Aortic Disease? Think Before You Kill Yourself, Live A Long Happy Life Instead

Karen and Rupert

Karen, FitOldDog’s Feldenkrais instructor, and Rupert, appropriately placed in Mr. Bones, for instructional purposes, only. Photo by FitOldDog.

I love to read, think, exercise, and camp. In short, I want to continue to live a long happy life.

Breaking camp with insert small file

Breaking camp on Taylors Island, MD, and boy those tent pegs were locked into the clay.

But I have aortic disease, meaning that my mainline blood supply is fragile. My aorta is, in fact, held together by a sophisticated tube, made of metal and plastic, an abdominal aortic aneurysm stent graft (aka Rupert) (watch the linked video, it’s Cook Medical magic). Displace it and death is probable, and I’m in no hurry to leave all the fun behind. People have done that in a number of interesting ways, including intense rowing, wearing a lap belt in a car wreck, and being subjected to the famous Heimlich maneuver (not much choice, there I guess). I actually displaced part of my stent graft in a bike wreck last year, and had it fixed at the Cleveland Clinic.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Darwin Awards? It is only too easy to go there yourself, even if you don’t have aortic disease. Just stick to texting while driving, and you’ll see what I mean, or not.

FitOldDog using a lever to remove tent pegs, for safety.

I finally hit upon using my bamboo cutting board, as a second order lever, to reduce risk to my stent graft. Good thinking, FitOldDog.

Here is a simple example of thinking before acting, to protect my stent graft. It occurred during my latest camping trip, where I modified my approach to a simple task to avoid risk to my aorta – better safe than sorry.

Having camped on Taylors Island for the 2014 Maryland Ironman, which went better than I expected (with one little wrinkle), and seen lots of eagles flying near my campsite, it was time to break camp. Down came my tent, but as I attempted to remove the first tent peg, buried in hard baked clay, my first reaction was to strain, with my hip joints fully flexed.

Oops! Bad Idea!

Increased lower abdominal pressure and maybe pulling on my femoral artery? I quickly reassessed, looked around for help, no one, and proceeded to seek a solution:

Leverage to the rescue.

It took a while to find the right tool, until I finally remembered my bamboo cutting board. It did the trick, with little effort and no straining.

So! If you have aortic disease, you’ve recovered from your treatment, and the symptoms have receded, THINK BEFORE YOU ACT.

That’s it from FitOldDog and Rupert.

Back onto I95 South, and heading home.

Happy Trails.



  1. FOD… Good thinking and way to go keeping the Darwin Award writers at bay. I never even think of it in terms of “protecting” my graft. But… now I believe I will reframe. Good luck on the next Ironman. Hope it is wrinkle free>


    • Hi Steve! Hope my thoughts help, and it’s nice to think that they might. I’m writing the story of my race, which I consider to be a complete success, in the context of events leading up to it. But yes, having the next one wrinkle-free would be nice. Cheers, Kevin

      • Hello Kevin: You write it takes time to recover…how long?
        I had a few other questions , (with a sacular aneurism 5.7x 6.6 cm, so being a candidate myself soon for EVAR) to ask from your experience:
        1. After the stent graft implant did you have discomforts ( soon after) and through
        like increase in BP, palpitations ,numbness, abdominal/back /head aches, any clots that had to be removed like in the legs, any breathing discomfort other than from anxiety ( and which went away with time), necessity for endoleaks treatments for like Types 1 and 2, reinterventions other than your trip to Cleveland clinic when your Stent got dislocated etc.
        Being a Research Biologist myself: I have a new idea for a plan to make a Bioglue coat on the AAA aneurism through laparotomy…to back up …and stop the growth/ prevent the aneurism from bursting..Are you willing as our cheerleader ..take up this ANOTHER SOLUTION with authorities like NIH and push it fast for the sake of all of us..??? . I emailed this suggestion to Dr Collins, NIH Director to present it fast to the Vascular Surgeons Expert Committee… last month..and there was no response.
        Hoping to hear from you soon. You are a brave man and an inspiration
        Deepak L

        • Hi Deepak, let me think this through, and yes, anything I can to do make things happen I will attempt, but first I have to take a teenager to lunch and a dog for a walk, with said teenager. Hungry teenagers are morose, so I feed them. Be back soon. Cheers, Kevin

        • Hi Deepak, it will come down to the right strategy. I can see how biopolymers, or pieces of self, could be used to create an ‘elastic lamina prosthesis/autograft. Your ideas are good ideas, and getting funding is quite a trick. Remember, this is a big business, and may well come with some resistance. Don’t forget that the iron lung manufacturers tried to resist the use of cell culture to come up with vaccine development for Polio. This is a fascinating question, which will need the right political approach. First I will explore peoples initial reactions through my contacts, publicly, in the EVAR world. Could you tell me more about your research, by e-mail (, to help me with more ammunition. I really like this idea, by the way, and I worry about the non-compliant and non-self-healing nature of my wonderful stent. I”ll help in any way I can.
          My surgeries only yielded minor pains and discomfort. Surgery recovery for the initial tissue trauma was just a few weeks. True recovery for training was about a year, both times, in my opinion. The emotional stress and anesthetics really beat you up, and I had excellent surgeons, both times. No back pain. Some groin pain, which faded over weeks. Emotional acceptance took about a year, and finishing Lake Placid Ironman in 2011, really helped with that. No clots, but I take aspirin every day (in spite of the long platelet half life (about 10 days, in humans, I think) Let’s talk some more, and I can be reached by phone at (919) 357-3226.
          Kind regards,
          Kevin (off to the pool).

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.