a 501c3 non-profit public benefit organization
Dr. Peter Tsai
Survivor / Founder / Chieftain
Contributing Writer / Secretary / Survivor
Contributing Writer / Caretaker
FOUNDER / PRESIDENT / CHIEFTAIN
Aortic Warriors was founded in 2013 by Dr Peter Tsai. Dr Peter was an acupuncturist by profession, a personal trainer by hobby, and a body builder for recreation. On that fateful day of November 30, 2009, while warming up with bench press at the gym with 225 pounds, after racking the weights, Dr Peter felt a pop on the left side of his chest, followed by a warmth sensation spreading across the chest, accompanied by a sense of hot torch like burning sensation at his upper back, between the shoulder blades. His pulse fluctuated between 200 BPM to 50 BPM, up and down for what seem like 5-10 minutes. He tried acupressuring himself to see if he can calm down the pulse. He later called his wife to come pick him up and was planning on going home to sleep it off; Maybe it will get better the next day. While waiting for his wife to arrive, within 20 minutes, he was paralyzed below his waist. He was carried out by two big trainers to his wife's van, that's where he collapsed to the ground because there were absolutely no strength in his legs. Someone finally called 9-1-1.
For the next 8 hours, no one at the Emergency Room knew what was going on with this healthy looking body builder. EKG was normal. Everything else checked out fine. Except the blood pressure was 50/16. It wasn't until his brother came to visit him and suggested the doctors to try an echocardiogram. Dr Peter remembered his brother telling the ER doctor, "Don't make a John Ritter out of my brother." Thru this ultrasound diagnostic device, the doctors immediately knew what had happened to Dr Peter.
Dr Peter Tsai's diagnosis was called Acute Aortic Rupture and Acute Aortic Dissection! His ascending aorta had ruptured, causing him to bleed internally. And the rest of his aorta had dissected from where it ruptured down to his legs. His kidneys had shut down. He continued to bleed internally. He needed emergency open heart surgery. He was slowly dying.
It was a fight against time. There were no hospitals within 50 mile radius to take Dr Peter as a patient to save his life. Finally, one hospital said, "If he lives til the next morning, we will take him." Dr Peter was transported at 11:30pm. His life saving operation was performed the next morning at 7am.
For the few months that followed, he learned to walk again. He fought thru pain in the upper back, the lower back, and legs. He slept. Prayed. Napped. He didn't want to give up on life, but at the same time, felt as though he could lose his life at any moment. He did what he could to stay active. Walked. Washed dishes. Even volunteered at a local library's Adult Literacy Program. Just so he can make use of himself.
August 2010, Dr Peter started to go to the gym again. If even just to lift 2.5 pounds. If even to just walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes before pain in the legs set in.
July 2011, Dr Peter learned of Sprint Triathlons. These are short distance triathlons often involving .5 mile ocean swim, 6 to 14 mile bike rides, and 2 to 3 mile runs. Dr Peter hated doing cardiovascular workouts, but he knew it could be his life saving grace if he just pushed thru.
November 2011, Dr Peter discovered that body builders don't float! And he had a difficult time swimming 30 yards without losing his breath. By December 2011, no amount of positive self talk was going to help him get from one end of the pool to another!
January 2012, Dr Peter began looking for adult swim classes.
February 2012, Dr Peter started to take swim lessons.
By April 2012, Dr Peter was able to swim 900 yards (a little over .5 miles), rode his bike home for 6 miles, and jogged walked 2 miles continuously.
From then on, Dr Peter went every weekend to swim in the ocean with two of his colleagues. Braving the crashing waves. Risking thoughts of drowning. Trying to be oblivious of what lurks under those dark California sea waters!
June 2012, Dr Peter completed his first Sprint Triathlon in Redondo Beach, CA. Half mile ocean swim, 6 mile bike ride, 2 mile run.
Dr Peter went on and completed a total of 4 Sprint Triathlons in 2012, and one in 2013.
In 2013, he founded Aortic Warriors as a way to support Survivors of Aortic Dissection, Aortic Rupture, and Aortic Aneurysm. He believed just because you have had a life threatening medical condition, it doesn't mean your life is over! YOU SURVIVED THE WORSE ALREADY! Now its time to LIVE!
He created the motto: NEVER STOP LIVING! STAY STRONG! because he wanted to instill hope in the survivors! "Don't let your current circumstances prevent you from reaching your future goals." Each day, every survivor will BE STRONGER! But it's not just about getting stronger, its about STAYING STRONG! Not just physically, but emotionally and psychologically!
In 2014, he assembled a team of volunteers made up of Survivors, Caretakers and even Survivorship members, those who lost love ones to this deadly condition, to create some local awareness of Aortic Related conditions.
The T-shirts, Awareness Bracelets, Post Cards and Dagger Cards have made their ways across the United States and across the world, including Sweden, Australia, and Germany!
"There's so much more work to do! WE need your help! Please support Aortic Warriors and help us SAVE MORE LIVES!"