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John Beckas: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

John Beckas | UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

The Problem: Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

John Beckas and his family feel blessed to live in Morningside — so close to UPMC hospitals.

The month of October 2018 started with John, 77, under the care of Ibrahim Sultan, MD. Dr. Sultan is a heart surgeon at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

John had a successful open-heart valve replacement at UPMC Shadyside and was home a few days later healing.

But, on the last day of October, John began having severe pain.

“It was very sharp and was radiating in my front and back. I told my wife I couldn’t take the pain anymore, and we needed to go to the hospital,” says John.

Upon the advice of their daughter-in-law, John and his wife, Olga, chose to go back to UPMC Shadyside. It was just a short drive away.

The Path to UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

The Shadyside emergency department staff ran a series of tests on John and found he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An AAA is an enlargement of a weak area of your aorta.

While in the ED, John began to get dizzy. He glanced at the monitor and noticed his blood pressure was sky-high.

“I told the nurse I didn’t feel well, that I felt dizzy, and then I blacked out,” John says.

John’s aneurysm burst and instantly sent him into cardiac arrest. The ED team rushed into action, doing CPR and defibrillating John until his heart regained its rhythm.

The Solution: Endovascular Aortic Aneurysm Repair (EVAR)

Doctors knew they needed to act fast.

Efthymios Avgerinos, MD, a vascular surgeon, was present. He decided the best course of action to save John would be EVAR. Endovascular stenting of an AAA is minimally invasive.

While the Beckas family waited anxiously, Dr. Avgerinos inserted catheters into two small punctures in John’s groin to access his AAA. The catheters help advance a wire and a stent-graft through the pelvic blood vessels towards the weak spot of the abdominal aorta.

Dr. Avgerinos and his team then expanded the stent-graft outward, placing it tightly against John’s aorta wall to reline the weak part.

The Result: Back with Family

John’s EVAR surgery was a success.

He spent a few days in recovery at UPMC Shadyside. Having healed so well, Dr. Avgerinos let him drive home.

UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute team members and John’s family were all amazed at his quick recovery.

“Our dad’s recovery was a miraculous event. We’re all so blessed that he made it through,” John’s daughter, Georgia, exclaims.

John’s doctors addressed all of his cardiovascular issues by repairing his aorta and making sure his valve replacement was holding up. His new valve had fully healed, like his surgery was six months prior — rather than a few weeks.

John and his family endlessly praise the heart and vascular surgery teams at UPMC Shadyside for their care during both John’s procedures.

“The entire staff was amazing. The nurses were all so comforting. They treated our family as if we had known them for years, despite only knowing us a few hours,” Georgia says. “They all celebrated with us when we found out Dad was okay. Their human connection to the situation was such a comfort.”

The Beckas family also had high praise for the doctors, calling Dr. Avgerinos “their angel.”

“Dr. Avgerinos had a wonderful bedside manner and is an extremely skilled surgeon,” says John.

John and Dr. Avgerinos bonded over their shared Greek ethnic background, including their love of Greek foods like baklava and olive oil.

“Dr. Sultan was amazing as well,” Georgia explains. “None of this would have ended well if Dr. Sultan hadn’t done such a great job on the valve replacement. And he really made sure Dad’s heart was strong enough to survive the aneurysm.”

John agrees, adding, “Dr. Sultan is a great doctor with a beautiful personality.”

These days, John and his wife are enjoying their healthy, happy days together. John works on his farm every day, and he and his wife enjoy spending time with their family.

Looking back on October 2018, Georgia says, “it was a very scary and traumatic event to go through. Having him here and so healthy is so valuable. I have my dad with me still because of the team at UPMC.”

John's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

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