February 20th, 2020

Remembering the kindness and the care that saved a life

In the summer of 2018, Krista Wetzler, 44, was proud of all she had accomplished in the last six years. As a busy mom of five boys and an owner of a home daycare, she still managed to lose 60 pounds, participate in rigorous boot camp exercise classes and run three half marathons.

So when Krista collapsed at a restaurant in Hampton one August evening, no one suspected a heart problem. She had attended a boot camp earlier in the day. It was only after she stopped breathing, with an EMT crew reviving her and transporting her to Sentara CarePlex Hospital, that Krista learned that the left anterior descending artery (LAD) of her heart had a 90 percent blockage.

“They call it a widow maker,” shared Krista. “Only six percent of people who have the LAD blockage out of the hospital survive.”

At Sentara CarePlex Hospital, the staff placed Krista in an induced coma in the ICU. For four days, she wasn’t aware of anything. Family and friends gathered as physicians conducted tests, found the blockage and recommended treatment.

After having a stent placed at Sentara Heart Hospital to open her LAD, Krista was able to return home and participate in cardiac rehabilitation three times a week at Sentara CarePlex Hospital.

“They’ve said my fast healing is a reflection of my healthy lifestyle,” Krista says. “I also had to thank the cardiac rehab staff for giving me not only additional information on exercising and eating right, but also mental support. They reassured me that I can be OK after this.”

Almost six months later, Krista is doing better than OK — practicing a healthy lifestyle and taking four medications – aspirin, Plavix, Crestor and Metoprolol – to stay in good health. She’s able to run her business and share her story about her positive experience with Sentara.

“I don’t remember much from that time,” Krista says, “but I was told about an amazing nurse who happened to be assigned to work with me every day at Sentara CarePlex Hospital, and I remember a little at Sentara Heart Hospital, but I was confused.”

While Krista can’t recount their time together, she found it important to thank in person the nurse – Shannon Carter — who spent so much time with her at Sentara CarePlex Hospital.

“I wanted to tell Shannon that she mattered,” Krista explains. “When I heard her speak when I went back to visit, I recognized her voice. She had a calming present over me.”

Shannon, a nurse for almost six years, surmises that her biggest strength is her patient-focused philosophy.

“I have had many patients tell me that I am very patient-sensitive,” she says. “My philosophy is: Get ‘it’ done, whatever ‘it’ happens to be for my patient.”

Working with Krista, Shannon found that “it” was a combination of information and humor.

“Every time Krista woke up from sleeping, she would have to be re-informed about where she was and what had happened. I also had a sense that she wasn’t well enough to move from ICU at one point, just a sense. I turned out to be right and was glad I shared my thoughts about that,” Shannon says. “It was important to me, too, to just make Krista laugh. I made a complete fool of myself at times, but to see her laugh instead of cry made my soul smile. We now have a new, but foreseen, amazing friendship to last.”

Krista feels the same and hopes to also find a way to stay in touch with the other Sentara Healthcare staffers:

“I was crying when I finished cardiac rehab early,” she says. “I kept thinking, ‘this can’t be the last time I see these people!’”