On Good Friday, 2016, Stanley Wieczorek dropped his wife off at her job and returned to his home in South County. He had the day off from his job in the shipping department of Nestle Purina, but his time would be anything but carefree.
“When I got home, I was in pain. I had never felt this way before,” recalled Stanley, 54. “I went into a sweat, but it was different from a cold sweat: this was something else. The pain was just intense around my lower back, and I felt like if I didn’t get some help right away, I wasn’t going to be around anymore.”
It was a good thing he called 911, because he had a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a condition survived by less than 10 percent of people who have them. He was brought to St. Anthony’s Medical Center, where vascular surgeon Brian Peterson, MD, performed an emergency endovascular AAA repair.
“You don’t have the luxury of time with a ruptured aneurysm,” Dr. Peterson said. “Stanley is a pretty fortunate guy: it was fast acting on his part. We urge people with any abdominal pain, especially sudden-onset abdominal pain that is unlike any abdominal pain that you’ve experienced before in your life, to seek immediate medical attention.”
Using a state-of-the-art endovascular operating room, Dr. Peterson advanced wires and catheters through the femoral arteries in the groin and into the aorta. He injected dye through a catheter to get a better idea of Stanley’s anatomy, then relined the aorta from the inside with a covered stent graft. The graft seals off the aneurysm from the rest of the circulation. Over time, the aneurysm slowly disappears.
Endovascular repair (versus open repair) is less invasive and allows patients to get back to their normal routines more quickly, Dr. Peterson said. About 85 percent of aneurysm patients qualify for the endovascular repair.
In hindsight, Stanley recalled he had trouble sleeping the night before, tossing and turning and experiencing some discomfort. Dr. Peterson said it was likely at that time that the aneurysm was expanding rapidly, soon to rupture.
A former smoker, Stanley hasn’t had a cigarette since. He should have no more aneurysm problems, Dr. Peterson said. He now exercises regularly and enjoys cooking for his family, playing guitar for his grandkids, and singing.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given,” he said. “Dr. Peterson’s office is the most awesome medical office I’ve ever had to deal with: they really took care of me. All the nurses at St. Anthony’s were very friendly and easy to work with: I didn’t have any issues at all.”