At 29, Adam Carabajal (pictured with son Kaven) of Garden City, Kansas, was an active, athletic husband and father of two when he died of a thoracic aortic dissection on July 19, 2009. Jade, his wife, explains, “Never in a million years would I think this could happen. Adam was one of the healthiest people I knew.”
Jade remembers that on the night her husband died, they were enjoying an evening out with friends until suddenly Adam started saying something was terribly wrong. He felt ill and needed to go home. Because Adam was complaining of a burning sensation in his throat and upper chest area, they first assumed Adam had indigestion. His condition worsened throughout the night, and after Adam become increasingly clammy, sweaty and nauseated, the couple went to the hospital.
Emergency room tests showed that Adam’s heart rate was up, his blood pressure low and dropping. An X-ray revealed nothing unusual, but EKG results prompted the doctor on duty to repeat the test and request a cardiologist. Adam’s condition quickly deteriorated. He went into shock, was intubated and then transferred to a heart hospital where more tests were run to identify the problem.
It was only when doctors decided to perform a heart catheterization that the real problem was discovered: a tear in the ascending aorta to the carotid arteries.
"I remember the doctors telling me that Adam had a big tear in his aorta, and the chances of him making it were very slim,” Jade says. “Then the news came that he was gone.”
Jade describes Adam as “an awesome husband and daddy, and a great man who was truly loved by many. He made an impression on everyone he met.” She was deeply moved by the outpouring of support, with more than 700 people attending his funeral.
After Adam’s death, Jade researched thoracic aortic disease. Because of the genetic component, genetic testing was vital for her two children, Adam’s parents and siblings. Adam and Jade’s two-year-old son, as well as Adam’s father, have enlarged aortas that are being monitored, and further genetic and connective tissue testing is planned for members of Adam’s family. [Read about Familial Aortic Aneurysm]
Jade, a respiratory therapist, is committed to making more people aware of thoracic aortic dissection. “If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone,” she explains, “and as a medical professional myself, I want to tell our story if it might save another person’s loved one and educate the health care providers who can help prevent this from happening to someone else.”