Routine physical leads to heart surgery


Megan Koenigs, in her first-grade classroom at Rea Woodman Elementary in Wichita, colors with Addison, left, and Jacob Goold, children of Via Christi employee Nate Goold.

 
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A teacher’s heart

Fast action saves the life of a first-grade teacher

Saturday, April 28, 2012, was a big day for Megan Webber Koenigs. She made her final presentation for her master’s degree in teaching at Wichita State University that morning. Later that day, she and Craig Koenigs, who would later become her husband, moved her into the new house she had just purchased. But she doesn’t remember any of that.

‘God was touching my soul’

The next morning, a text alert on Megan’s cell phone woke Craig. When he looked at Megan, he realized she was having trouble breathing. He shook her and yelled at her but she didn’t respond.

Craig didn’t know CPR, but the 9-1-1 dispatcher coached him through it. He laid Megan on the floor when the dispatcher told him to get her onto a hard surface to be able to perform chest compressions.

Craig continued chest compressions, and occasionally mouth-to-mouth, for seven or eight minutes until EMS arrived.

“At first I was in shock and was working on autopilot. Once I got into a rhythm of the chest compressions, my mind started to wander and I thought she might die,” Craig says. “I thought that we might be planning a funeral.”

Then the dispatcher told him to unlock the front door.

“At that point I really felt like God was touching my soul to tell me everything was going to be OK,” says Craig. “After that I never thought I would lose her.”

EMS took Megan to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, delivering multiple shocks to her heart on the way. Medical personnel at the hospital believed she was a good candidate for therapeutic hypothermia — a treatment in which the patient’s body is cooled to an internal temperature of around 91 degrees to help protect and preserve brain function during the initial phase of post-cardiac arrest.

The treatment required Megan to be in a medically induced coma. Once out of the coma, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist found no signs of brain damage. The only residual effect from her event is a loss of about 11 days of memory.

Megan’s diagnosis

Megan learned she has a congenital heart rhythm disorder called long QT syndrome. She has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, in her chest, which helps her heart regulate its pace, either through a pacemaker or a shock.

Megan spent 12 days in the hospital but was able to attend her graduation ceremony at WSU just two days after being released. The day after graduation, Craig proposed to Megan. They got married Sept. 1, 2012.

It’s particularly dangerous for her to be startled from sleep, so Craig sets an alarm for himself, and gently rouses Megan each morning.

“I worry about her at night, even though she’s protected with her ICD,” Craig says. “I’m only just now starting to sleep comfortably.”

Megan and Craig keep in touch with the nurses who cared for Megan while she was in the hospital.

“My nurses at Via Christi were amazing,” Megan says. “We’re still really close.”

Craig adds: “The nurses were as concerned with my well-being as Megan’s and that was something I had never realized before. They do much more than you think.”

What is long QT syndrome?

Darrell Youngman, DO, physician leader of cardiac services at Via Christi, explains long QT syndrome as a disorder of the heart’s electrical system, and can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats.

This irregular heart rhythm can trigger fainting spells or seizures, and if the erratic beating happens too long, can cause sudden death.

The term “long QT” refers to an abnormal pattern seen on an electrocardiogram, also called an EKG. Long QT syndrome is most often diagnosed by an EKG.

Many people with long QT syndrome have no signs or symptoms. Those with the disease may show symptoms such as fainting or seizures. These may happen during or immediately after exercise; if they are startled; or during sleep or if they are suddenly awakened.

 

 
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