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Tulsa Woman Expresses Appreciation for Care at Oklahoma Heart Institute

Krystal Rogers, a school teacher in Tulsa, turned 40 in October of 2017. She had always been very healthy, but over the past year she began feeling unlike her normal self. “I remember telling my husband I just didn’t feel right. I was really tired all the time and I felt like something in my body was off,” explained Rogers. “I visited my primary care physician last summer and they ran blood work. Everything came back great, so I thought I would just start taking some vitamins and hopefully that would make me feel better.”

As time went on, Rogers continued to feel unwell.. “I was having these horrible migraines that I just couldn’t get rid of,” said Rogers. “During the week of November 9, there were a few days where I woke up really nauseous, but I treated it like I had another migraine. We were having a professional development day that week at school. I told one of my team members that I wasn’t feeling well and that I thought I was going to pass out. I had been battling this migraine for a few days, so I decided it was time to go to urgent care. I called my husband who was working in Oklahoma City at the time and told him what was going on. By the time I made it to the urgent care in south Tulsa, I felt even worse. The staff got me in a wheelchair right away and took me straight back to a room.”

Once in a room, Rogers began explaining her symptoms to the doctor. “I told him I had been to see my primary care physician a few months prior and that I hadn’t been feeling like myself,” Rogers stated. “He was the first doctor that ever really listened. He took tons of notes and told me that there was a reason why I wasn’t feeling well. I shared my symptoms with him, as well as family medical history. My dad passed away a year ago because of complications with pneumonia, but he had also suffered from a brain aneurysm. After leaving the room for a few minutes, he came back in and told me that he had a gut feeling he was supposed to send me over to Hillcrest South for a head and neck scan because of the situation with my dad.”

Upon arrival at the emergency department at Hillcrest South, staff took Rogers right back to a room, gave her some medicine for the migraine and got the ball rolling. “They put me in a CT Scan and a head and neck scan. By this time, my husband was back in town, and my mom was there too.”

The news that Rogers and her family would soon hear would change their lives forever. “Apparently it isn’t normal for a head and neck scan to take a picture of the top of your heart, but miraculously mine did,” Rogers explained. “When the results were in, the doctor came to tell me that the head and neck scan looked great, but they detected an aneurysm on my chest, measuring at over five centimeters. By the time we heard this news, it was just my husband and me in the room and we were absolutely floored. Here I was, just turned 40 years old, being told that I had a chest aneurysm. To say I was completely blindsided is an understatement.”

Before Rogers was released from the emergency department at Hillcrest South, her doctor talked to her about the next steps. “The doctor told me he was sending me to a cardiovascular surgeon at Oklahoma Heart Institute on Wednesday of the next week,” said Rogers. “After we were released, we spent the rest of that night at home in a state of shock. The only person in my family to ever have heart problems is my brother, but it was nothing like this. A few days later, I was back in the emergency department due to chest pains on my left side and shortness of breath. I stayed overnight for observation and was released the next morning.”

The following week, Rogers prepared for her first visit to Oklahoma Heart Institute. “On Wednesday, November 15, my husband and I had our first meeting with the cardiovascular surgeon,” Rogers stated. “Before the appointment, it truly dawned on me that I had an ascending aortic aneurysm. Our faith really stepped in and we prayed a lot for God’s healing. We were putting it all in his hands. Once we arrived at the cardiovascular surgeon’s office, it was obvious to me that I was the youngest one there. Everyone else seemed a bit older and that was one of the things we heard time and time again throughout our journey. I was asked if I smoke, if I drank and if I had diabetes multiple times, with the answer always being no. Everyone was baffled that someone my age had such a serious heart problem.”

After much anticipation, Rogers finally met with Dr. Michael Phillips, cardiovascular surgeon at Oklahoma Heart Institute. “Our first meeting with Dr. Phillips was wonderful. He was fabulous from the moment he walked in the room. Like many others, he was very surprised to see me there because of my age. He started out by telling us that my aneurysm was measuring larger than they initially thought. He also informed us that I had a leaky valve, which we were not aware of. Before he could explain things further, I stopped him and said “I have three boys and a husband that I want to go home to, so you have to promise me I’m going to be okay.” He quickly assured me that I was going to be okay, even though I had a long, hard journey ahead of me. After that, we knew I was in really good hands. So many people told us that Dr. Phillips was an incredible surgeon, which was very reassuring.”

Not knowing what to expect, Rogers and her husband didn’t prepare for an overnight stay. “Towards the end of our meeting, Dr. Phillips told us he wasn’t going to send us home that day,” explained Rogers. “We didn’t have any bags packed or anything prepared, but we were sent straight over to get checked in at Oklahoma Heart Institute. The doctor wanted to go ahead and have some tests run, so my husband and I got checked in and immediately received wonderful care. A very nice gentleman, who I believe was a volunteer, took us up to the fifth floor. When we walked off of the elevator, I was immediately in awe of how bright, clean and nice this building was. Even though I had such a long road ahead of me, I had a feeling that everything was going to be okay.”

Rogers was put into a room and the process quickly began. “We were given a really nice room and had a great nurse, Lexi,” shared Rogers. “Within minutes, I was in my gown and testing had started. That day I had a chest ultrasound and pictures taken of my heart. Every person that came into my room was wonderful. There were many signs that first day that made us realize we were in really good hands.”

Throughout her stay, Rogers was visited numerous times by her surgeon. “Dr. Phillips came to see me almost every day,” said Rogers. “On Friday, November 17, he came in to let me know what they had confirmed from the photos and testing. I had a very large ascending aortic aneurysm and a leaky valve. He immediately started talking to us about the differences in mechanical valves and artificial valves. Because of my age, he felt like the mechanical valve would be the best route to go because it would last my lifetime. He made it very clear that if we wouldn’t have caught this when we did, I probably wouldn’t have been alive in a few months due to the aneurysm erupting. Hearing that, I knew I was very lucky. It was truly a miracle that whoever did my scan at Hillcrest South went a little lower than my neck.”

Rogers stayed in the hospital that weekend to prepare for open heart surgery on Monday morning. “We waited there throughout the weekend, and then had to have a big talk with our kids,” explained Rogers. “We have three boys, ages 14, 12 and 9. They knew something was up with mom because I wasn’t coming home. Each of them knew a different age-appropriate version of the story, but we wanted to make sure they all knew that I was having a very big surgery.”

On the morning of November 20, Rogers felt that she was ready for surgery. “I can’t explain the peace that I had going in that morning,” expressed Rogers. “My husband, mom and mother-in-law where all there with me that morning, and many of my family members came later in the day. The night before, Dr. Phillips came to speak with us. We were really surprised to see him there since it was a Sunday night. He told us that he always likes to visit patients before big surgeries. We were so thankful that he came in and put us at ease. That hospitality really meant a lot to my husband and me.”

While waiting to go into surgery, Rogers continued to be reassured by those that were caring for her. “People were coming in to check on me to make sure I was comfortable,” said Rogers. “The anesthesiologist came in and talked to my husband as well as several other doctors. It was another great example of the care we received. As I was being wheeled back into the operating room, the team was very good about telling me what they were going to do. The next thing I remember was waking up in ICU. My husband was there waiting on me and said that the nursing staff was fantastic. They updated him every hour while I was in surgery, which lasted about four and a half hours.”

While in the ICU, Rogers learned of some complications that happened during surgery. “They were a little nervous because I had been bleeding a bit,” Rogers explained. “They told my husband that if it continued, they would have to take me back into the operating room to make sure everything was okay. During surgery, they fixed my aortic valve and installed a mechanical valve. While they were in there, they also found a hole in my heart, which they repaired. After all of this, the bleeding stopped and Dr. Phillips told my husband that everything was going to be okay.”

Following her surgery, Rogers spent two days in the ICU. “While I was in the ICU, I received wonderful care. The nurse in the evenings, Richard, took great care of me. I always get a little emotional when I talk about him because he was so encouraging. He was there both nights and I can’t express how wonderful he was. During this time, I was in a great deal of pain. I had never experienced anything like chest tubes, and my chest was so sore since they had to break my sternum to get to my heart. Luckily, I was on a lot of medication that really helped.

After the two days in the ICU, Rogers was sent back to the fifth floor. “The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, they told me that I would be released from ICU and would be going back up to the fifth floor,” stated Rogers. “That comforted me because that was where we had met so many wonderful nurses. Sandy, Camden and Lexi are a few that come to mind. We felt like we knew them all so well. I spent the next six days there and had phenomenal care. From the aides to the nurses, it was an amazing experience. That Thanksgiving was by far the best I’ve ever had because I knew that I was healthy and had been given a second lease on life. So many people came back to check on me and I think that speaks volumes that they would take time out of their busy day to see how I was doing. It’s truly a miracle that I’m here today and I cannot thank Oklahoma Heart Institute enough for the way they treated me. I told Dr. Phillips he was my lifesaver. There’s truly something special about putting yourself in someone else’s hands, especially when it has to do with your heart.”

Post-surgery, Rogers is thriving and feeling grateful. “I’m ten weeks post-surgery now and I feel great,” said Rogers. “I did the cardiac rehab which was also a great experience. If it weren’t for my scar, there would be some days I would forget I had surgery because I just feel so good now. We are deeply indebted to Oklahoma Heart Institute for everything they did for our family. I cannot speak highly enough of everyone there and what they are doing for people.”

Rogers’ family is excited to celebrate American Heart Month this year. “My family is learning more and more about American Heart Month,” said Rogers. “After going through what I went through, it means a lot to me. The clicking of my heart valve is a daily reminder of life and for that I am so grateful.”