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The anniversary of a miracle

Joanna Dahl has so much to be thankful for. Her three beautiful children.
Her devoted husband. Her large Greek family. And her life.

She’s so thankful, in fact, she came to Waukesha Memorial Hospital last Wednesday to honor a team of caregivers whose quick action saved her life and the life of her unborn child.

On Aug. 30, 2012, 34-year-old Joanna arrived at the hospital to deliver her third child. The pregnancy had been uncomplicated, and the delivery promised to be routine. She was progressing through labor when suddenly she felt ill. Within moments, and for reasons not fully understood, Joanna stopped breathing. The nurse at her bedside immediately called a code.

When a code is called in the OB unit, the non-clinical among us pause and gasp. Fortunately for patients, a code causes highly skilled clinicians to break into a run. Physicians and nurses were at Joanna’s bedside within moments. While second year resident Todd Nelson performed CPR on Joanna to keep blood flowing to her unborn child, Laura Epperson, MD, an OB on campus who heeded the code, and Mary McComis, MD, Joanna’s OB, skillfully delivered the healthy baby girl. Joanna was taken to ICU while the baby – Zoe – was whisked to the Waukesha Memorial NICU for observation.

 “I am overwhelmed by the miracles that occurred that day – the odds were stacked high against me. I am forever grateful for each and every staff member at WMH. It's because of their hard-working hands that we are able to celebrate life.” ~Joanna

Joanna’s condition was dire. She had suffered profuse blood loss, and it took considerable time to restore her vital signs to normal. She remained in the ICU for five days as her family kept vigil, refusing to accept the grim prognosis. Steadily, miraculously, Joanna’s condition improved. Although Joanna initially exhibited signs of memory loss, she progressed day by day and was home within 10 days. Today she has no memory of the harrowing experience, relying instead on the account relayed by her family. Admits Joanna, “I feel sad for my loved ones. They are the ones who lived through the experience. I just remember waking up one day to the sound of a nurse saying, "Okay, it's time to feed baby."