John Dorgan, who had a 9-plus-centimeter aneurysm on his aorta, the body's largest blood vessel, shows the cards stating what is in his body, and a diagram of his surgery, at his home in Oak Lawn, IL on Thursday January 31, 2013. To repair it, a doc at Advocate Christ Medical Center inserted a small metal, mesh and fabric tube through a small cut in Dorgan's groin. Rather than an open, normal surgery which would have required about six months of recovery time, Dorgan left the hospital's ICU 36 hours after he arrived. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 12, 2013 6:06AM
When he played football at Oak Lawn High School and later at the University of Illinois, John Dorgan was told to be tough and ignore pain.
“You’re taught to run it off,” the Oak Lawn man said.
But a year ago, when pain in his hips made getting out of a chair an excruciating experience, shrugging it off was no longer an option.
“My hips were getting worse and worse every day,” he said.
But what his doctor, Andrew Macri, told him after an X-ray and MRI were performed made Dorgan’s hip pain pale in comparison. The images revealed a large aneurysm on his aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel. Aneurysms occur when the walls of a blood vessel weaken, causing it to widen or balloon outward.
“They said it would have ruptured within a year,” Dorgan, 66, said.
Had the aneurysm burst, Dorgan likely wouldn’t have survived, according to Dr. Wade-Wei Kang, the vascular surgeon at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn who operated on him.
Rather than performing standard surgery, which would have required about six months of recovery, Kang made small incisions in Dorgan’s thighs and inserted a slender sleeve made of metal mesh and fabric to repair the aneurysm.
Dorgan and his wife, Barb, are planning a trip out west later this year, and Dorgan always carries two wallet-size cards that explain the procedure he underwent and the placement of the device. The information would be valuable not only should he have a medical emergency while traveling, but because the device is metal, the cards also help explain to airport security personnel what that beeping noise is all about.
Dorgan underwent the procedure last March 31, the day after the couple’s 39th anniversary.
He said that while he’s not a particularly pious person, and was fully confident in the surgeon’s skills, he nonetheless sought a little help from a higher power.
“I do believe in my God, I do believe in Jesus Christ, I do believe in prayer,” Dorgan said.
Because the operation was less invasive than a typical surgery for an aneurysm, Dorgan said he was able to leave the hospital 34 hours after he’d arrived.
The pain in Dorgan’s hips wasn’t related at all to the aneurysm, and some medication took care of the problem.
He retired as an environmental inspector for Cook County, but over the years Dorgan had his own carpet business, sold computer equipment, and he and his wife operated an art gallery in Oak Lawn, Art at Studio 52, at 92nd Street and Cicero Avenue.
The couple have two children — a daughter who lives just a few blocks away in Oak Lawn and a son in Joliet.
Doctors told Dorgan that the aneurysm is likely genetic — his father also had one, although it didn’t rupture — and Dorgan has to go in yearly for a follow-up MRI. Doctors also recommended that his 34-year-old son be checked.