April 17, 2024   •   By Chandra Caradine
North Texas father survives and thrives after aortic dissection

DALLAS — Edward Prochaska never imagined a violent coughing attack and severe back pain signaled a rare and potentially deadly cardiac event.

Stella and Edward Prochaska

Stella and Edward Prochaska

Thanks to immediate actions taken at Texas Health Hospital Rockwall and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, the father of four is grateful to be part of a small but important patient population — only 15% of individuals who survive get to tell their stories.

“I never imagined I’d go from playing Santa at our family bakery to waking up in a hospital bed days later,” Prochaska said. After undergoing an intricate procedure at Texas Health Dallas, Prochaska learned he nearly died from an aortic dissection.

The aorta is the main artery carrying blood away from the heart muscle to the rest of the body, but when blood flows too forcefully through the aorta, it can tear layers of the artery wall, causing an aortic dissection.

Prochaska’s lower back pain was so intense, he couldn’t fall asleep. He told his wife, Stella, they needed to go to the emergency department at Texas Health Rockwall.

According to the National Institutes of Health, every year, close to 10,000 people in the U.S. suffer from an aortic dissection.

Receiving an immediate diagnosis and emergency care are key factors for survival.

Several exams were completed at Texas Health Rockwall, including a computerized tomography (CT) angiogram, which is an imaging test that thoroughly reviews the heart and its blood vessels. It also helps in the proper diagnosis of aortic dissections.

“Aortic dissections can sometimes be challenging to diagnose,” said Joseph Pernisco, M.D., an emergency medicine physician on the Texas Health Rockwall medical staff. “Oftentimes, a dissection can mimic back pain or a kidney infection, which is why a CT angiogram is imperative for accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.”

The tests showed that Prochaska needed emergency surgery at a higher-acuity facility. He was transferred, via helicopter, to Texas Health Dallas — a Level I Trauma Center.

Prochaska’s aortic dissection was dire and jeopardizing blood flow to Prochaska’s organs, specifically his kidneys, said Justin Collier, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon on the Texas Health Dallas medical staff and a member of Texas Health Heart and Lung Surgical Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice*.

“Sometimes an aortic dissection can lead to an aortic rupture and negatively affect other parts of the body,” Collier said. “It can be fatal, but with emergency surgery in this case, all of Mr. Prochaska’s organs were saved, along with his life.”

Collier and other physicians on the Texas Health Dallas medical staff determined a thoracic branch endograft was the best approach for Prochaska’s aortic dissection. Collier guided a small, pliable catheter to Prochaska’s heart through a small incision in his upper thigh, then inserted several stents and repaired the dissected aorta.

Stella Prochaska said she’s extremely grateful that she didn’t lose her husband of 42 years, and she credits his successful patient journey to faith and compassionate care received at both facilities.

“God can heal miraculously, but he also loves to use people to bless others,” she said. “He gave these doctors talent, and I can’t praise them enough.”

After five days at Texas Health Dallas, Prochaska was home and enjoying retirement. His seven grandchildren, along with volunteering at the family Czech bakery, keep him busy. 

“It’s overwhelming to think that your life can be taken away but instead you get a second chance,” Prochaska said. “There’s a reason I’m still here, and my hope is that we all find our purpose in life and rejoice in it.”

Learn more about how Texas Health is advancing heart and vascular care throughout North Texas.

*Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group practice independently and are not employees or agents of Texas Health Resources hospitals.

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About Texas Health Resources

Texas Health Resources is a faith-based, nonprofit health system that cares for more patients in North Texas than any other provider. With a service area that consists of 16 counties and more than 7 million people, the system is committed to providing quality, coordinated care through its Texas Health Physicians Group and 29 hospital locations under the banners of Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley. Texas Health access points and services, ranging from acute-care hospitals and trauma centers to outpatient facilities and home health and preventive services, provide the full continuum of care for all stages of life. The system has more than 4,100 licensed hospital beds, 6,400 physicians with active staff privileges and more than 26,000 employees. For more information about Texas Health, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit www.TexasHealth.org.  

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