Man with rare heart condition now spreading awareness after lifesaving emergency surgery

HOUSTON – February is American Heart Month.

A man who celebrated his 62 birthday on Monday said still being alive wouldn’t be possible without the quick action of cardiologists who learned he had a rare medical condition and performed emergency surgery.

Now, that same man says he was inspired to share what he went through to help people manage risk factors that contribute to the condition.

Aortic Dissection is such a rare condition, cardiologists say it only affects about five in every 100,000 people.

Michael Melcer and his heart doctor are now teaming up hoping to make that number even lower.

“Today is my birthday,” said Melcer with a smile on his face.

He was thrown a surprise party and surrounded by a team of healthcare professionals at HCA Healthcare Houston Northwest.

Back on November 28, Melcer said he almost died while eating dinner with his wife.

“I felt tired, had a little discomfort in my chest, and I wasn’t really concerned. It felt more like heartburn,” Melcer said.

Moments later, it was clear this was more than acid reflux.

“I fell out of the chair onto the floor,” Melcer said.

His wife called 911.

After being brought to HCA Healthcare Houston Northwest, doctors say a CT scan pointed to a serious problem that required Melcer to be flown by helicopter to HCA Healthcare Houston in the Texas Medical Center for emergency surgery.

“I didn’t know what was wrong, I just knew something was wrong,” he said.

After surgery, it was revealed Melcer suffered an aortic dissection, which is a tear in one of the layers of the aorta. A condition he’d never heard of.

Melcer’s cardiologist Dr. Almahmoud Mohamed said while one’s chances of aortic layers tearing increase with age, there are factors that also contribute.

“Of course, if you have a family history of aortic dissection, then you are at higher risk. As I said, the onset is usually sudden, but it’s usually associated with a sudden increase in blood pressure. It’s more common in people who have high blood pressure,” Dr. Mohamed said.

Dr. Mohamed added that studies show a history of high blood pressure in 75% of people who suffered an aortic dissection. Melcer is included.

With a new lease on life, Melcer is using his experience to spread awareness.

“Get this out where people might ask questions and say, what is this, I’ve never heard of it, and look into it,” Melcer said.

Both Melcer and Dr. Mohamed say everyone should get checked for high blood pressure.

Self-check monitors are sold at drug stores.

Obesity, smoking, and a high-sodium diet could all contribute to high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to consult a cardiologist to see what your options are.

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