Within months of each other, two brothers from Van Buren underwent open-heart surgery this year to take care of the same dangerous genetic condition.
Dr. Josh Seubold, 36, is a chiropractor at Seubold Chiropractic Clinic. He had finished a workout one morning in April and began experiencing a burning, straining feeling mainly in his throat, on the left side.
"I just kind of thought at first it was just like I had just strained something in such a weird spot it just feels different," Josh said. "... I didn't feel like my pulse racing or anything. I did have some kind of nausea feelings, and just kind of generally felt bad. Later that day, I was told that I kind of had a gray, gray-ish look just to my skin."
Josh said he went to a walk-in clinic the next day, where the nurse practitioner took a chest X-ray, but they could not really find anything. However, Josh received a call from the nurse practitioner about three days later.
"She said that she had a radiologist look at those X-rays, and that my heart shadow on the film was bigger than it should have been, and so she recommended just going to see your PCP (primary care physician)," Josh said.
Josh's PCP took another chest X-ray and agreed his heart shadow looked too big. Josh was sent to Cooper Clinic for an ultrasound, which led to the discovery of his ascending aortic aneurysm.
Jonathan Seubold, 34, is a mental health counselor at Valley Behavioral Health. Jonathan said on July 27, he was helping a friend, Quentin Willard, get his brewery, the Fort Smith Brewing Co., ready for opening. It was very hot, and he was already tired after working a full day. At some point, Jonathan passed out on a ladder and fell about 10 to 12 feet, although he has no memory of it. Jonathan sustained, among other injuries, three broken ribs, a cracked first thoracic vertebra, and a concussion.
"... Then, they ran tests thinking I was paralyzed," Jonathan said. "... In the process of testing they were like, 'Oh, by the way, you have an aneurysm.'"
Jonathan said he was taken to Mercy Hospital after he fell.
Dr. Frederick Meadors, a practicing cardiovascular surgeon at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock, said the ascending aorta is the first segment of the aorta that the blood enters when it leaves the heart being pumped from the left ventricle across the aortic valve. In the Seubolds' cases, both brothers had aneurysms of the ascending aorta, which Meadors described as abnormal enlargements.
"... And these aneurysms can, in this location, make them at risk to have a fatal set of consequences, either with aortic rupture or aortic dissection that is a surgical emergency," Meadors said. "And so when these aneurysms get to be a certain size, it is recommended that they prophylactically be repaired to prevent rupture."
Meadors said the development of ascending aortic aneurysms was unusual, especially given the young ages of the Seubolds.
"Now, neither of them had any discernible risk factors like Marfan syndrome," Meadors said. "... These were two seemingly healthy young guys without any real markers of other risk factors for it. In fact, there is a condition called bicuspid aortic valve that neither of them had, so what made this more uncommon was the fact that there was no real strong family risk factors that had been determined ahead of time."
There are some familial aortic syndromes that have been increasingly recognized with genetic mapping and screening in the last 10 to 12 years that have identified a tendency for weak aortas in families whose physical appearance is normal from the outside, Meadors explained. These families have a serious deficiency in the supportive elements of the wall of the aorta that makes it prone to enlarge and weaken.
When asked how he felt after he discovered he had the same kind of aneurysm as his brother, Jonathan said he remembered thinking during Josh's surgery to correct the issue, he wished it was him going through it instead.
"I'm not married or anything," Jonathan said. "He is, so it's one of those things where you're like, you think, 'I would rather risk my life and go through this because I would rather nothing happen to him,' so I guess it's a brother thing. ... But then I found out, and I was just like, 'Figures.' That was the exact thought that went through my head, 'Ah, it figures.'"
Josh underwent open heart surgery for his aneurysm June 19. Jonathan's surgery took place Sept. 5, with Meadors performing both of them. In both cases, Meadors said the diseased parts of the brothers' aortas were removed. The formal procedure was a graft replacement of the ascending aorta with an artificial aorta made of a Dacron graft.
"... These are replacement structures for the diseased aorta, and the graft is sutured to the aorta where it's normal size below and above the aneurysm," Meadors said. "And it should be a permanent correction of the problem without need for anything else to be done in the future."
Meadors said these were both about three-hour operations.
Josh said he feels like if he has gotten anything from going through the experience of having his aneurysm and the resulting open-heart surgery, it is to not worry about the small things in life and to rely on God to get through anything else.
"I really don't worry too much," Josh said. "One thing that it did help me to keep real strong, I feel, was probably the faith that I have in the Lord. ... I think it's Philippians where he talks about not worrying about anything. ... He just says don't worry about anything, but in all things pray and have thanksgiving. ..."
Prior to his own surgery, Jonathan said he found the time to finish writing a book, which he described as a self-help type of book for other people, he started writing in 2007.
"... And then, I decided, it was really written for me to how I interact towards other people," Jonathan said. "It's not just to help others, but I just think of it like ... just a way to live, and I think the best way to live is to look to find that something special in other people, and not just look to find that, but help reveal that to them to where they see it in themselves, so ... if there's anything that did change, it was the fact that I have a desire to make that even a bigger part of my clinical practice."