NEW ORLEANS — It's was a silent killer with no warning signs that suddenly put a man within moments of death. 

Luckily, doctors at University Medical Center acted quickly to save his life. Now, Bill St. Amant is speaking out about a simple screening that could have revealed the impending danger before the biggest scare of his life.

People can get one of those screenings for free in February.

Life and Death 

Bill St. Amant has not one, but three stories of life and death situations. The first,  hanging on for dear life as Hurricane Katrina flood waters nearly swept him away in Meraux. The second, the cottonmouth rattlesnake that almost bit him in the storm aftermath, and the third was just a year ago.

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"It felt like my kidneys were bleeding, like it felt like, you know, they were sticking hot knives in my back. It was excruciating pain. I've never felt anything like this in my life before," said St. Amant, 58 . 

Suddenly, one day with no warning, St. Amant knew something was terribly wrong. At the UMC emergency room, Dr. William Risher rushed him into the operating room. The main artery that carries blood to the body was tearing from St. Amant's chest down through his abdomen. Blood was spilling in his body and his organs and brain were being cut off from life-giving oxygen.

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"He was on death's door step. I think if we would have waited another half hour he would have been dead. This was a true emergency," said Risher, the Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at LSU Health Sciences Center who practices at UMC.

"He actually did save my life, him and the great team of his, you know, and I will always be forever in debt to that man. He can ask me to do anything for him and I would do it," said St. Amant.

Aortic dissections and aneurysms usually give no advanced warnings until it's a life and death situation. People with high blood pressure or cholesterol, smokers, diabetes, or a family history are more at risk. But a simple, pain-free, non-invasive ultrasound screening can find the warning signs. And this time at UMC, the free screening, for problems and blockages, will go from the neck to the feet.  

"What we're doing is trying, screen almost the entire vascular system," said Risher.

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It's been a year since St. Amant has been able to go back to the job he loves as a welder on large construction sites. He is doing rehab to get his strength back. But he said he misses his coworkers and earning a living.
"I've lost my car. I've lost, you know, my house, I mean, I lost a lot of things you know but those are materialistic things and I can always recover those things back," said St. Amant.

But he is thankful to be alive and spend time with his two daughters and girlfriend.

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He mentioned that he is religious and very close to God. 

"Someone was looking out for him that day," said Risher.

"Without this man, I wouldn't have had a second chance. Believe me," said St. Amant. 

The free screening is Saturday, Feb. 2 from 8 a.m. to Noon at UMC. It is for people 55 and older. Smokers are at higher risk. The total body ultrasound is painless and only takes a few minutes. You have to register in advance at 888-871-3801.


  • Saturday, February 2, 2019
  • 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.
  • UMC New Orleans Conference Center, Room J
  • 2000 Canal Street, First Floor
  • Advance registration is required. 
  • Call 888-871-3801 00 to register.

If you would like to help Bill with his medical debt, click here: