A sharp pain in the upper section of Aaron Thompson’s chest was the first sign that something wasn’t right. “It was extremely painful,” Thompson said. The pain didn’t seem to be coming from his heart, but he knew it was serious “because I couldn’t move.”
Local emergency medical service (EMS) transported Thompson from his Hillsborough home to Duke Regional Hospital. There, emergency room doctors quickly diagnosed Thompson with an aortic aneurysm. The bulge that develops in the body’s largest artery can be fatal if it ruptures, and Thompson’s was about to. He needed to be transported to Duke University Hospital immediately, where heart surgeons who specialize in repairing the aorta were prepping for his surgery.
“I was conscious and taking all this in,” recalled Thompson, now 54. “I was slowly starting to freak out. My anxiety was growing worse by the second. I’d never had anything like this happen to me.”
Thompson credits the staff of Duke’s critical care transport service, Duke Life Flight, for calming him down. “They were so jovial with me. They were monitoring me and I could hear the sirens coming from the truck, but my anxiety level dropped. I felt like I was in good hands.”