Ascending aortic aneurysm patient is back to living

Two-time survivor shares her story and artwork

Lori Eslick blog

Lori Eslick enjoys plein air (open air) painting.

Lori Eslick had her first aortic root aneurysm repair in 2009 at age 49. As a regular runner and active mom, she had no symptoms related to the ascending aortic aneurysm that was growing. Her heart issues began as a newborn when she was diagnosed with a heart murmur and bicuspid aortic valve disease (a congenital abnormality).

When she became pregnant at age 39, a preventive EKG revealed no additional heart concerns. Then, 10 years later, another routine EKG ordered by Lori’s new general physician detected a problem that ultimately led to the diagnosis of her ascending aortic aneurysm. Her doctor recommended she go to the University of Michigan.

Lori was first seen by Dr. Himanshu Patel in November 2009 and underwent aortic surgery later that month. After her surgery, Dr. Patel and his team kept a close eye on Lori’s condition, examining her on a regular basis. Then, four years later, a second aneurysm was discovered just below where her previous aneurysm had been repaired — again with no outward symptoms.

GULLS blog

Lori Eslick was commissioned by Karen Kohn, U-M Art School graduate, to illustrate the poem, “Gulls at Sunset.” The illustration appeared in Cricket, a children’s magazine.

“If I didn’t have regular appointments with the U-M team, I might not have had a good outcome,” Lori says. “They saved my life two times. I’m grateful for the kind of care they gave me.” Lori’s second surgery was followed by her participation in the U-M Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, which gave her confidence to return to an active lifestyle. “It felt good to have someone there to check my vitals,” she says.

The talented artist is now involved in two U-M studies involving aortic disease: the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Project (CHIP) and the Bicuspid Aortic Valve registries. “I’m happy to be able to help others by participating in these studies,” Lori says, noting that one day researchers may determine a correlation between ascending aortic aneurysms and bicuspid aortic valve disease.

Today, at age 54, she’s running more than ever. “I wanted to go back to ‘living.’ I’m back and now running 5Ks. I didn’t even do that in high school! It’s a beautiful thing to be able to achieve my goals — and to enjoy it.” As a show of gratitude, Lori recently donated two paintings in honor of Dr. Patel and his team. The paintings now hang in the CVC ICU area. She also has a series of ongoing paintings “just for me as a way to celebrate life.”

Take the next step: 

Frankel-informal-vertical-sig The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.