Clergy family finds medical help just a phone call away

1/27/2012

Photo courtesy of Lifetouch

Colleen and Randy Little cuddle Belle, one of several pets.

24/7 Nurseline: 800-581-0407

By Chris Kinyon Schutz, Contributing Writer

For piano teacher Colleen Little of Harrah, April 11 seemed a normal day. A piano lesson. A call from the veterinarian about a dog that was ill.

Then, at 4:30 p.m., like a thunderclap, "the top of my head felt it had just blown off," she said. Colleen is the wife of Randy Little, pastor of Harrah United Methodist Church.

She was in the middle of the piano lesson, and it was clear to her student that something was very wrong, Colleen said. "She looked at me, so alarmed."

The little girl went home. Colleen called her husband to come home from the church. In addition to the headache, she felt nauseous, so she laid down.

A church member who is a nurse came and checked her blood pressure. Because of the nausea, "we thought she had eaten something bad," Randy said. Believing Colleen’s symptoms were the result of something she ate, the couple went to bed.

But "the next morning, she was still feeling terrible," Randy said.

The pastor remembered hearing news about the 24/7 Nurseline, a free medical hotline service available to Oklahoma Conference families enrolled in the Health Care Benefits Plan. He called the number.

The Littles agree that call to the Nurseline probably saved Colleen’s life.

The nurse’s sense of urgency came through loud and clear over the phone, Randy said.

She asked: Was it the worst headache Colleen had ever had?

When the answer was yes, the nurse told them to go immediately to a hospital emergency room. At Midwest Regional Medical Center, Colleen was transferred to an ambulance and rushed to Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City, where a stroke team was waiting for her.

The Littles learned Colleen’s pain, described by those in the medical field as a thunderclap headache, was due to an aneurysm, the rupture of an artery in her brain. An emergency surgical procedure was followed by 11 days in the hospital and, in later months, by further installations of coils and stents in the affected area of her brain, as well as medications and continued monitoring.

Randy said their doctor told him, "It’s a miracle she’s alive."

Colleen has lingering effects. "Brain injuries take a long time to heal," she said.

Her eyesight changed, and she developed an oversensitivity to lights, sounds, colors, and motion at places like the grocery store. She has used visors, earplugs, and sunglasses when she goes shopping to reduce the amount of stimulation she experiences.

Yet she is noticing gradual improvement. Meanwhile, the health emergency has given her quite a story to tell people. "I get, ‘Oh my!’ a lot," Colleen said.

Randy, who has been the pastor at Harrah since June 2010, praised the congregation for helping out with meals and even gardening during Colleen’s recovery period.

He marvels at his wife’s recovery from something that might easily have killed her. "We are grateful for every day," he said.

And they want to spread the word about 24/7 Nurseline.

Jan Tofani, director of the Conference’s health benefits program, emphasized Nurseline is available free of charge to the Conference’s 1,600 BlueCross BlueShield participants.

"It comes in handy when people can’t decide whether a situation is serious enough to go to the hospital," Tofani said. "People want to have peace of mind as to whether they really need to go to the emergency room."

According to a flier about the hotline, the nurses who answer the phone can advise callers about a range of health problems, including asthma, back pain, dizziness, severe headaches, high fever, a baby’s nonstop crying, cuts or burns, and sore throat.


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