On Tuesday, 77-year old Verna, mother of eight and wife who had just celebrated her second anniversary (second marriage, after being widowed), was working in her garden when she began to feel nauseous, clammy and experienced blurred vision. She couldn’t even see her cell phone numbers. She told her husband Wayne that she was going in the house.
After 10 to 15 minutes had passed, Wayne went into the house to check on her. She was covered with vomit and was lying down on the couch. Both thinking it was just an upset stomach, he went next door to the neighbor’s house to get some white soda. The neighbor didn’t have any white soda, but mentioned that it may be a heart attack. Verna had heard that heart attack symptoms were often arm and back pain.
“It never crossed my mind that I may be having a heart attack,” said Verna. “I thought I was going to pass out.”
When Wayne returned to the house, he called an ambulance. The representative told him it sounded like a heart attack. The ambulance arrived in approximately 20 minutes and took her to Iron County Hospital, a two-mile ride from their home.
“They wouldn’t let me in the room to see her,” said Wayne. While Verna was in the exam room, she told them that about a week prior to this incident she was experiencing heavy pressure on her chest, but no pain. It was difficult also to breath. This happened several times the week before.
The doctor told Wayne that they needed to transport Verna to Missouri Baptist Medical Center where she would be well cared for. They are both members of Air-Vac, so there was no anxiety about the method of transportation.
With one phone call to Missouri Baptist’s ER, Iron County Hospital activated the Heart LifeLine Alliance program. Verna was airlifted to Missouri Baptist Medical Center. She was one of the first patients to benefit from this program, which launched just in time to save her life.
Dr. John R. Groll, MD, cardiologist at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, told Verna that she had experienced a heart attack and that they were going to take care of it. Immediately Verna was taken to the Cath Lab for a coronary angioplasty with a stent to open the blocked vessel.
“I was never nervous,” said Verna. “Everyone seemed to know what they were doing.” After the procedure, she went to recovery and then to ICU where the doctor told her they were going to move her to a different room. “I asked him if I could move to my room at home,” said Verna. He told her “no,” but if all goes well, you’ll go home in three days.
On Wednesday, she felt fine and was on solid food. Wayne stayed by her bedside until 9 p.m. On Thursday, she was walking the halls morning and afternoon.
“I thought I had lost the first girl I ever dated, “ said Wayne Pewitt, Verna’s husband. They had celebrated their second anniversary on April 17, seven days prior to the heart attack. Childhood sweethearts, they both married other people and had families. Verna has five daughters and three sons. Her children live in Imperial, Salem, Springfield and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as well as in Iowa and Arizona. Wayne lived in Florida for 54 years and has three children. Their spouses died leaving them widowed.
Someone told Vera about Wayne being lonely in Arizona. Her daughter in Imperial, Missouri called him. He visited her in Iron County and the rest is history. “It’s exciting that my wife is the first patient of this step-by-step care,” said Wayne. “The time factor saves lives. We’re happy that Missouri Baptist has this plan. It will help people.”