Aortic Aneurysm Patient Mary Stoltzfus

Mary Stoltzfus already knew she had blood pressure irregularities. They'd been pointed out during her first five pregnancies, with the pressure in one arm normally about 10 points different than the other, though she was told it was of no concern.

During screening prior to the birth of her sixth child, the tone changed – her blood pressure was 50 points higher in her right arm. This time, she was encouraged to see a cardiologist.

Image of an aortic aneurysm.

Thank goodness she did.

After several diagnostic procedures, doctors discovered that Stoltzfus had an aortic aneurysm and an unnatural path for her aorta. Their local hospital suggested open surgery, but Stoltzfus and her husband, Stephen, wanted to look at other options. That's when they found the Center for Aortic Disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"A friend of ours, he was looking on the internet for some of the best aortic disease doctors, and that’s how we found out about this hospital," said Stephen, who lives with Mary in Leola, Pa., just outside of Lancaster. "We honestly felt that we couldn’t have had better care. The doctors, the nurses and everyone – it was amazing."

Call 410-328-4771 to make an appointment with an aortic specialist.

Before arriving at the Center for Aortic Disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the Stoltzfus's had received varying suggestions on treatment of the aneurysm.

It seemed that open surgery was a certainty, but timing was in question. Most they consulted said surgery in the next three to six months was best, but one doctor said they could wait five years for the surgery if they wanted. That increased the risk of an aortic rupture, a vascular emergency which frequently results in the death of the patient.

"What were we going to do? Live in fear every day and think this thing could rupture?" Stephen said. "Our friends all said the same thing: second opinions never hurt. … After we read about the University of Maryland, I told my wife, 'wow, this sounds like the place to go with aortic diseases. Let's call and see what's going on.'"

Within two weeks they were in Baltimore for an appointment, meeting with Center for Aortic Disease co-director Bradley Taylor, MD, MPH.

Initially, Dr. Taylor considered open surgery, but Mary, 34, was in good health and a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, the preferred route when possible.

After deciding to do a minimally invasive procedure, Mary's only concern was guiding the stent through her irregularly shaped aorta, which doesn't form a smooth arch at her shoulder. Dr. Taylor assured her that if any complications arose during the surgery, they would pull out and end the attempt.

But no complications occurred. The surgery was a success.

Mary left the hospital after three days and was back to doing chores around the home after about two weeks.

"They took good care of us in there," Mary said.

Said Stephen, "Dr. Taylor, I would recommend him to anyone. We know that we’re all human and God’s help is always needed, and we feel that God was with us. I think they did a great job."