Thorough diagnosis and quick thinking save life of first-grade teacher

For Sammie Wikel, a 29-year-old first-grade teacher at Osage Elementary School in Pryor, life was good.

She lived on the family farm with her husband Derek and his 6-year-old daughter, surrounded by four generations. As they raised horses, cows, goats and even a couple of tortoises on the farm, Wikel also wanted to raise a child of her own.

Even though her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, they kept trying and were happy to be pregnant again.

Morning sickness?

One morning she went to school and settled into her classroom, but soon started feeling sweaty and dizzy. “It must be morning sickness,” she thought. After a while, she contacted the school’s principal and let her know that she needed to go home. The principal, knowing Wikel was pregnant, didn’t want her to drive herself, so Wikel called her husband to pick her up.

Once they got home, she asked her husband, “Will you please stay home while I take a shower? Then you can go back to work.”

The next thing Wikel remembers is regaining consciousness on the bathroom floor, her husband standing over her, repeating her name. He decided then that he needed to take her to the hospital.

“If I had it my way, I would have been in bed and he would have been driving back to work,” Wikel said. “It would have been a whole different scenario because I was not going to the doctor until he made me.”

They drove to Hillcrest Hospital Pryor where she almost passed out again as they arrived. She was rushed to a treatment room where the medical staff, including Dr. Eric Reddick, began several tests, including an ultrasound.

During the examination, Wikel said she was five to six weeks into her pregnancy. Her tests appeared normal, so Dr. Reddick left the room to fill out the discharge paperwork. A few minutes later, he returned and asked, “Is it okay to run one more ultrasound?”

Wikel agreed and they wheeled her back to the radiology department. “I think Dr. Reddick suspected something was going on with me when he ordered the second ultrasound,” said Wikel.

Ectopic pregnancy

In that ultrasound, Dr. Reddick found evidence that Wikel was probably seven to eight weeks pregnant. Unfortunately, this was an ectopic pregnancy.

In a normal pregnancy, a woman’s ovary produces an egg that travels down a fallopian tube. Along the way, it meets sperm from the man and becomes fertilized. The fertilized egg continues down the fallopian tube and implants in the uterus where the embryo will start growing.

During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere besides the uterus, most often in a fallopian tube. This is also called a tubal pregnancy.

Sadly, an ectopic pregnancy is fatal for the fetus, which cannot survive outside the uterus. This type of pregnancy is also potentially deadly for the mother, for if the tube with the implanted egg suddenly bursts, there can be severe internal bleeding.

Unexpected trip

Dr. Reddick came back into the room to tell the Wikels about the ectopic pregnancy and that she needed surgery that day. The plan was to send her by ambulance to Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa where she would have surgery and stay overnight.

But just as he left, Wikel started sweating badly again and feeling very dizzy. That’s when she started to hemorrhage blood.

>Dr. Reddick rushed back in and put a blood pressure cuff on her arm. Wikel’s blood pressure was very low and she was losing lots of blood. Dr. Reddick called for a central line to be connected to her main artery so that high volumes of blood and saline could be pushed quickly into her cardiovascular system.

“I was terrified while Dr. Reddick was putting in the central line,” said Wikel.

“I was covered by a sterile drop cloth, couldn’t see what was going on and could only hear the chaos around me. That’s when the fear set in that I could be dying. I had to stop my brain from thinking that, so I focused on Dr. Reddick’s voice. His voice calmed me and gave me hope. It didn’t matter whom he was talking to. I just knew if I could hear his voice that it was going to be okay.”

Once she was stable, the staff put her into an ambulance to be transported for the surgery. Since the staff worried that Wikel would not survive the one-hour drive to Tulsa, they sent her instead to Hillcrest Hospital Claremore, just 30 minutes away.

Once at Hillcrest Claremore, an entire team of health professionals was waiting for her. “Wow, the cavalry is here, waiting for me!”

Recovery room and the future

When Wikel regained consciousness in the surgery recovery room, she was asked if she wanted to see her family. “Yes!” she exclaimed. For the next two days, she stayed at the hospital and had regular visits from her husband, daughter, parents and even friends from her church.

The surgery to stop the internal bleeding was a success. Her OB/GYN doctor is hopeful that Wikel can still get pregnant, even with just one fallopian tube.

“The entire situation was a ‘God thing,’” Wikel recounted. “I am so grateful that Derek stayed home long enough while I showered, and then insisted on taking me to the hospital. I’m especially grateful that Dr. Reddick asked for one more test and that Dr. Stillman was waiting for me at Hillcrest Hospital Claremore. A human body holds five liters of blood and I had lost four of them, so I’m grateful to everyone who cared for me.”

Wikel’s story has a happy ending, as she recently went back to Hillcrest Hospital Pryor to say ‘Thank you’ to Dr. Reddick in person. She even gave him an insulated mug with a bright Superman logo (see above photo).

“Very few people get to meet a real-life superhero, let alone thank him for everything he did for me,” said Wikel. “I am so thankful that my superhero has a name – Dr. Eric Reddick!”