Heart attack survivor thanks staff at New Richland clinic for response in medical emergency

Published 2:55 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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NEW RICHLAND — New Richland resident Karren Smith didn’t know anything was wrong at first.

The retired grandmother had been to her son’s house in the morning on March 27 to help detail his food truck.

Though she started having what she described as a heaviness in her chest that morning, she thought it was just heartburn.

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But when the feeling didn’t go away after she took her grandson back to her house and fed him lunch, she decided to take a few aspirin.

“I thought, ‘This is not right,’” Smith said. “I started feeling a little tingling in my left arm and in my jaw.”

After the feeling still didn’t go away, she called her son and daughter-in-law and told them she was going to go a few blocks from her house to the satellite Mayo Clinic Health Systems clinic to get checked out.

That was at 2:30 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. that day she had been transported to Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato by North Memorial Health Ambulance, had two stents put in and was back in her room recovering.

She had suffered a heart attack.

On Monday, about six weeks after the medical emergency, Smith got to see and thank the team of four women at Mayo Clinic Health System in New Richland who acted quickly in response to her symptoms and provided her treatment until an ambulance could take her to Mankato.

“I’m very thankful for all of you guys for being here and taking care of me,” Smith said.

Rachel Knudson, who was working at the front desk that day, said when Smith came in she was calm and even able to present her insurance cards as she explained what her symptoms were.

Because they had talked through previously what to do if someone were to come in with similar symptoms, Knudson said she and the other staff were prepared for how to respond.

Traci Hoppe and Lacey Brua, both licensed practical nurses, heard what was happening from another room and came and got Smith and took her to a patient room. They performed an EKG, determining she was having a heart attack, and brought in nurse practitioner Wendy Trihus.

Hoppe said they called 911, and together the team began monitoring Smith’s pain and administering nitroglycerin. Trihus said nitroglycerin dilates the blood vessels to allow for better flow — essentially buying time until stents can be put in.

Soon, others with the New Richland Fire Department and Ambulance, Waseca County Sheriff’s Office and New Richland Police Department arrived.

Initially they discussed flying Smith by Mayo One Helicopter to the Mankato hospital, where she would be rushed into surgery, but ultimately she was taken by North Memorial Health Ambulance directly to the cardiac catheterization lab.

“It’s fantastic that New Richland is able to have this locally for the community,” Smith said. “If somebody had a worse case than mine, they wouldn’t make it.”

She said she had a 99% blockage, and recovered in the hospital for three days before being released to go back home.

Though the recovery was a little slow the first week, she said she feels like herself again now.

Knudson said she felt like the staff did a good job of staying grounded and doing their jobs during the emergency.

“It didn’t feel like an emergent situation even though it was, so it didn’t alarm the other patients,” she said.

Later that afternoon, the team talked about how they responded and what things they could have done differently. They said they now have a clock in the room so everyone can reference the same time, as well as other notepads for use.

“Our education and our training worked,” Hoppe said. “We’re all trained for that situation, but obviously out here it doesn’t happen very regularly.”

Mayo’s satellite clinics in New Richland, Wells, Lake Mills and Adams are equipped with an EKG machine and a defibrillator but otherwise are limited in what emergency supplies they have available.

“I’m very thankful the clinic is here in town — very very thankful,” Smith said. “And you have a great staff.”