Every Story Has Other Stories Within

“You never know when you touch a heart and a life”. Little did I know that knowing John and doing this documentary project would unearth information I didn’t know about my own story.

This realization has my family and me on an emotional high. I am absolutely amazed. I didn’t know there were still answers to the questions I thought had been exhausted already.

Recently, Lincoln Graves from KATU News in Portland, Oregon, interviewed me about our documentary project. If I hadn’t known John, this unexpected result may never have come to light. So here’s some background.

I was a “normal” little girl at birth. At age 2 I was ill with acute croup. On a Friday morning, my mom took me to the doctor who told her to take me home, put me under a vaporizer and bring me back in on Monday if I wasn’t improved.
By that afternoon I was much worse. Mom got a ride and rushed me to the emergency room at Providence Hospital. She told them I was under the care of a doctor who was not on staff there. I was admitted and placed in a croup tent. We’ve always believed that quick action wasn’t taken because my pediatrician was off skiing and couldn’t be reached. I was told that doctors finally attempted a tracheotomy, but it was too late. Next they opened my chest and manually massaged my heart and revived me. I survived, but I may have been clinically dead for as much as 6 minutes. As a result, I have lived with significant multiple disabilities including impaired vision and severe muscular coordination problems.

When this happened, doctors had no idea what impact it would have on my quality of life. They urged my parents to put me in an institution such as Waverley Children’s Home in Portland. Thank God my parents didn’t take their advice.

On the day Lincoln Graves interviewed me about John’s documentary, I went on with my day as planned. Tired, I crawled into bed with my cell phone to read emails, check Facebook and view my daily horoscope. Wow, then, there it was, a friend request from Sandy McKenzie. Not knowing who she was, I almost deleted the request. I called my sister, Laura, to talk about the news interview and other sisterly things. Laura didn’t know Sandy McKenzie either, but she logged into Facebook to figure it out. As she read to me, she became more and more amazed and emotional. By the time she finished reading, I was overwhelmed with awe. My sister began corresponding with Sandy on the spot.

Sandy McKenzie had heard the news story. She asked if I could be that small child she, as a newly graduated nurse, cared for in Providence Hospital 59 years ago!

Sandy went off shift that night to get married, and she never knew what happened to me. She said she quit pediatric nursing because this experience was so traumatic for her. When her children and grandchildren got sick it brought back memories of her experience with me. She wrote in her message that she had been worrying, caring and praying for me all these years.
The next morning we told my parents, and friends commented on this story on Facebook. Sandy and I corresponded by email to find a time to talk on the phone. I asked Sandy if she had an iPhone, and could we talk by Face Time.
On Sunday March 11th, at the appointed time, I went to Mom and Dad’s apartment and waited for Sandy’s call. What an amazing afternoon that was.
Sandy gave us information about that day we hadn’t had before. My mom waited in the hall worrying and not knowing what was happening.  Sandy told us I was in a crib across from the nurse’s station. After shift change and report she checked on me and discovered that I was in severe distress and barely breathing.

Sandy said she immediately located the intern assigned to me eating lunch in the cafeteria. She told him what was happening, and he stated that he would finish up there and then come up and attend to me! Thank God Sandy didn’t stop there. She told him he had to come “right now”. Then she rushed around the corner to surgery and alerted doctors there. She told us doctors started running, a nurse followed with a tray of surgical instruments, and they attempted a tracheotomy. She added that she thought they took me into surgery after that to sew me up. She didn’t know the part about the surgeon cutting open my chest and manually massaging my heart which ultimately revived me. Last Sunday I learned that I was one of the very first people on whom this procedure had been performed.

This nurse, Sandy McKenzie, was actually the person who saved my life. She acted quickly and didn’t sit back waiting for doctors to do their jobs. I am alive because of Sandy!

God, the universe, whatever you subscribe to, works in fantastic ways. The KATU News interview put Sandy in touch with us, and her prayers have been answered because she knows how my story continued. My mom now knows that it wasn’t what she told admitting personnel that delayed my care. Discovering Sandy McKenzie doesn’t change what happened to me, but it has provided some measure of healing for all of us.

I wish things had been different, but now I know that someone in that hospital really cared. Thank you, my beloved husband, John, for providing the link to the missing piece of my story! Sandy McKenzie saw this news story: http://katu.com/news/local/gresham-woman-plans-documentary-for-late-blind-skydiving-husband