As Thanksgiving approaches and we reflect on what we are grateful for at CTVS, seeing our patients thrive is definitely at the top of our list.

67-year-old Freddie Martinez is one of those patients. He has been under the care of board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. William Kessler since 2011 when he underwent emergency surgery for an aortic dissection.

Each year at his annual check-up – which falls during the holiday season – Freddie brings lunch and delicious treats for the whole staff to enjoy in appreciation for the life-saving treatment CTVS provided.

Freddie and Dr. Kessler recently shared their heartfelt story with CBS Austin. You can watch it here.

What is an aortic dissection?

An aortic dissection is a rare but deadly condition that occurs when a tear rips through the heart’s main artery causing the inner layers to split (dissect) and flood the aorta with blood. If the blood spills out beyond the aortic walls it could prove fatal.

“Aortic dissection is an immediately life-threatening condition in most circumstances,” explains Dr. Kessler. “The dissection can result in depriving critical organs of oxygenated blood resulting in stroke, heart attack, renal failure or death.”

Symptoms of aortic dissection include sudden or severe chest or upper back pain that spans from the neck down through the spine, a weakened pulse, or shortness of breath. Factors that may cause an aortic dissection can be high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), or a pre-existing genetic condition. Emergency surgery to repair the tear is typically the only course of treatment. 

According to Dr. Kessler, Freddie suffered an acute and complex aortic dissection.

“When treated effectively by surgery in centers with this experience, patients can survive and go on to live normal, wonderful lives much like Freddie.”

A special doctor-patient relationship

When asked how he feels about his second chance at life following his surgery, Freddie says, “I certainly do not take it for granted.”

“Every day is a blessing. I tell all my friends that if you care about someone, tell them, as we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Life can be gone in an instant.”

In describing his relationship with Dr. Kessler, Freddie claims “my respect for Dr. Kessler is immeasurable. I don’t think there are enough accolades I could use to describe him.”

“Words cannot describe the respect or gratitude that I have for Dr. Kessler and his team at CTVS.”

We love when our patients are as thankful for us as we are for them, and we are humbled to be entrusted with their care and do what we do each day.

For questions about any of our cardiac, thoracic, or vascular services, please visit or call us at (512) 459-8753 to schedule an appointment.

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