An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel and like a balloon if stretched too far it will pop. When that happens, often times is fatal. We met with one of the few people who survived after his abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptured.
They say any day on the golf course is a good day after what Tom Hildebrand's been through. He will tell you everyday is a good day. On August 31st, 2009 he was working and living in Mitchell. He didn't know it at the time, but he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm and it burst, filling his belly with blood.
"Absolutely horrific pain in my side and my back. I had no idea what it was, it came out of no where," said Tom.
To give you an idea of just how bad that pain was, something like grabbing your phone out of your pocket and flipping it open usually takes 3 seconds. Tom tells us it took him 30 minutes to open it and call 911.
"Everything had to work right for me to live. Jupiter had to aline with Mars. I had to be able to open my phone to start with. The rescue crews had to find me. The correct diagnosis had to be made, which it was at Avera Queen of Peace. The helicopter had to be available. All the support systems and surgical teams had to be there and even with all of that my chances were less than 1 in 100," said Tom.
Tom was airlifted and rushed in to surgery at the Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls where two surgeons, one of them Dr. Tommy Reynolds, spent 13 hours repairing his aorta with 77 1/2 pints of blood. Tom spent the next 113 days recovering in the hospital, most of it in an induced coma on a ventilator.
Vascular Specialist and Surgeon Dr. Tommy Reynolds with North Central Heart says, "It just wasn't his time. We do what we can as surgeons and as a team and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. This time it did."
In October he had to have his leg amputated below the knee. When his aorta burst, the plaque in his bloodstream that caused the rupture pooled in his feet, cutting off circulation in his left foot. Tom, a lifelong lover of the game of golf, is still learning how to modify his chipping with a prosthesis. Throughout all of this, he says three things kept him going.
Tom says, "They are all equally important. The power of prayer, God's grace and the Avera Health System. They are all interchangeable because I needed all of them."
Seeing is believing and I believe Tom Hildebrand is a testament that with the grace of God and specialized care, miracles do happen
The Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, along with Avera Queen of Peace in Mitchell, Avera Sacred Heart in Yankton and Avera Marshall offer vascular screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysms, which are important since often times there are no symptoms associated with it, until it's too late.
Call 877-AT-AVERA to make an appointment.