Eden Prairie woman praises RC Hospital for keeping her alive after heart attack

Right: Outside view of the RC Hospital and Clinic’s campus in Olivia. Contributed photo

When the Renville County (RC) Hospital & Clinics was being built five years ago on the east side of Olivia, Nancy Weyerhaeuser admitted that she was opposed to it.

“When they started building the new hospital, I thought it was ridiculous,” she said. “We already had a hospital here and in a town of only 2,500 people where the New Year’s baby isn’t born until February. So I thought there were better ways to spend the money.”

Then, with a hearty laugh, she admitted something else.

“Boy, was I ever wrong,” was her clear message. “Did I ever eat my words.”

One of the misconceptions about rural hospitals is that they aren’t equipped or staffed adequately to treat patients as well as the big city medical institutions, let alone save a human life.

Weyerhaeuser, 71, is “living” proof of what a misconception is… a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.

Tony Frank (son), Nancy Weyerhaeuser, Heidi Lindahl (daughter). Contributed photo

Weyerhaeuser grew up in Olivia and eventually moved to Montana. About 10 years ago, she returned to her home state and began living in Eden Prairie to be closer to her son, Tony Frank, and her daughter, Heidi Lindahl, who both also live in Eden Prairie.

Weyerhaeuser had been staying in touch with three of her closest friends who live in Olivia — Linda Wagemaker, Lois Purrington and Lorene Hanson — for many years. And moving back to Minnesota made it easier to spend more time with them.

“I have known Linda and Lois since I was two or three years old,” Weyerhaeuser said. “And I have been friends with Lorene for around 40 years.”

Once a week during golf season, the four friends meet at the Olivia Golf Club to play a round of golf and spend the day together eating, drinking some wine, and socializing.

One of those Thursdays was on Sept. 19, 2019.

“We played golf that day and then we all went out to Linda and her husband Jim’s cabin on Big Kandiyohi Lake (15 miles north of Olivia),” Weyerhaeuser said. “We finished dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, lit a fire and sat around outside, and then we eventually all went to bed in a loft on the second floor.”

(L to R) Linda Wagemaker, Lois Purrington, Lorene Hanson and Nancy Weyerhaeuser pose for a photo. Last year, the four played golf together and were staying on Big Kandiyohi Lake together when Nancy started to become ill. She was rushed to RC Hospital and was treated for a heart attack. The crew at RC Hospital are credited for saving her life. Contributed photo

While the other three gals were fast asleep, Weyerhaeuser woke up around 4:30 a.m. (Sept. 20) with what felt like indigestion.

“We had tomato bisque soup that night and I thought maybe that’s what was causing my indigestion,” Weyerhaeuser recalled. “I just couldn’t get comfortable, so I sat in a chair downstairs.”

Approximately an hour later, Weyerhaeuser broke out into a cold sweat. When the other three ladies awoke around 6 a.m., they found Weyerhaeuser in extreme discomfort.

“I remember Lois asking me if I was okay,” Weyerhaeuser noted. “And I told her, ‘no.’ So she reached into her purse and gave me an aspirin, while Linda called RC Hospital. The nurse told Linda that they needed to bring me into the hospital right away.”

Hanson drove Weyerhaeuser to the RC Hospital and pulled up to the emergency room entrance, where she was soon placed on an examining table and quickly hooked up to an EKG.

Justin Martinson, Physician Assistant-Certified (PAC) at RC Hospital, was consulting with a cardiologist from Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, while reading the EKG results.

“I can remember him standing at the end of my bed looking at this piece of paper and that’s about the last thing I remember,” Weyerhaeuser said.

The five RC Hospital employees who were credited with saving Nancy Weyerhaeuser’s life, left to right: Justin Martinson, Beth Elliot, Molly Brouwer, Elizabeth Beckendorf and Kristy Kluver. Photo by Scott Thoma

Four nurses — Elizabeth Beckendorf, Beth Elliot, Molly Brouwer and Kristy Kluver — were soon all present in the emergency room and doing what they could to help improve Weyerhaeuser’s condition.

A LUCAS chest compression system was then hooked up to their now unconscious emergency room patient whose heart had stopped beating. A staff member at RC Hospital then called Weyerhaeuser’s daughter in Eden Prairie.

“She told my daughter that I had a heart attack and the situation was grim,” Weyerhaeuser remarked. “They told her to ‘get here as fast as you can.’”

Weyerhaeuser’s son and daughter rode together from Eden Prairie and were halfway to Olivia when they received another phone call from a staff member at RC Hospital, informing them that their mother was going to be transported to Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis.

Because of inclement weather, a medical helicopter was not available to land on the RC Hospital’s helipad, so Weyerhaeuser would have to be transported via an ambulance.

“After getting the news, my son and daughter quickly turned around and headed back to the cities,” Weyerhaeuser said. “Then they got another call that I wasn’t stable enough to transfer to another hospital, so they turned around again.

“My kids were literally already planning my funeral when they were again called and told that I now was on the way Abbott.”

RC Hospital’s EKG machine was an important tool in Nancy Weyerhaeuser’s survival. Contributed photo

Weyerhaeuser said there would be no story to tell now if not for the help of her four friends, and the five aforementioned emergency room personnel.

“I owe them all my life,” she said, somberly. “Those five at (RC Hospital) did a wonderful job. Had they done one thing wrong or not had the passion to keep me alive, I wouldn’t be here today. I will never be able to thank them, or the hospital, enough.”

At Abbott Northwestern, Weyerhaeuser had a stent inserted in and was unconscious for seven days in ICU.

Her son kept family and friends informed through posts on Caring Bridge. Initially, doctors feared that Weyerhaeuser would suffer some brain damage, but fortunately that would not be the case.

Martinson, who was one of those treating Weyerhaeuser at RC Hospital, read about Weyerhaeuser’s condition on her Caring Bridge site and drove to Abbott Northwestern to see how she was coming along.

“He walked in my room and asked if I remembered him,” Weyerhaeuser said, her voice cracking as she spoke. “I told him that he looked familiar. When he told us all who he was, my daughter jumped up and gave him a big hug.”

During Martinson’s hour-long visit, he informed Weyerhaeuser that her heart had stopped beating for 48 minutes, but the LUCAS device had kept her circulation going and enabled her to survive until her heart began beating on its own.

RC Hospital & Clinics RN Elizabeth Beckendorf, left, and RN Quality and Improvement Specialist Carly Kubesh demonstrate the LUCAS chest compression system. Photo by Scott Thoma

When Lindahl asked Martinson why he had kept working on her mom for so long, he responded “Because she walked in the (RC Hospital) door.”

After spending three weeks at Abbott, eight days at Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, and having physical and occupational therapists spend six weeks in her home, and a nurse checking on her every day until December, Weyerhaeuser is feeling as good as new.

“I used to walk four to six miles a day,” she said. “I’m walking about two or three miles a day now.”

She even traveled back to the RC Hospital where she was able to visit with Martinson and Beckendorf, both of whom were on duty the day she visited.

“I was told by doctors that my heart is in great shape and that I could live another 20 or 30 years,” she said. “This was so much harder on my family and friends. I feel so humbled as to why God chose me to survive.”

RC Hospital prides itself on its service to their emergency and non-emergency patients.

“I do feel that for the size of this community, we have a tremendous amount of tools and resources at our fingertips,” said Martinson.

Weyerhaeuser is looking forward to playing golf again with her friends when the weather warms up. But her thoughts now are focused on those five at RC Hospital that are responsible for her getting a second chance in life.

“I want to put up a billboard with the pictures of those five on it,” she said. “They saved my life. They deserve so much credit.”

RC Hospital is located at 100 Healthy Way, Olivia, MN 56277. It can be reached by calling (320) 523-1261.

“RC Hospital & Clinics is affiliating with HealthPartners® to bring you the best care and service. We all want the best possible care, close to home. So we have looked at every option for expansion and continued improvement. And you can be assured we are making the right decision for you and this community by teaming up with HealthPartners.® We look forward to improving our services for the community. We will continue to take care of you, just like we always have.”

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