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Family rushes to Mexico to Stieben's side

10/28/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A Hays businessman is lying in a Mexico hospital in critical condition, his family at his side waiting for him to stabilized so he can be transferred to a U.S. hospital.

LaVerne Stieben, 61, part owner of Bieker Insurance Agency, suffered a heart attack early Tuesday morning while vacationing in Cancun with his wife, Dorothy Stieben.

The couple arrived in Cancun on Oct. 21, and Dorothy said she and her husband "had a great day on Monday." She said he didn't feel well when he went to bed but thought he had indigestion.

He awoke in the middle of the night sweating and uncomfortable, and Dorothy called a taxi for the Amerimed Hospital, where LaVerne was taken and is being treated by a team of doctors.

"He had a major heart attack," Dorothy said in a phone conversation from Cancun.

The nearest cardiologist was six hours away, and without the immediate access to heart catheterization, LaVerne's condition deteriorated.

Dorothy said her husband has had no known heart problems and undergoes a yearly physical.

"The only time he has had ever had surgery was when he had his wisdom teeth out," she said.

Family members are only able to visit LaVerne twice a day in ICU, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Dorothy said she is grateful that the couple's four children are able to be with her. All four arrived in Cancun on Thursday -- traveling from Hutchinson, Denver, Ness City and Hays -- to be with their parents.

"They have helped so much," Dorothy said, adding the language barrier "has made the situation even more difficult."

Dorothy said the family is consulting with some friends in the medical field in the U.S., noting LaVerne is in a medically induced coma.

An echo cardiogram on LaVerne on Friday revealed several blockage areas, Dorothy said, and pending a letter of guarantee from their insurance company, was hoping LaVerne could undergo a heart catheterization Saturday to release some of the blockage.

She said if LaVerne can be stabilized by this week, plans are to transfer him to a Houston hospital, where Dorothy expects him to undergo either open heart surgery or a heart transplant.

Dorothy said the entire ordeal has made her and her family more aware of standards of medical services back home that often are taken for granted.

"Our kids were talking about how this will make people think twice before they leave the country," Dorothy said.

"I am never leaving the country again," she adamantly added. "Never."

For now, the Stiebens are taking a day -- an hour -- at a time, in their attempt to return their husband and father back to the United States.

"We want to let all the people back home know how much we appreciate all the prayers and support," Dorothy said, "and that he's going to need a lot more prayers."