June 2017/No. 45
The MiracleWorkers There were times when I doubted I’d make it,” admits Rita Helgeson, detailing the out-of-the-blue cardiac crisis that nearly took her life. A retired pharmacist with no history of ailments, Helgeson was in “great health” at the start of 2016, busily planning for her daughter Jennifer’s November wedding when suddenly her world was upended. Diagnosed in March with arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat, she required immediate treatment to restore a normal heart rhythm. Initially reinvigorated, by late fall she was lethargic and had no appetite.
On December 8, Helgeson’s cardiologist, Dr. Alan Schneider, sent her to Suburban Hospital to undergo a battery of tests; the results were negative, so on December 13 she returned home.Three days later, however, she was back, this time in acute respiratory distress. A bacterial blood infection had invaded Helgeson’s mitral and tricuspid heart valves, resulting in inflammation of the heart’s inner lining (endocarditis), respiratory failure, congestive heart failure, and kidney and liver failure. Her condition rapidly deteriorating, Dr. Melissa Means,
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Rita Helgeson says therapists Max Collins, left, and Scott Fernandez were essential to her recovery.
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