Vanderbilt performs life-saving surgery on Illinois mom - WKRN News 2

Vanderbilt performs life-saving surgery on Illinois mom

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Samantha Neal, 31, was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm just two weeks after giving birth to her second child. Samantha Neal, 31, was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm just two weeks after giving birth to her second child.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Just two weeks after giving birth to her second child on July 10, a 31-year-old Golconda, Illinois woman began experiencing severe chest pain.

"It just came on all of a sudden," Samantha Neal told Nashville's News 2, adding, "I had some numbness, a funny kind of feeling in my jaw. The pain never let up, just kind of stayed there, real heavy, like a kind of pressure and stabbing sensation."

Neal went to the doctor and to a local hospital who told her initially it was gall bladder pain.

When the pain didn't go away, Neal again went to a local hospital and after several more rounds of tests she was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm.

"When they told me what was going on, yeah, I got very, very worried," Neal said.  "They were quick to tell me this is a big deal."

Neal was immediately transported via LifeFlight to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville

"My husband came to the hospital after they told him what was going on and I remember the first thing I said to him was that, ‘I don't want to leave you guys,'" she recalled.

Neal's husband, Corey, told Nashville's News 2 he was worried for the future of their family, which now includes newborn Brody in addition to 12-year-old Seth.

Once Neal arrived at VUMC, she went straight into the emergency room so doctors could repair the aneurysm.

"She's pretty lucky," said Dr. John Byrne, the physician at the Vanderbilt Heart Institute who performed Neal's surgery.

"We never know for sure, but perhaps a day or two it may have been enough that she could've had a fatal complication," added Dr. Byrne.

Neal had an aortic dissection, or a partial tear along the aorta.

Dr. Byrne said she was hanging on by a thread, because, "If it had ruptured completely, she of course, would've never made it.  She would've died instantaneously."

"They say people that have this happen to them don't last four days," Corey Neal explained.  "She lasted eight days.  She's a very strong woman."

The surgery Dr. Byrne performed was a success and Neal is not only doing extremely well, she's expected to live a long, normal life.
"Of course it's fantastic. We don't often get to have the privilege of helping to save the life of a young mother," said Dr. Byrne.  "It's not just the patient, but also the family and this newborn baby who is going to have his mother for the rest of his life."

Hereditary heart specialists at Vanderbilt will work with Neal and her family to determine what may have caused this condition, as Neal is much younger than the typical demographic who suffers from aortic dissections.

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