Surviving a Medical Crisis

Thornberry Creek Resident Verna Kreutz shares her story

Verna and her trusted sidekick, Cassie, have been reunited.

Verna Kreutz is a beloved member of a tight friend group, the Thornberry Creek neighborhood, and everyone who works on this magazine. In August, Verna experienced a very serious and extremely frightening medical event. She has graciously agreed to share her story.

Verna has always been active, working out several days a week, golfing, participating in philanthropic events, and spending time with friends. The week of August 15th was no different.  She started the week prepping for the upcoming weekend’s neighborhood yard sales. She went on a girls’ trip from Tuesday through Thursday and then attended a flamingo party Thursday evening.  

On Friday morning, as Verna was setting up for her yard sale, she felt tremendous pain.  She described it as feeling like “a butcher knife cut right down my chest." The pain dissipated, and she went on to start her sale. She said she could function and that everyone has aches and pains, so she didn’t think it was that serious. Her friends were showing concern because Verna did not look like herself. It was 7:30 a.m., and she was sweating and extremely pale.  For those that know Verna personally, you know she is a force to be reckoned with. She kept insisting she was fine. It wasn’t until she realized that she couldn’t feel her legs and was having a difficult time standing that she agreed to go to the hospital.

Verna arrived at St. Mary’s hospital and was given an EKG, which came back normal. It was after her CT scan that the doctors realized this was a serious situation and transported her by ambulance to St. Vincent’s hospital. Verna had suffered an ascending aortic dissection, which is a tear in the inner layer of the large blood vessel branching off the heart. Aortic dissection is a life-threatening condition that can cause sudden death if not treated immediately. She went directly into surgery to repair the tear. Although the surgery was successful, during the night, she suffered internal bleeding and had to undergo another procedure. 

The healing process was long, but Verna had the support of her amazing friends and hospital staff. She was on a ventilator for ten days and in the hospital for six weeks, including her 68th birthday. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, only two visitors were allowed per day. Seven of her closest friends set up a visitation schedule so that someone was always with Verna. Even the nurses loved hanging out with Verna and her friends. The rest of Verna’s loved ones were kept informed of her condition through a text tree.  

Seven months later, Verna is finally starting to feel like herself again. She is back to exercising and is looking forward to golf season. Going forward, she will visit her cardiologist once a year as long as she doesn’t have any further problems. While in the hospital, she was also diagnosed with descending aortic dissection, which is being treated with medication. What she really wants others to know is that something like this can happen to anyone, regardless of a person’s lifestyle or current health. Her advice is to “listen to your body … and your friends!”

Verna knows that aortic dissection is often a death sentence and that she is very lucky to still be here, so she has been spending some time trying to figure out what her purpose is. She was also completely overwhelmed and humbled to realize how many people love her and were worried about her. Although Verna may not realize it, it seems as though her purpose may be to continue bringing her humor, love, wit, and kindness to all those that know and love her.