Invited Blog Post On Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Survival: Tom’s Story

Me and my ole collie dog.

Me and my ole collie dog.

The last week of June 2012, I had a terrible lower back problem. I went to the doc and they x-rayed my back. They didn’t find much problem with the back, but this AAA showed up and they sent me for a CT scan. Sure enough, they called and confirmed that I had a 7.0 cm aneurysm in my abdominal aorta. I had never heard of this, so I got online and read enough to scare me to death. I decided I better get a grip, and deal with this thing in the proper manner. Before I forget, the back pain was unrelated to the AAA as far as I know. It cleared up before surgery.

On the 1st of July, I went in to see the surgeon and I found out how serious these things can be, and mine was there – 7.0 cm is serious. He sent my test off to the stent graft company to see if they could match me up. Due to the size of the inlet opening of my aneurysm, and the fact that it was to close to the arteries that go to the kidneys, they couldn’t come up with a stent that they would recommend. The surgeon, at this point, recommended open surgery. I had to get cleared from my heart doc and he was on vacation, with no backup, so I waited.

After three weeks of waiting, I got a call that I was scheduled for surgery on August 16th. Looking at the timeline, it wasn’t that long, but it seemed like an eternity. I was even afraid to bend down and pull weeds from my garden. They told me no straining, not to mow my grass, pretty much not to do anything. I’m an old, 63-year old ruff neck that was raised on a farm and spent 40+ years as a heavy equipment mechanic, so I don’t really know how to be careful.

So my life went on hold, and I was scared enough to be careful.

I’m a man of faith, so dying doesn’t scare me as far as the afterlife, but I’m not in any big hurry to get to the other side either. I made a decision to get as healthy as I knew how, before my surgery, and then do everything that the doctors told me (I ask the doc a lot of questions and was comfortable that he knew what he was doing), and trust God for the results. The 16th of August came; I spent 3 ½ hours in surgery, the next 19 hours in recovery/intensive care. Then they put me in a regular room. I spent 5 more days in the hospital with all going well. They released me to come home on the 7th day post-surgery.

I’m still amazed about the absence of severe pain. The incision gave me some discomfort, but pain-wise, it wasn’t too bad. I had a little BP problem for another week, but I have issues with that anyway so that was no surprise. I was weak, but they had instructed me to walk as much as possible, so I got a helper to go with me and started walking around my city block 1, then 2, then 3 times a day, until I could fire my free help (one week) and was feeling confident.

I am now at three months post-surgery and I feel, basically, the same as before surgery. I will have to admit it has taken me until now to get my head back on straight. There is a strange thing that major surgery does to you mentally. I haven’t put my finger on it yet. To anyone that will go through this in the future, my suggestion would be to give yourself some time after. Relax and reward yourself with some healing time; you deserve it after this invasive procedure.

I consider myself fortunate to have come through this so well. I feel very blessed. I want to encourage anyone that will go through this to stay as calm as possible and follow my simple plan. Health, do all you can to get healthy, listen to the pros, these doc’s have seen this over and over, and pray, pray, and trust the Lord for the outcome.

I know how scary it is, but it doesn’t have to be bad, it can go well.  




  1. Inspiring

  2. It is! I really liked his attitude. Hope you are readjusted to being home, and have an enjoyable New Year’s Eve. -kevin

  3. great post, very inspiring. I’m facing AAA surgery sometime in the future, I was thinking about the whole thing yesterday and thought maybe, just maybe, a AAA could be viewed as a blessing. It’s a theory, I’m working on it. this post was very useful, thanks Kevin.

  4. It is a blessing if you make it a blessing! Keep working it out, and have fun New Years Eve. Oh Yes! That’s now. I’ll sleep through it and enjoy my first cup of early morning tea in 2013, and see what I can do to make it great. Tom is very inspiring, and I really liked his approach and courage. Keep living life every day. Have you read Living in the Now? I found that it changed my life for the better in many ways. Kind Regards, Kevin

  5. “There is nothing more exhilerating than being shot at – without result!” W.S.Churchill

  6. Thank you Tom for sharing your story, its helped me to see the positive outcome you have experienced with your AAA Surgery. My surgery coming, up soon and im a nervous wreck. Stent graft will not work for me because of allergies to what its made of. So open Abdominal it is. Mine is only a 4.7 its Saccular, n causing pain in my lower back. Hopefully i can share my story and encourage others as you have. God Bless,
    Thanks Patricia

    • Hi Patricia, hang in there, stay as calm as you can, and prepare. You might want to talk to Pauline via the AAA Awareness site, as she is in recovery from very recent open AAA surgery, having waited years for it to pass the 5 cm cutoff (crazy number). The trick, I think, is to be prepared so as to carry as little worry into surgery with you as you can. Also, it is critical to have an advocate with you, and bring them into the process as early as possible. Best if this advocate is calm, medically aware, and prepared to understand everything to help carry you through. They will also need their support crew as support is hard, too. I see the preparation as being similar to the endurance races that Pauline and I are into. Chance is on your side as the surgeons are getting better and better at this stuff since working on Einstein all those years ago – chose the best surgeon you can find, by the way, if you can get a choice. Kind Regards, Kevin

      • RgeryHi Kevin, ty so much for all your advice, n support. Im 3 1/2 weeks out, i did great, off the respirator in tecord time, my surgery lssted 7 1/2 hours, it was bigger than projected and badky infected and was ready to burst. So im greatful to ny Surgeon and to the good Lord . The only probkem im havibg is my bowels r not worki g on there own yet. did u experience any problems lije that? Im looking forward to a complete n total recovery, the psin – in ny, back id gone. I cannit wait to get outside n start my walkiing. Thanks so much , if thete is snything i csn do now to help others as you r , well i eant to do just that. Its a hard surgery, but we r all stronger than we know.. Thanks n God Bless Patricia on the Mend..

        • Hi Patricia, so glad to hear that you are OK. The digestive problems were pretty real for me, which I think were due to the stent reducing the blood supply to my lower gut – this is a risk of stents, but if you are lucky, which I was, collateral supply responds. This may not be the case for you, it may just be the result of such a long surgery. Getting those guts moving is essential. If it were me, I’d try to gently massage my guts somehow, but I’d talk to the surgeon first. Walking around is what you really need. Ask Pauline about her experience, via the AAA page. Welcome back to the rest of your life, my friend, and you’ll find no shortage of people who will benefit from your inspiration. Hang in there, and keep up the good fight. Kindest regards, Kevin (sorry for the delay, I am traveling and about to see my youngest son, which I love to do – one of the real rewards of life!)

          • Ty Kevin, ill try what you suggested, its a very process but im thinkin your so right about the blood flow . I had problems with digestive upper n lower months before my surgery. So im walking n going to start massaging. My pain level is still pretty high, so im working as hard ss i can, i cannot wait for spring so i can go out for a real walk. Oh the things we take for granet. Im so thankful just to be here and get another chance to take better care of my health. Thats okay, u have a fun time wirh your family. Ill check out Pauline on the AAA sute. Thanks so much n God bless my friend… Patricia

  7. If I can help in any way let me know. Pauline knows the skinny on open abdominal AAA surgery, and she is great. Also an endurance athlete. Wishing you all the best in your new life. Kindest Regards, kevin

  8. Alan Holland says

    I had AAA open surgery in early February 2013. I had some post operative problems that required further surgery but now 5 months later I am progressing well. I agree with the comment that serious surgery has a psychological effect and it’s hard to get a handle on it. My AAA was discovered during minor surgery and I had no symptoms. Mine was 6.5 cms.

  9. Hi Alan, yep, mine was 6.9 – does that mean I win? We’re both lucky to be alive. I’m glad you’re doing well. I think it really took me two years to get over stent surgery, which is much less stressful than open surgery. If I can help in any way with your rehab with respect to exercise please let me know. I like thinking about this problem. Cheers, Kevin

  10. Hi survivors,
    I’m Louise, I had my AAA surgery Oct. 16th 2012, still recovering I was 64 years old whe I had my operation it seems my AAA was hereditary my father had one also but his had ruptured I’m talking in the 70’s I had open surgery which lasted over 7 hours and my aneurism was 7,2cm I knew this for 4 years that I had one it kept on growing it seems they only operate when it’s at 7cm here in Montreal Canada I was glad when everything was over.
    I read most of the blogs and I feel comfort in all your writings, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone for awhile but it’s been 11 months now and I’m still not my old self but getting there slowly but surely and with the help of God!

    I just wanted to thank every one and to wish you all good luck and keep the faith!

  11. Hi Louise,

    I’m glad you made it through that surgery. Pauline (of the AAA Awareness Facebook Page) just went down the same road, and is now doing fine and back in training, I’m pleased to say. It does help to have people to talk to who actually understand. I find that to be the case, anyway. It took me about 2 years to feel fully recovered, and I only had endovascular treatment. So, take your time, be kind to your body, get some exercise (carefully), and you’ll have a long and happy life. That’s my plan.

    Kind Regards,


    • Louise Williams says

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for your kind words. I’m into aqua fitness, 3 times a week I’m a bit slow but will speed up later on. I’m glad in a way to find out that I’m not the only one that isn’t fully recovered, maybe physically…hope you’re doing well and all the other AAA Survivors will look into the Facebook AAA. Thanks for the advice and take care..

      Bye for now

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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.