Kenneth’s story

Hiking the Appalachian Trail after an abdominal aortic aneurysm

In 1965, Kenneth Bordwell started what would become a lifelong quest to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, a 2,180-mile trek through the wilderness of 14 states, stretching from Georgia to Maine. At age 67, and just about 100 miles shy of his goal, he thought his dreams were dashed. He was diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a life-threatening weakness in the wall of the aorta, the body’s primary source of blood flow.

“I had heard of aortic aneurysms but didn’t know much about them,” said Bordwell, a former smoker.  “I certainly never expected to have one, but soon learned I was right there in that high-risk category.” At the time of the diagnosis, doctors considered Bordwell’s AAA stable, so they put him on medical monitoring. In late 2011, when his AAA expanded to a tennis ball-sized bulge, the team from the Institute decided the risk of rupture was greater than the risk of surgery. They decided to repair the aneurysm.

Vascular surgeon Joseph Giglia, MD, recommended a minimally invasive surgical procedure to install a stent that would create a new path for blood flow, reducing pressure to the bulge and the risk of rupture. The repair was made through two small incisions in the groin.

Bordwell went home a day after his surgery. Less than a year later, he hiked the last 98 miles of the Appalachian Trail. “Dr. Giglia made it possible for me to finish the Trail, and I’m thankful for that,” said Bordwell. “I encourage all men over age 60 to get their AAA screening–it could save your life.”

Learn more about the UC Cardiovascular Institute’s vascular services.

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