November 13, 2011 - Reported at hdnews.net. This Thanksgiving season, Lisa Grubb has much to be thankful for. For starters, the Ellis woman simply is happy to be alive. "Everybody jokes with me that I must have nine lives," she said with a laugh. "I must have used seven of them already." Grubb has been hospitalized seven times since a close call in May sent her to Hays Medical Center via ambulance.
She woke May 15 with severe chest pain, and it was discovered her aorta -- the main artery that takes blood from the heart to the body -- had begun to tear. Grubb has been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a hereditary disorder affecting the body's connective tissue. Her mother died when her aorta ruptured approximately 20 years ago, and since then, Grubb, along with a sibling and her son have been diagnosed.
She told emergency responders not to spend time checking for a heart attack."I told the ER people right away, 'My mom's aorta ruptured. I know what's going on,' " she said. Grubb was rushed in for an emergency surgery performed by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Ashworth.
Ashworth, who began work at Hays Med in January, had to replace a section of Grubb's aorta and restore blood flow to the upper portion of her body. She had done several such procedures throughout her career, but it was the first time an operation of that magnitude had been performed in Hays, she said. Another factor complicating the surgery was the procedure was done under circulatory arrest, in which the patient is kept cold so the body requires little oxygen.
Grubb was in surgery for 11 hours, and Ashworth calls her a "miracle patient." "To come through the length of surgery that she did with the degree of the dissections she had -- the mortality risk from her particular situation was probably at least 20 to 25 percent," Ashworth said. "She did extremely well." Grubb was in a coma for eight days following the surgery and had what she only can describe as a near-death experience.
"In my coma, I remember seeing a white light all the time. My dad was trying to get me to stay. He's in heaven," she said. "My family kept saying they were praying so hard, they got me to come back." Grubb underwent a second surgery May 31, after her husband, Tom, discovered she had stopped breathing. One of the repairs completed during the initial surgery had begun to tear, she said. She was in the hospital another 45 days.
Today, Grubb is continuing to recover at home. She also has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and is being monitored weekly to ensure her lungs do not fill with fluid. She's feeling "a lot better," she said, despite the fact she can't walk far and still speaks in a hoarse whisper. Her vocal chords have not yet fully recovered from the various procedures. She's feeling well enough, however, to know the difficult experiences have changed the way she wants to live.
"You definitely want to enjoy every day to the fullest, because you never know when it's going to be your last -- that's for sure," she said. "They've coded me like six, seven times -- each time they thought I was gone.
"I was caught by surprise when it happened. ... I just enjoy my family and am not taking things so seriously. And I just love everything, every minute I'm breathing."