Stewart and Lana Bichet of Hillsboro had their share of medical emergencies in 2013. But as the year comes to a close, they are hoping 2014 will be kinder to them and their children.
The first near-fatal event happened in mid-February when Stewart, 44, was raced to the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis. Six months later, Lana, 43, suffered a major heart attack.
?I believe in second chances with everything and everybody, even though sometimes it takes a smack on the head to straighten up and fly right,? Lana said.
It was on a Friday when Stewart was feeling sick to his stomach and didn?t want to eat anything.
?He said if he didn?t eat, he wasn?t going to have any carbohydrates and wouldn?t need to take his insulin,? Lana said.
For those with diabetes, that isn?t a good idea, she said, adding that people are taught to take their medication even when they are sick.
?What happened was the oxygen in his blood turned into toxin and every single organ in his body shut down,? she said. ?At 4:17 a.m., he fell off the bed and I thought he was being a drama queen.?
Tired and wanting to get back to sleep, Lana said she was angry with him for waking her up and probably exaggerating his situation.
Lana told him she would call an ambulance, adding that she couldn?t pick him up off the floor to take him to the hospital herself.
?But first, I am going to smoke a cigarette because I am mad?I want to go back to sleep,? she recalled saying. ?We have no insurance, and I didn?t want to call an ambulance.?
As she marched through their kitchen, Lana said she felt like she walked into a hand.
?I felt myself stop. I was dialing 911 before I realized it and told the operator my husband fell off the bed, that I didn?t know what was wrong, but I was really mad,? she said.
Once at the hospital, Lana said she learned her husband had actually died in the ambulance in front of their home.
?I am thankful to Rusty Moss for being on duty because he saved his life by giving him CPR all the way to (Hillsboro Community Hospital).?
When Lana arrived at the hospital, she was told had she waited 10 minutes to call for an ambulance, they wouldn?t have been able to save him.
?It would have taken me 10 minutes to smoke a cigarette,? she said.
Beyond the 911 call, Lana was questioned about a faint red mark on her chest.
?The doctor said it looked like a hand print,? she said. ?I think God stopped me. There is nothing else to explain it.?
In a coma
Stewart went into a coma later that evening, and for the next 10 days remained that way in the intensive care unit at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
Complicating the situation, Lana said she and her husband were heavy drinkers at the time.
While in the coma, Lana said Stewart suffered alcohol withdrawal and required restraints for his own safety.
?I was told, in front of our daughters, that he probably wouldn?t make it and that if he did, he would be brain dead,? she said.
?I told (the doctor), they didn?t know my husband.?
During the 10-day ordeal, Lana said she was alone with no family close by. The main reason was because severe snowstorms made it too dangerous for their children or his parents to travel.
During her stay, Lana met a chaplain who comforted her, and a woman from Texas whom she befriended in the parking lot.
After telling the woman about her husband?s condition, Lana said the woman asked the 2,000 people in her church to pray for Stewart.
The next day, he awoke from his coma.
?I thank the power of prayer and I know it had a lot to do with (Stewart?s recovery),? she said.
Once Stewart was released from the hospital, the family vowed to change their eating habits.
?This was a family disease, and it was a serious health scare for all of us,? Lana said.
Consequently, Lana lost 75 pounds and their oldest daughter, Viktoria, lost 45.
?I also started working at Dale?s (Supermarket) making sausage,? she said.
Lana said owning their own auto glass business was stressful.
?Uncle Sam and his little cousin, the state of Kansas, want every dime you make,? she said. ?But I thought I was handling things pretty well.?
Unfortunately, that wasn?t the case. On Aug. 24 Lana suffered a heart attack while in Newton.
?It wasn?t what I expected,? she said. ?I had a heart attack and it lasted from 10:30 a.m. and through the afternoon until I arrived at Wesley Medical Center?s emergency room about 5 p.m.?
At first, the doctors were considering a balloon stent, but a short time later it was decided to go with bypass surgery.
?I had a six-way bypass and they used a whole vein,? she said.
?I wasn?t overweight, but there was heredity of heart disease,? she said. ?I did smoke, but I didn?t eat terribly bad. I had high blood pressure, but I was not the typical (heart) patient because I was young.?
Although Lana said she has had some setbacks since the surgery, she is grateful to be alive and get a second chance.
?I feel blessed that Stewart was guided to take me to the hospital?even though I balked?just like I was guided to call 911 for him,? she said.
Both of their children, Lana added, could have been orphaned.
A daughter?s perspective
The Bichets oldest daughter, Viktoria, 22, said she remembered visiting both her parents at the hospital.
?My dad was in Building 7, critical care, fourth floor, Room 5, and my mom was put in the same building, Room 2,? she said. ?It was a haunting walk through the hospital (to see them).?
While her father was in the hospital, Viktoria said she was running her own auto-detailing business and her father?s auto glass business.
?I kept emotion out of it and delved into my work,? she said. ?It took my dad a while to reboot. It took months.?
Life seemed to be getting back to normal, she said, until her mother?s heart attack in August.
?Please don?t put your loved ones through this,? Viktoria said, adding that a healthier lifestyle is so important.
?The other thing is to spread the message (about what happened to my parents and how they have recovered).?
Lana said it is important for everyone to recognize that relatively two young people, like she and her husband, had near-tragic health scares.
?They were both actually extremely preventable,? she said.
Stewart has learned that even though he doesn?t like to poke his finger to check blood sugar levels, it is necessary.
?His blood sugar was at 2,000 (when he went to the hospital),? she said. ?Any diabetic knows that is really, really bad and pretty much fatal.?
It?s also the reason Lana speaks out about the signs of a heart attack.
?Women don?t have heart attacks the same way as men,? she said.
Along with lifestyle changes, Lana said she doesn?t plan on wasting her good fortune.
?It took me 43 years to ruin the parts I had, and I am not taking the next 43 years to try to ruin these, too,? she said. ?I am going to take care of (this bypass). I also want to help others.?
Lana said she and her husband look at life differently now.
?I cannot let any of the experience of this year get me down,? she said. ?And I know I am not given more than I can handle. I think everything we go through makes us stronger.?
Today, Lana said she looks at everything as a challenge and doesn?t stress out about things she can?t control.
?I want to be happy and stress-free and go with the flow,? she said.
The best piece of advice Lana said she was given was that people shouldn?t sweat the small stuff and to know that everything is the small stuff.