Coordinated care continues during COVID-19 for Postville woman

Karen Heins (above, standing with her husband, Jerry) had a mass removed from her brain by Mayo Clinic Health System-La Crosse Neurosurgeon Navid Khezri, M.D. (pictured above). Her care was coordinated with Andy Goodner, M.D. (pictured left), Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah.

Karen Heins of Postville was managing the headaches that recently surfaced on the right side of her head.  She had seen a doctor who prescribed muscle relaxants, and had started visiting a chiropractor for adjustments.  Then on a mid-April day, to avoid a parked car on her right, Karen swerved, but instead hit a parked car on her left.  She says, “I never saw the other parked car.  It was then I realized the peripheral vision on my left side was completely gone.”   Karen made an appointment with Andy Goodner, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System family medicine physician at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah, based on a friend’s recommendation.

“I wasn’t sure how my appointment would be, since we were in the middle of COVID-19 and all the precautions were in place at the medical center, but everything went smoothly,” says Karen.   As part of the exam, Dr. Goodner recommended Karen get an MRI, which she did at Winneshiek Medical Center that day. Karen says, “The image showed a mass on the right side pushing my brain to the left, and Dr. Goodner referred me to neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.” It was a Friday, and Karen wanted to visit with her family over the weekend before deciding her next steps.

The next day – a Saturday – Dr. Goodner received a follow-up phone call from Navid Khezri, M.D., the surgeon taking Karen’s case, wondering the status of Karen’s plans.  Dr. Goodner says, “I called Karen to continue to discuss the urgency of her situation.  She decided to proceed and headed up to La Crosse that afternoon to begin surgery preparations.”

On Sunday morning, Dr. Khezri removed the two-inch cancerous mass from her brain.  Karen remained hospitalized for recovery and testing and was discharged to home on Tuesday.  She says, “Dr. Khezri was excellent and seemed to care about me beyond my surgery.  In fact, when he came in the morning I was discharged, he remembered it was my 55th wedding anniversary!”  Karen continues follow-up care provided jointly by her care teams in Decorah and La Crosse.

“It is never easy to hear that you have a tumor in your brain that needs immediate surgery, but Karen’s situation was significantly more difficult,” says Dr. Navid Khezri, surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.  “She had to decide, on a short time notice, to leave the family and come to the hospital alone to face a surgery with significant risks to her life and health. She is brave and inspired us all along the way.”

Karen says, “During the pandemic, the hardest part has been being alone for my appointments and treatments – my husband, Jerry, or my children have to wait in the parking lot.  Some days it can be up to 5-6 hours depending on the treatment; other days are shorter.”  She continues, “I continually pray to God that he gets me through everything, and many people have shared their prayers for me through social media, since we cannot meet in person.”

Karen’s recovery has been steady.  Her headaches have stopped, and she is resuming normal activities in her home and in her garden.  “I have been able to cook, garden, clean – I am doing it all and it feels wonderful.”  She looks forward to spending time with her seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren, as it is safe to do so.

Karen says, “I appreciate the excellent coordination of care between Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah and Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse and would recommend them to anyone.  My family has been so wonderful.  The prayers of my family and friends, and God providing the right doctors for me when I needed them, have gotten me through this.”

Winneshiek Medical Center and Mayo Clinic Health System have multiple safety measures in place to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19.  Both facilities offer in-person or telehealth/virtual appointments.  To make an appointment at Winneshiek Medical Center, call 563-382-2911. To make an appointment at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, call 608-785-0940.

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