Personal Stories: Kari Ann Wagner
I write this for my wife who had aortic dissection in Oct of 03. She was
31 years old. One even while doing dishes she could not get a good
breathe of air. She sat down complaining of this and eventually worked
up to a shower to try to snap out of it. Of course that did not work. We
talked about what it could be and considered severe gas. We got in the
car and went to the pharmacy for gas relief medication. She took it and
as we headed home I decided to turn around and go to the hospital. We
stopped in the parking lot with the kids and dog in car. I asked her if
she wanted to go in and within a few minutes she agreed.
Of course she always considers medical expenses before her decision
to get care. She had not been going to a doctor since the birth of her
second son almost 6yrs prior. the boys and I are sent to a waiting room
while she receiving care. The local hospital does not know what is
causing this severe shortness of breathe and is treating her for a heart
attack with nitro. After many rounds of this without improvement. She
was given Morphine to settle her down. Probably going to die very soon
unless diagnosis is found. Now her mothers old internal medicine doctor
starting his shift early comes through the emergency room and recognizes
her. He immediately begins to find out what is wrong.
He knows her mothers history of heart failure. She had aortic
dissection at age 33. He sends her for a scan. Now within minutes she is
going by helicopter to Freodert hospital in Milwaukee for emergency open
heart surgery. I have to call Grandma and try not to scare her and get
grampa to pick up the kids so I can drive to the hospital to be with
her. Now we are all very scared. I watch as the Helicopter leaves the
pad. I am very impressed by how great it is to have this incredibly fast
method of transport. My wife is not really aware of what is going on.
This is all happening to fast to keep up. I wait for 7hrs to meet Dr.
Nicolosi to inform me that he has replaced her valve and aorta with
prosthetic parts and she is being closed up. I had been asking God to
comfort her and keep her warm. I knew if she felt cold it would seem
like an eternity to her.
Later she told me she had felt a warming touch during surgery.
I had not told her of my prayers until after she mentioned this feeling.
I am so proud of everyone who helped her through this. She is doing
great and had many of the same feelings that Brian had about being in
the hospital and feeling how important the little things are. She is
working toward normalizing her energy levels and losing weight. We have
had our children checked for these heart related defects since and are
working on one of her brothers to have a scan done also. The most
difficult part of the recovery for her is seeing the medical bills come
We have insurance but it only goes so far. I wish she would not
let money upset her so much. It is taking away from that initial
response of being glad to be alive and well. I think one of the most
important lessons to learn from this is the importance of regular doctor
visits and an understanding of your family medical history. It is very
likely you will have the same medical problems your relatives do. Also
never justify ignoring aches and pains because they may cost to much to
take care of. I thank God for my wife and the doctors for a great job
keeping here with us. I love you Kari.
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