Rosemarie Henzler

Heart & Vascular Care
“We take breathing for granted, but I’ll tell you what, I’m now very aware of my oxygen intake.”

The best gift of all – the ability to breathe

Rosemarie Henzler, 76, of St. Cloud stopped in front of the Santa ringing his bell outside of the mall and remembers telling him that all she wanted for Christmas was a couple of new lungs. The Santa chuckled tentatively, but Rose was serious.

“That day the wind was so cold, and my breathing was getting worse and worse,” said Rose. “When I got to my car, I struggled to get all my packages into the trunk. When I got home, I realized I must have left some in the parking lot or lost them somewhere along the way. Oh, that was a horrible feeling, but I didn’t care. That day was the end of my Christmas shopping. I didn’t have the energy or the strength to go out and do anything.”

Rose had been feeling these symptoms for a while, but she attributed them to her emphysema and possibly depression after the death of a son.

“The symptoms of depression and lack of oxygen can be very similar. I was tired, had no energy and just wanted to sleep, which is unlike me. It was too much of a struggle to dust or run the vacuum or do the laundry. I would just look at stuff and go, ‘Oh, well, I’ll get to it tomorrow.’”

One morning soon after, Rose woke up and could not breathe.

“I knew I was really in trouble, terrible, terrible trouble.”

Somehow, she managed to call a neighbor and unlock the front door. Rose kept seeing a white light, as she passed in and out of consciousness.

An EMT told her, “Not yet, Rose, stay with me!”

After arriving at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital, Rose was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, meaning she had a blood clot travel up her legs to the lungs, a condition with a mortality rate as high as 30%. Within the hour, she was prepped for the procedure as her family gathered near to pray and encourage her.

Cardiologist Daniel Tiede, MD, removed the blood clots from both her lungs using the Inari Medical FlowTriever, a device approved by the Food & Drug Administration in 2018. The device is inserted through a vein in the groin and threaded up through the heart and into the lung area. The device uses a catheter to gently “vacuum” out the blood clots without the need for clot-busting drugs. Rose was conscious during the procedure but doesn’t recall any pain.

Rose was the 27th patient at St. Cloud Hospital to have this procedure, and she is taking part in a research study, in which 15 sites across the nation are enrolled.

“It's a little breathtaking to know you are part of something new,” Rose said. “But I'm a scholar at heart and interested in those things. And if I can help, well, that’s a good thing. All my caregivers were just brilliant.”

When Rose came out of surgery, she found she could breathe again.

“We take breathing for granted, but I’ll tell you what, I’m now very aware of my oxygen intake. Before my brain was starved for oxygen, and I was foggy about things I was doing. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk. It was like the shades were down. But now those shades are up, and I have my life again.”

After surgery, Rosemarie stayed at CentraCare – St. Cloud Therapy Suites for occupational and physical therapy, where she even finished up her Christmas shopping onsite at the St. Benedict’s Community gift shop. She left Dec. 22 and on Christmas Eve went to her daughter’s house, where she spent Christmas with her children and grandchildren.

“I had a beautiful Christmas, and I’ve been feeling like a million bucks ever since. The gift from my daughter was a wooden plaque that says, ‘Feels good to be home.’ Amen to that! I am so grateful for all the medicine today — for me it was a Christmas miracle.”