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Your Healthy Family: Retired pastor on the road to recovery after tear in aorta

Posted at 8:00 PM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-13 22:30:47-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – Seventy-year-old Terry Douglass is a retired pastor here in Colorado Springs and is living a grateful life, after his health took a turn in March of 2017.

Terry was walking his dog and recalls that his left leg gave out from underneath him. He called 911 and eventually was lucky enough to find himself in the care of Dr. Peter Walinsky, who is the senior medical director of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at UCHealth Memorial. Or was it really luck?

Terry had suffered a Type A aortic dissection, that is basically a tear in the walls of his aorta. Dr. Walinsky recalls, “He came in with an aortic Type A dissection, he was also on one of the new blood thinners so not only was it a very complicated operation, but he was on this powerful blood thinner for which there’s no reversal. We also had to put him on the heart- lung bypass machine and make his blood even thinner.”

Following the surgery, Dr. Walinsky stayed with Terry and his wife overnight to keep a close eye on him. It had been a demanding procedure and Terry wasn’t out of the woods. Dr. Walinsky said, “Every stitch has to be perfect, and all the suture lines have to be good. Even with that you’re still going to get a fair amount of bleeding after the surgery.”

A year later, Terry has almost no deficits, which is significant when you consider the effects the tear had on him. Terry remembers the flow of blood had been cut off, “to my left lung, my left kidney, left leg, and my brain. The doctor at rehab that I went to said ‘you’re the third dissection I’ve seen in 25 years, and you’re the only one that can talk back to me.’”

Given his faith, it’s not a leap to see how Terry feels he is a living miracle. “I give God the credit, but he had to use the skills and ability of Dr. Walinsky and the team here, and the care that I got in the ICU was awesome.”

Dr. Wallinsky has kept a close eye on Terry during his recovery, “You know he’s had some ups and downs, but the fact that he’s sitting here today and looking terrific and walked in here from the parking lot is just tremendously gratifying. It makes it all worth it.”

As for Terry, he lives each day with a renewed gratitude for every moment. “I’m wondering ‘God why me?’ and the easy answer is there is something left to do. It makes me look at every day differently. I live every day as if it could be my last day, because even though I have come a long way, there’s no guarantees.”