Avera Medical Minute: Life after aortic dissection

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Tom Hildebrand is celebrating a ten-year milestone after a brush with death. His health crisis started with waking up in excruciating pain, ripping through his lower back.

Tom Hildebrand Life after Aortic Dissection

"We didn't have smartphones back then, we just had flip phones. So I grabbed my flip phone and I couldn't open it up. I ended up prying it open with my mouth. 9-1-1," said Hildebrand.

Tom was thinking of kidney stones, but he was told it was more serious.
He had an aortic dissection. It's a tear along the inner layer of the aorta.

After surviving surgery, his surgeon provided more details. "He told me when he opened me up that day, or that night, I had two minutes left. Two minutes. I bled out basically," said Hildebrand.

A thirteen-hour surgery and 77 units of blood saved Tom's life. Complications of a-fib, organ failure, and septic shock followed. "I survived all that stuff. I spent four months here in the hospital. I lost my lower left leg, but I did survive and I'm thriving today ten years later," said Hildebrand.

Some of the angels on earth that helped Tom on his journey recovery came in the form of Avera Occupational therapists, like Vicki Binstock. "When Tom came to us he was pretty fragile," said Binstock.

His determination helped with recovery. "He was so motivated and so positive. He always got other patients involved, and he comes back now and visits," said Binstock.

As the healing continued, Tom questioned his purpose, having been given another chance at life. A bible verse that anchored his journey was from the book at Matthew. "Lo, I am with you always," a message reinforced in a most unusual way while visiting First Congregational Church in Sioux Falls. "And I look upon the alter, stenciled in gold, 'Lo, I am with you always.' I started to bawl like a baby. The usher comes up to me, All you alright? Buddy, I'm way alright," said Hildebrand.

Tom celebrates life by giving back to others encouraging others in therapy. "Faith, creativity and a little gumption and courage, you can overcome just anything," said Hildebrand.