, patients get best-in-class heart
care without the need to be referred outside the region. For more information,