A two-day trip to Casper turned into a month-long stay, but Sam and Judy Christensen couldn't be more grateful

By The Pulse Apr 7, 2014

We can't express our appreciation and love for Wyoming Medical Center enough after the care Sam received there. We developed friendships with the nurses and CNAs,  the students, the doctors and even the cafeteria staff, who are very special people.  We are so thankful for the care received when the two nights we planned turned into a full month in Casper.  The availability of having the Masterson Place for that time was a real godsend.

-- Judy and Sam Christensen

Written by Judy Christensen of Dubois, Wyo.

Sam and Judy Christensen of Dubois

Sam and Judy Christensen of Dubois

Living in Dubois, 200 miles from Casper, it is always a challenge when a medical issue raises its ugly head and our local providers send us to Casper for specialized treatment.  This was the case when my husband, Sam, saw our nurse practitioner, complaining of shortness of breath and occasional chest pain.

She told us that something more was happening to Sam’s heart than she could diagnose and made an appointment with Dr. Oleg Ivanov.  That visit coincided with Sam’s scheduled checkup appointment at Rocky Mountain Oncology and a chance to attend the swearing in of our nephew, Brian Christensen, as a Circuit Judge. We drove to Casper as planned.

Dr. Ivanov confirmed the assessment of our nurse practitioner that something was happening – Sam could be suffering from angina or a mild heart attack. Dr. Ivanov arranged for a Cardiac Catheterization the following week.  Packing for a two-night stay, we made arrangements to stay at the Masterson Place (WMC Foundation’s low-cost accommodations for out-of-town patients and families). Sam went for his preliminary appointment and then to Wyoming Medical Center for the outpatient procedure.  We thought Sam would possibly need a couple of stents and we would go home the next day.  However, Sam’s condition was more serious than we believed. Dr. Eric Munoz, explained the angiogram results and told us he was available for bypass surgery the next morning.

I returned to the Masterson Place alone and made arrangements to stay there during his hospitalization. I can't say enough about how I was taken care of by the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation. A stay anywhere else would have broken our bank, so to speak.

A son from Cheyenne drove to Casper to be with me during the eight-hour surgery and recovery.  At 75, I am a fairly calm person for I know my strength at these times comes from my Lord and Savior, but having my son there was a great comfort.  Sam was in ICU from Feb. 13, the day of the surgery, until Feb. 19 when he was moved to the Fifth Floor. On Feb. 21, staff was notified that he would be transferred to Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in an hour.  In a whirlwind of preparation, his discharge information was shared with me and he was whisked off to Elkhorn.

The physical therapy at Elkhorn and the occupational therapy was very helpful, however with congestive heart failure and acute renal failure, Sam was filling with fluid. He couldn't walk any distance and felt he was ballooning up which made him fearful to even lie in bed because of the feeling of suffocating.  After 12 days at Elkhorn, we went to see Dr. Munoz in the hope of returning home. However, Sam's condition was immediately noted by Dr. Munoz and his physician’s assistant, Deb, who readmitted Sam to Wyoming Medical Center.

It was like old-home week when we returned to the Fifth Floor of WMC. We remembered so many of the staff and they remembered us. But the task at hand was to relieve Sam of the fluid and, in good time, he was twenty pounds lighter.  Two liters of fluid were drained from his lungs.  In six days, he was again discharged for the trip home, this time feeling much more like he should.

After a month of the love and care extended to both of us, we are at home in Dubois where we have a wonderful doctor and clinic as well as a physical therapist, all of whom are keeping in touch with Dr. Munoz and Dr. Ivanov with Sam's recovery progress.  We thank God for all of these providers and look back at the month in Casper with fond memories of those who took such good care of both of us while at WMC; the medical staff, the cafeteria staff, and yes, even the housekeeping staff.

Our thanks to each and every one at Wyoming Medical Center.

Oleg Ivanov

Oleg Ivanov M.D.

Dr. Ivanov,  M.D., is a cardiologist at Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services, 1230 E. First St., in Casper. He is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. Contact Wyoming Cardiopulmonary at (307) 266-3174.

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