Thank You Facebook For The Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Awareness Page

It’s not just election meddling.

Or pictures of cats!

letter to facebookCat agrees. “Now let me sleep!”

Dear Facebook,

Thank you Facebook, for providing the ability for us to create villages. Disease and other concern-specific villages. They really help people get their feet back on the ground after a major crisis. Medical professionals save our lives, which we appreciate very much. But we have to learn how to live with the situation, and get our lives back on track.

Facebook helps enormously with that. More than most people realize.

In 2010, I was at a loss as to who to talk to, as explained in this short video. It was made by the makers of my abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) stent graft (Rupert!). The wonderful people of Cook Medical.

My blogging attracted the attention of another athlete with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), Pauline. This led Pauline to introduce me to an important Facebook page:

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Awareness

thank you facebook

Pauline, another aortic athlete, and her husband, Bob. In Cleveland a couple of days before my second surgery. We all need supporters, so get out there and earn them. Thanks, guys.

I was searching for another Ironman-distance triathlete with an AAA stent graft. That took the next seven years, but this page was critical for me, as I adapted to my AAA in 2011 and beyond. Pauline, and her athlete husband Bob, became good friends. In fact, as a direct result of our conversations on this Facebook page, Pauline and Bob came all the way from Toronto to Cleveland to support me during my second aortic surgery, in 2013. Furthermore, Pauline and I competed in a Half Ironman race. Two AAA people in the same triathlon.

I proceeded to use this Facebook page to help others through their aortic aneurysm journey. If you think you’re having a hard time, try helping someone else who’s just starting the same journey. It will help you as much, if not more, than it helps them.

Stories about overcoming such challenges provide essential inspiration for those encountering aortic disease, or other vascular diseases, for the first time. We truly are a Facebook village, and it takes a village to raise an athlete, or anyone, with a stent, whether it’s in their heart, aorta or their brain.

Of course, we discuss all of these ideas on Facebook. Even the challenges of cancer turn up here, from time-to-time.

Why Facebook?

Because online forums, especially those tightly controlled by a site manager, move too slowly.

You can have real-time conversations on Facebook, with people all over the world. Furthermore, others can listen into the conversation, and learn. They can chip in if they wish to do so. It’s like the scientific panel discussions I attended as a working scientist.

Facebook is the only place I know where such world-wide conversations really work. 

Plus, you can lock to door of the conference room to keep the discussion as private as you wish. Russia not withstanding. Come to think of it, people in Russia can talk to us about their aortic concerns on this great Facebook page.

FitOldDog with Alan.

Deb and I stayed with Alan, and his wife, Deb, on the way back from Cleveland. Alan has a 4.2 cm ascending aortic aneurysm and is living in waiting limbo – but he has a great attitude. I met him through my blog, and we became friends on Facebook. Years later his ‘aneurysm’ hasn’t changed and he’s enjoying golf – Alan’s a serious golfer!

Thank you Facebook!

Alan came by to ask whether it’s safe to play golf with an ascending aortic aneurysm. He is now a regular member of the AAA awareness group. Chipping in whenever people need advice on this issue. This resulted in protracted conversations about the benefits and risks of sports with aortic disease. From Marfan’s syndrome and mechanical bulls, to SCUBA diving with an aortic arch graft. These conversations bleed over to other aortic sites, such as that dedicated to aortic dissection – I really admire these people. Aneurysms are a walk in the park, compared to an aortic dissection.

People often arrive in a state of panic or concern. They request to join these pages every day. The sense of relief they express when they find us, people who understand, mirrors my relief in the spring of 2011, when Pauline sent me here.

You need people to talk to. People who’ve been there. People who know the important questions to ask of your surgeon, how to apply for disability support, and a whole host of things that have nothing to do with hospitals and surgery suites.

thank you Facebook

Timo, one of my favorite and most admired Aortic Warriors.

Here are a few examples:

“My father in law had surgery on his AAA (size – 5cm) on Saturday and it was a great success. He is 83 years old and is a fairly healthy man. Could you please give me some advice about his aftercare ie: are there any specific diets or health supplements that would speed his recovery up. Any help is much appreciated. Thank you. x”

“Thank you so much for letting me join. Up until Monday I had never heard of a AAA in my life. I certainly didn’t know the dangers. On Monday my dad was rushed to the emergency with severe back pain, white as a ghost and no BP reading…Just hoping to search through here and see more positive outcomes. So thank you again for having me.”

These posts receives dozens of supportive and informative responses, from our nearly 2,000 members.

We address such issues every day! We listen, understand, and when we can, assist.

Finally! No, it’s not just pictures of cats:

“Kevin, I think I would be gone from Facebook if it wasn’t for the work I do with Aortic Hope and reaching out to patients, survivors, and caregivers. It is what is best about this platform.”

Thank you Facebook, and the many members of these Facebook pages who help me along the road.

Wishing you happy trails and a healthy aorta,

kev aka FitOldDog

thank you Facebook

Pauline and FitOldDog, with AAA replacement graft and an AAA stent graft, respectively, before the 2015 Eagleman Half Ironman race. Yes! Pauline beat me in that race, which was a joy for both of us.


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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.