I wear two hats with different names: Madison Woods when I’m wearing the artist hat, Roxann Riedel in real life and real estate. I'm a rock-smashing paint-making artist & a sales agent for Montgomery Whiteley Realty. Hailing from the wild Ozarks in Kingston, Arkansas where my husband and I work toward a sustainable lifestyle.

You can text or call to reach me by either name (see above):
(479)409-3429, or email madison@wildozark.com

When Life Throws a Curveball

Little things crop up unexpectedly from time to time, like a hailstorm in late May or squirrels eating all of the pears when they’re almost ripe. Sometimes life throws a big curveball, though. Such an event happened here at Wild Ozark late Monday evening.

Rob and I have been working to get his first row of solar arrays installed, and the heat and rain cycles have been making it hard to stay on a schedule with it. But we were doing pretty good and had a system down to get the hardest work done before the heat set in for the day.

After I went to sleep Monday night, around 11 pm, he woke me up to say something was wrong. And boy he wasn’t kidding. He was in so much pain he couldn’t breathe without gasping. His back hurt and he said it felt like a rod pushing through to the chest and coming out the front. My first thought was that he was having a heart attack.

Distance from Emergency Help

We live a good long ways from the nearest emergency room. Actually, the issue isn’t so much the distance, but the time it takes to get there. Dirt road, curvy roads, and deer are the obstacles to reach the nearest straightway into town.

After quick deliberation, we decided to just drive rather than try to get an ambulance to meet us in the Kingston square. If it happens again, I am still not sure which would be the better plan because we did get to the ER in time. I just don’t know how long it would take an ambulance to get to Kingston, and all of the time spent waiting I could use for driving us closer to help.

First we went to the Mercy hospital in Springdale. I didn’t know they don’t have cardiology specialists on staff there, though. So they transferred him by ambulance to Washington Regional.


Long story short: he didn’t have a heart attack, but a dissection of two of the three layers in his thoracic aorta. The location of the bulging aneurism was in front of the spot on his back that was in such pain. If the third layer had dissected, we would not have reached the hospital with him alive, and it wouldn’t have mattered whether I’d opted for the ambulance or med-flight, either. They can’t mitigate or treat a ruptured aorta on the move.

It’s unlikely such an event could be treated even on an operating room table. But he survived the curveball. He got an emergency graft inserted via an artery in his groin. Hopefully it will take and he will be back to his usual life in a month or two.

Diagram to Explain

One of the first nurses on shift while we were at the hospital drew this awesome little diagram to explain what had happened. So the aorta comes out at the top of the heart, carrying oxygenated blood. There’s three branches at the top (not shown) where blood goes to the right arm, head, and left arm. Then it goes down to where it branches off for the kidneys, and everything else in the lower body.

Rob’s aneurism happened in the circled area, just above where it branches off to go to the kidneys. The separate little circle drawing at the top right shows a cross-section of the aorta and the 3 layers. The dark spots is blood in the center, which had spilled over into the next layer and the next, as it was pushing it’s way out to the outer wall.

A diagram to explain the curveball that was thrown at us Monday night. Rob had an aneurism in his descending aorta.
A diagram to explain the curveball that was thrown at us Monday night. Rob had an aneurism in his descending aorta.

No Prep Time for Some Curveballs

I have no advice for dealing with something like this. We didn’t know it was on the horizon, and I don’t think there’s anything I could have done to prepare, except have an overnight bag packed. LOL. I just threw on clothes, got him dressed, grabbed my purse (which didn’t have a brush in it) and left. Which meant I spent all night Monday and all day Tuesday at the hospital with a rat-nest in my hair (messy bed-hair for those who don’t understand what I mean by that) and sweatpants. But it was better than leaving in my housecoat!

Realistically, though, people should be prepared to catch curveballs to some extent, because they’ll happen to all of us in one way or another sooner or later. For this kind of emergency, knowing my options was critical. To make the choice to drive or call the ambulance, I had to know the route to the hospital well enough to gauge whether or not it was doable. So know the route to your nearest ER. Know how to get there without a GPS. That’s my takeaway.

Gratitude for Neighbors, Family, and Friends

If you are one of our family members, thank you for all of the support and encouragement you offered during this scary week. The same goes to all of our friends. And a big special thanks for our neighbor who fed the horses for me while I was gone so I didn’t have to worry about them on top of everything else. I can’t express how much that meant to me.

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