Andy's Vascular Story

Regaining an active life after suffering ruptured aortic aneurysm

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Andy Hassler, Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital

As summer was winding down in 2014, life was going along pretty well for Andy Hassler.

The 62-year-old retired pro baseball player had been living in Wickenburg for about 16 years; his playing days were long past. That life had kept him busy. He spent 17 years with six different teams, including the California Angels, Kansas City Royals and the Boston Red Sox, between the early 1970s and mid-80s.

Now, in Wickenburg, he was enjoying sort of a second career, working as a ranch manager. Life may not have been as hectic but it kept him pretty active as he overseeing the care of eight houses, 14 buildings and a few horses and cows.

But then on Aug. 1, 2014 life delivered Andy Hassler a curve ball.

A sudden spasm of pain hit his back and he began to sweat profusely. “I decided something wasn’t right,’’ Andy says, recalling that day.

He had been working on a generator as part of his job as a ranch manager in Wickenburg. When the pain wouldn’t stop, he drove himself some 15 miles to the hospital.

Doctors thought kidney stones were to blame. But an MRI revealed something much more serious: a ruptured aortic abdominal aneurysm. “I was losing blood internally,” Andy says. “It was the size of a grapefruit 11 ½ centimeters.”

He needed advanced care, so a helicopter whisked him away to the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital in Phoenix where Vascular Surgeon Venkatesh Ramaiah was waiting to perform emergency minimally invasive surgery to seal off the aneurysm with a stent graft. From the minute he landed, the hospital team went to work by taking his vitals and prepping him for surgery.  Andy had lost so much blood, he needed a transfusion and had to stay awake during the surgery.

That curve ball life had sent had been a doozy. But the Abrazo team sent it sailing out of the park.

Dr. Ramaiah would tell Andy just how lucky he was.  “I was one in 10 million because of the size of the aneurysm,’’ Andy recalls. 

He spent three days in the ICU and nearly two months in the hospital. Dr. Ramaiah would explain what had happened during the surgery and what to expect during his recovery.

There would be a few other procedures and surgeries to help shore up his veins and remove the blood from his stomach, and to tend blood clots in his lung and leg, but Andy remained thankful to his medical team.

“After two months in the hospital, I realized how great Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital is. I was very impressed with the attitudes of all the doctors, nurses and other staff including housekeeping. Everybody had a positive attitude and caring attitude not only with me but all of the patients.’’

Today, the father of two sons and baby grandson, is retired. He’s on blood thinner and wears support stockings all day to keep his blood flowing and prevent blood clots.

Stents were places in his vena cava, to help, as well. Every six months, he visits Dr. Ramaiah for a checkup.

Andy, who recently turned 65, has an active life. “I play golf four days a week and I do some gold prospecting,’’ Andy says. “I feel great and realize how fortunate I was to have the hospital and Dr. Ramaiah there to keep me alive.’’

Disclaimer: Dr. Venkatesh Ramaiah is an independent physician and is not an employee, agent or representative of Abrazo Community Health Network’s Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. He is solely responsible for the provision of his medical services to their patients.