After surviving rare medical trauma, local woman seeks support

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 24, 2012

 Cynthia Lind, 69, of Bingham Farms poses with photos of her grandchildren. Last year, Lind suffered an aortic dissection that she nearly didn’t survive.

Cynthia Lind, 69, of Bingham Farms poses with photos of her grandchildren. Last year, Lind suffered an aortic dissection that she nearly didn’t survive.

Photo courtesy of Beaumont Health System

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BINGHAM FARMS — This time last year, while most people were taking down holiday decorations or giving up on New Year’s resolutions, Cynthia Lind, then 68, was fighting for survival. The Bingham Farms resident suffered a traumatic aortic dissection that most of her doctors didn’t believe she would recover from.

“I was home alone, just bobbing up and down the stairs, and that’s when I had this flash. It was like a little mini-flash of lightning struck me in my neck and shoulders. It literally took my breath away,” said Lind. “So I went into the powder room to look in the mirror, and my neck and shoulders were translucent. It was like the skin had lost its thickness. You could see through it. I saw this massive network of veins and arteries. I was terrified.”

Lind didn’t know what had happened, though she suspected she’d suffered a heart attack or stroke. She spent the next few critical moments lying on the floor waiting for EMS and imagining what her future might hold.

She said she didn’t know if she’d be incapacitated, or lose the use of her leg.

“I was OK with that. But I kept looking for the white light, and I couldn’t find it. So I thought that was good,” she said.

After five and a half hours of surgery and a week in the hospital, remarkably, Lind had survived and was able to go home. In the days that followed, she would learn that her aortic dissection was accompanied by an aneurism and fluid in her lungs. Her survival is all the more remarkable considering the odds she was up against, according to Dr. Michael Deeb, director of the Multiple Discipline Aortic Program at the University of Michigan and Herbert Sloan collegiate professor of cardiac surgery.

“An aortic dissection is a sudden, catastrophic event where you tear the aorta and rip it through the entire body. Approximately 50 percent of patients who have a dissection expire before they get to health care. Of those patients who make it, one-third have major complications and have an 80-90 percent mortality. The other two-thirds of those patients undergo an operation with 25 percent mortality, meaning 75 percent will survive,” said Deeb.

Those are just the statistics that had Lind in a panic following her surgery.

“Looking online I thought, ‘I don’t want to read this. I feel like I’m reading a death sentence,’” she said. “I felt pretty isolated.”

That’s why Lind plans to use her new lease on life to start a support group for survivors of aortic dissections and aneurisms. While the condition is relatively rare, affecting about one in 10,000 people, Deeb estimates, she’s confident she’ll find fellow survivors. She wants to provide a compassionate environment for survivors to express their feelings while learning how to care for their condition and adjust to their new lifestyle.

“I had signed up for the YMCA to use the pool, because it was nice and warm and I wanted to use the water to exercise. Not necessarily swim, but march and help me keep my balance. Later, I talked to my doctor and he said with the 80 degree temperature of the room and the moist air, I could pass out. There’s nowhere to learn these things,” said Lind. “That’s what I hope to see out of a support group, is to learn.”

Beaumont cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Phillip Robinson was the one who operated on Lind the day of her dissection. He said that, since then, she’s made a remarkable recovery, and a support group will only continue to help her.

“I know she’s doing quite well. It’s a very lethal condition she had. She has some things she has to be vigilant about for the rest of her life, and that’s one of the biggest things a support group could provide. This isn’t one operation and it’s over,” said Robinson.

One of the key factors of caring for and preventing an aortic dissection is to keep blood pressure low. While he hopes that Lind will find the camaraderie she’s seeking, he also hopes the group will eventually expand and educate others who might be at risk of having a similar condition.

“Hopefully, they’ll take this and educate a much bigger population of patients who could possibly develop this if their blood pressure isn’t under control. The more people you educate about high blood pressure and the effects of it, the better they’re going to be,” he said.

Lind is certainly up for the challenge.

“In my life, I’ve started a lot of initiatives, so I guess it’s in my nature not to sit back,” she said. “If it happened once, why couldn’t it happen again? Which is scary, but it gives me a promise. I see things (with this project) that I can manage and will keep me here for a while.”

To contact Lind about an aortic dissection support group, email her at cynlin@comcast.net or contact Robert Ortlieb, media relations at Beaumont Hospital, at (248) 551-1077.

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