Photo courtesy of the McKees in Tennessee blog
When the McKee family reported to preside over the LDS Tennessee Nashville Mission in July 2011, they felt optimistic toward the work. Five of their 10 children accompanied them to live in the mission home, and they approached their new calling with confidence in the Lord.
Although President Bill and Sister RaNae McKee expected some inevitable challenges while serving, they did not anticipate that within a four-day span Sister McKee would have a heart attack, two strokes and heart and brain surgeries.
“Right after we got into the mission field, Sister McKee was a picture of health,” President McKee said. “She jogged every morning, she eats very well — much better than I do — she’s a very healthy woman.”
Four months into their mission, Sister McKee casually mentioned a sharp pain in her chest to the mission doctor. He advised her to get it checked in the hospital that day, where she discovered that she needed heart surgery to prevent a heart attack.
That very day, Sister McKee went into heart surgery, where she received two stents.
“She felt really good and the surgery was successful and she did really well after that,” President McKee said. “For the whole year, we’ve watched her heart very closely and just kept our normal pace.”
But the following year in late November, Sister McKee’s health took an unexpected downward turn.
“The night before Thanksgiving she showed flu-like symptoms and she kept getting worse and worse and worse and finally into the night, she said, ‘Take me to the hospital,’ ” President McKee said. “She was doing some projectile vomiting and some severe pain and just weak everywhere and so I took her to the emergency room and they couldn’t find anything wrong with her.”
While doctors proceeded to run tests to find a diagnosis, Sister McKee remained in the hospital all Thanksgiving Day because of her weak state and severe pain. During this time, the oxygen level in her bloodstream dropped into a threatening range, which led doctors to investigate her in the intensive care unit. There, they were able to reach a diagnosis.
“(On) Friday the doctor came in and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but your wife has had a heart attack.’ I said, 'She’s had a heart-attack?’ ‘Yes, yesterday.’ And I couldn’t believe him,” President McKee said.
Out of necessity, Sister McKee underwent heart surgery that Saturday morning, which appeared to have gone well. During the surgery, doctors discovered a blockage in one of her stents, and they replaced it with a new one.
“As I wheeled her out of the room after heart surgery she gave me a little ‘I love you’ sign and she couldn’t really speak — she had a lot of machines hooked up to her,” President McKee said. (The doctor) looked at me and said, 'She’s going to do great.’ ”
But after the hospital staff set her up in a room after the surgery, Sister McKee went into cardiac arrest.
“She really died on us,” President McKee said. “They brought in lots of help to revive her (they worked) on her about 20-25 minutes and revived her back.”
After Sister McKee’s cardiac arrest, her body was unresponsive. The hospital staff agreed that she needed rest after what she had been through the past couple days, but when she continued in her unresponsive state through Sunday morning, doctors took her in for a CT scan. The scan revealed more alarming news.
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