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 in.

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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