Lab tech knows life is a miracle
Carrie (Richmond) Helmer could just as easily have been born dead as alive if circumstances hadn’t worked to put the right people at the right place at the right time.
Now a lab technician at St. Luke Hospital in Marion, Helmer will be celebrating her 30th birthday in July. In a sense, she has two mothers.
Leona Hajek of Lost Springs was seven months pregnant with her second child in July of 1983 when she went to the doctor complaining of stomach pains.
She had been battling sporadic pains since Marion’s Old Settlers’ Day in the fall of 1982, and every time she went to see her doctor (Jeffrey Martin), she was told it was the flu.
This time, July 21, 1983, after she was once again sent home with the “flu,” the pain got so bad that she ended up in the emergency room.
She had no fever but had a high white blood cell count, so Martin knew something was wrong. He ordered exploratory surgery, summoning the anesthesiologist. Dr. Don Hodson served as Martin’s assistant.
They discovered that Hajek’s appendix was twice the normal size and about to rupture and immediately performed an appendectomy.
They no sooner had closed Hajek’s incision than Hodson was urgently called to the labor room. Betty Richmond was about to have a baby, and the nurses monitoring the baby’s vital signs had lost the heartbeat.
Hodson determined the placenta had broken loose from the uterus, a serious condition known as “placental abruption,” depriving the baby of nutrients and oxygen. The situation called for an immediate C-section.
Hajek was wheeled into the hallway. Her husband, Ron, was instructed to watch over her until more nurses could be summoned to take her to a hospital room.
Because of the urgency of the situation, the staff ignored the protocol for cleaning and sanitizing the operating room. Richmond was wheeled into surgery.
Richmond remembers the attendants had difficulty getting the hospital bed through the door but finally forced it through. Anesthesia was administered, and Carrie was born a short time later.
Everyone involved agreed if Hajek hadn’t been there, having surgery, there wouldn’t have been enough time for the anesthesiologist to arrive and a C-section performed before the baby would have died. The equipment for administering anesthesia was in place and ready to go, along with the anesthesiologist.
Hajek said she could complain about why the doctor could not diagnose her problem sooner, but she realizes that everything happens for a reason.
“If there’s nothing else I’ve done good in my life, I can say I saved a child’s life,” she said.
Hajek delivered a healthy son, Darrin, on Old Settlers’ Day, exactly a year after her stomach pains began.
Richmond sent Dr. Hodson a thank-you card that Christmas along with a picture of her baby.
Hajek and Richmond found out later that they are distant relatives. Hajek is a Richmond.
Hajek has been a beautician for 37 years. One time, six or seven years after her surgery, she was doing Sylvia Morovec’s hair when Morovec described the above incident. She was a St. Luke nurse. She said she didn’t know who the woman was that had saved the baby’s life and was surprised to learn it was Hajek.
Carrie Helmer has a 10-year-old son, Randon, and is married to Charlie Helmer. They live in Haven. She has worked at St. Luke Hospital for almost seven years.
She is Roger and Betty Richmonds’ only child. They call her their “miracle baby.”
“I don’t have any memory of the event, but it is wonderful that it turned out like it did, Helmer said. “I’m thankful Leona was there when she was.
“I’m thankful the doctors and nurses figured out what was going on and could do what they did to save my life.”