Guardian Angels

Caring action by Mary Greeley and McFarland nurses provide life-saving help to a pregnant woman.

Jenny Hinegardner Allen with her infant daughter.

Jenny Hinegardner Allen with her infant
daughter, Emery, and (left) Rachel
Haugland, RN, and (right) Emily
Larsen, RN, the two nurses who provided
help to Jenny when she needed it most.

By Kelly Roberson

The funny thing was, Jenny Hinegardner Allen wasn’t even scheduled for an appointment that October day at Mary Greeley Medical Center. It was her husband, Denny Allen, who had been admitted for surgery. But during some routine questioning by the nurse, Rachel Haugland, RN, Denny jokingly mentioned that his wife—17 weeks pregnant at the time—had enough swelling for the both of them.

It had not been an easy first trimester for Jenny, who lives near Marshalltown and was pregnant with the couple’s third child. Severe pain in her leg had started early in the pregnancy; deep tissue tendinitis was the diagnosis and physical therapy— “excruciatingly painful,” says Jenny—was the prescription. But still, the swelling persisted, and Jenny was scheduled for an appointment the following day with her obstetrician.

A Startling Discovery

But when Jenny pulled up her pant leg that day, Rachel was stunned by what she saw. One ankle was twice the size—21 centimeters—larger than the other, and Jenny also mentioned shortness of breath.

“If you’re significantly pregnant you can have swelling in your legs, but that’s an even swelling,” says Rachel, who had been an obstetrics nurse before switching to ambulatory care. “Jenny wasn’t even far enough along to have swelling as a normal thing. I don’t think she understood how significant it could be.”

What Rachel knew was that Jenny’s swelling most likely indicated a circulation issue, and that she needed to see a doctor—immediately. “Rachel asked if I cared if she called the doctor, even though I insisted it was no big deal,” says Jenny. “She said it was a big deal and took it upon herself to get me in. She was so persistent that it wasn’t a normal pregnancy thing to be as short of breath as I was.”

Mary Greeley and McFarland Clinic nurses have a tight network, and Rachel was able to reach out to Emily Larsen, RN, an obstetrics nurse with the clinic. For some, it might seem as though Rachel went above and beyond the call of duty, but she sees it otherwise. Her job, she says, is to be a patient advocate. “Even though she wasn’t my patient, I felt like she was because she needed help,” says Rachel. “I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, and you see a lot of stuff. This is not common, but this was probably the most significant black-and-white, cause-and-effect type of thing I had ever seen.”

Immediate Attention

Within an hour, Jenny had had an ultrasound, which showed a deep vein thrombosis from her thigh to her ankle. In layman’s terms, the vein inside her leg was completely clogged. Jenny was admitted to the hospital and placed on blood thinners. Once released, she had to give herself injections twice a day.

For her part, Rachel realizes she may never see this exact scenario again, but it doesn’t matter. “You learn things through the years and you apply it to different situations, and it makes you a stronger and better nurse,” she says.

And Jenny—at home now with baby Emery—continues to be impressed by the staff at Mary Greeley. “I can’t say enough how grateful I am that Rachel took charge,” Jenny says. “My daughters would be motherless now, but she made sure I got the care I needed.”