Anthony Leach patient story

It started as a normal April morning for Anthony Leach. In his Baltimore City home, he was fixing his girlfriend and grandkids breakfast when he started experiencing chest pain.

At first, he thought the chest pains might be gas, but the pain lingered and worsened to the point where Anthony said it was unbearable.

"I told my girlfriend, 'something's wrong. This isn't just normal chest pain. Call the ambulance right now,'" Anthony said.

Anthony was transported to University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, where initial tests showed an aortic dissection, a medical emergency which was causing rapid blood loss and the deterioration of his organs to the point where they were functioning at 15 percent.

Time was quickly running out. His mother was told he was too far gone to be saved.

He was soon rushed to the University of Maryland Medical Center where he received life-saving surgery from Center for Aortic Disease surgeon Bradley Taylor, MD, MPH.

Anthony wasn't out of the dark yet.

He developed pneumonia. Fluids built up in his body, weighing on his lungs and making it too difficult for him to breathe on his own. Anthony was put on a breathing machine for several weeks. When they took him off the ventilator, the struggles continued.

"I had to learn how to breathe again," said Anthony, 47. "The air was there but I didn't know how to breathe. The toughest part of it all was learning how to breathe again."

He eventually had his gall bladder and kidney removed, both damaged from the lack of blood flow during his aortic dissection. Then in September, he returned for a thoracic endovascular repair to fix his damaged aorta.

Anthony is now back to a mostly normal routine, making lifestyle changes (stopping smoking and drinking, and modifying his diet) to maintain the second lease on life UMMC's team gave him.

Though he grew up on in west Baltimore, Anthony had never been to UMMC before his aortic dissection. Now having received multiple weeks of care at the hospital, he can't say enough good things about the hospital's team.

"I think they are the best because they were so attentive," Anthony said. "They kept my parents and girlfriend in the loop, talking to them and letting them know what was going on. They didn't give up on me.

"I think I'm here today because God touched their hearts to come together and work on me like I was their son."