Hi out there, especially Miss Helen whose posts I read 2 years ago when I first found this forum. Beth, I am a retired ICU nurse, so I know how it feels to know, understand, and research until you drive yourself crazy!
My ascending and aortic arch anuerysm has been monitored by Dr. G. Michael Deeb at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center for the last 2 years, and this summer he recommended surgery in view of the gradually expanding size as well as strong family history. My mother died suddenly at age 59 from a previously undiagnosed aneurysm of the exact same location as mine, and my younger brother has one in the same location, also. I have been participating in a genetic study at the University of Texas directed by Dr. Dianne Milewicz since that time; she is now director of the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health as well. I would encourage everyone with a known thoracic aneurysm, and especially a family history, to participate. I requires only health information over the phone, and a saliva sample sent by mail Dianna.M.Milewicz@uth.tmc.edu
At age 65, I had an 8 hour surgery on November 18th, and came home yesterday on day #4 after a graft placed in my ascending aorta into the arch, and another graft in the base of the inominate artery (the first vessel that leads off the arch to the brain)as well as a valvuloplasty.
On my first day home I was out walking in the neighborhood for almost 30 minutes, went to the grocery store with my husband, and helped with 3 loads of wash. It is entirely too amazing! Fortunately, when I knew that I might someday need this surgery, I got my weight down to my ideal weight, began exercising 6-7 days a week within my Dr.'s restrictions (including spin cycling, lower level weight training, pilates, and yoga). I was 80 pounds over weight when I was first diagnosed, so you can imagine that it wasn't an easy journey to be ready. It definitely made a huge difference in how well the surgery went, and how the recovery is going.
I know that the idea of open heart surgery is daunting, and that one doesn't always have much time to prepare, but do the best you can; find a center near you that has the best outcomes, and does the most aortic procedures possible. I went 2.5 hours away, and the trips have been well worth it to have absolute conficence in my surgical team. Good luck