Personal Persistence and Clinical Excellence Saved My Life

Arthur Caputi, 52, Grounds Supervisor at Northeastern University, knew he faced daunting odds. He knew about the dangers of a ”silent killer” known as Abdominal Aortic Aneurisms (AAA), which involves bulges in the walls of the aorta, the body’s largest artery, often leading to rupture and death if untreated.  He learned about the intricate nature of dissection surgery used to replace damaged sections of the aorta. And he also was aware that Marfan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder affecting connective tissue, further compromised his situation.

But the father of three from Fitchburg is also a fighter who was determined to optimize his quality of life.

“It’s all about finding the right medical team,” says Caputi. 

All in the Family

Caputi’s father passed Marfan syndrome onto his son, who was mindful that his dad and two brothers died as a result of this genetic mutation and AAA.  So he was vigilant about getting scans to check for aneurysms. He was enjoying good health until a vacation on Cape Cod in 2002, when he went down a water slide, and the resulting pressure in his chest caused “excruciating pain.” At the local hospital, he insisted that he receive a CT scan; he says his stubbornness saved his life.

Caputi was rushed by ambulance to the Intensive Care Unit at Tufts MC, where he remained for 11 days to get his blood pressure under control.  He was discharged with the highest advisable dose of hypertension medication, but a month later, he was back at Tufts, where Drs. Werner and Estes performed emergency open surgery. The aneurysm repair was successful. With a second “new lease on life,” Caputi was discharged after six days in the hospital and quickly returned to work, but was advised he had another aneurysm that needed to be monitored.

For the next 15 years, Caputi went about his business, checked his blood pressure, and received tests at Tufts to monitor the aneurysm’s growth.  All was well until November 2017, when Tufts physicians found that his aneurysm had grown to 6 cm, the point at which surgery is typically called for.  However, the surgical risks were much greater this time.  His diagnosis was a thoracoabdominal aneurysm (it had descended into his abdomen and leg artery), and a highly complex procedure would necessitate reentering the scar tissue of the original incision. 

Second Opinion, Third Life-Saving Event

Caputi wanted to pursue an aggressive course, knowing that his aneurysm could rupture. After initial medical consultation revealed hesitancy about open surgery, Caputi met with his surgical team and together they decided to move ahead. The result was a 22-hour procedure saved Caputi’s life for a third time.

After a month’s stay in the hospital and three weeks of rehab, Caputi began five months of slow but steady recovery at home.

One of Caputi’s surgeons, Payam Salehi, MD, PhD, has continued to monitor his progress, and the last checkup showed excellent results. Today, Caputi is back to his normal activities and pain-free.

“Typically, we perform minimally invasive procedures for aneuryms, but every patient is unique, and we need to customize treatment plans,” says Dr. Salehi. “Arthur is one of 200,000 Americans diagnosed with AAA every year, but he is part of only 2% of the population with Marfan’s syndrome.  Patients like Arthur inspire me.”

“There’s no substitute for having the most experienced physicians, but patients also need to know their bodies and advocate for themselves,” says Caputi. “Thanks to Tufts and my persistence, I’m on my bike again and working out.  I want to be here for my wife and kids, including my youngest daughter, who also has Marfan.”

Posted November 2018. The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. It is free for educational use. For information about your own health, contact your physician.

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