Sen. Boozman Describes Surviving Near-Fatal Heart Condition

- WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "It felt like, deep down there was something wrong."

Arkansas junior senator John Boozman says he knew something wasn't right when he felt a side cramp in April. A trip to the hospital likely saved his life.

"Once I got there, they did some tests. They were pretty frank and explained to me I was in a difficult situation," Boozman said.

Doctors rushed him to emergency surgery and diagnosed him with aortic dissection, a tear in the main artery in his heart. He says if he had tried to fight through the pain, he likely would have died.

"50 percent of people who have it never make it the hospital. Probably 40 percent don’t make it through the surgery," Boozman said.

That nine hour surgery sidelined the former Razorback offensive tackle for about six weeks. He returned to the Senate June 9th, and felt well enough to watch his office defeat Senator Mark Pryor's staff in the annual summer softball game on Monday.

"I’ve played in a lot of athletic contests, been a part of those," Boozman said, "It was good to go out, and do well. It was very close."

The optometrist by trade sees life through a new lens after his close call in April.

"I think the little things in life, faith, family, feeling the breeze in your face… all of that stuff sounds corny, but you don’t appreciate until you go through something like this," Boozman said.

The senator credits his quick comeback to a prescription you can't buy at the pharmacy.

"I had all kinds of people — friends, family, people in the local community, people all over the state, all over the nation praying for me. You can really feel those prayers," Boozman said.

Actor John Ritter died of aortic dissection in 2003. Senator Boozman says there weren't many warning signs, but those that exist are similar to those of a heart attack. That's why it's vital to seek medical treatment immediately. For more about the condition, click here.

Maria Catanzarite (@MariaReports) contributed this report to KARK.

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