Emergency Surgery Saves Katie's Life

Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital doctors saved Katie Utts from bleeding to death with emergency surgery

Northwestern University graduate student savors graduation after health crisis

Last Christmas, Kellogg School of Management student Katie Utts was looking forward to her final two quarters of school and planning for her professional life after graduation when a health crisis struck swiftly and with no warning. In a case unlike any her doctors had ever seen, emergency surgery was performed by a team of physicians at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital immediately. Thankfully, Katie left the hospital two days later healthy and with no long-term effects.

Utts’ remarkable story began at her parents’ home in Lake Forest when she awoke in the middle of the night with terrible stomach pains and an alarming shortness of breath. Her parents drove her to the emergency department at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, where she was given a general exam and her mother’s obstetrician/gynecologist, Jill Holden, MD, was called to consult. Holden was already at the hospital that day and was in the emergency department within minutes of being called upon to evaluate Utts and perform an ultrasound.

Then, things started to move even more quickly for Utts as the severity of the problem became clear. Upon review of the ultrasound, Holden called in gynecology/oncology surgeon Herbert Beck, MD, to read and consult on the ultrasound report. They determined she needed surgery immediately and took her to the operating suite to be prepped for surgery.

“Katie was bleeding to death,” said Beck. “We knew we had to perform surgery to find the source and stop the bleeding. There was no other option.”

When the anesthesiologist arrived, Utts and her mother Joy were relieved and emotional to see a physician they all knew, Mark Steveson, MD. Utts had known Steveson since she was a child, when she had carpooled with his children to preschool.

“As I reflect on this tremendously scary experience, the moment Dr. Steveson arrived really captures what a community hospital is,” said Joy Utts, Katie’s mom. “Dr. Steveson greeted us as a physician and also as a friend, and I knew in that moment that we were in the best possible place for Katie’s health.”

Beck and Holden performed surgery, with colorectal surgeon John Andrews, MD, observing. What they found stunned them all: two liters of blood from an external uterine fibroid gathering around organs. “In my 30 years of practice I have never seen a uterine tumor bleeding like this,” said Beck.

The team removed the blood and removed a six cm mass on the back of the uterus that was sent to pathology and tested negative for cancer.

“You can imagine our relief after the surgery and when we received the negative results from pathology,” said Joy Utts. “We were incredibly impressed with the care Katie received at Northwestern Lake Forest. Everyone lined up and did what they needed to do to save our daughter’s life.”

Two days after surgery Utts went home, and within two weeks had moved back into her apartment in Evanston and begun classes for her winter quarter at Northwestern. She credits the team at Northwestern Lake Forest for saving her life.

“Everyone gave me the best care possible,” said Utts, “I am very grateful for the entire team, from my nurse, Vincent, who held my hand and kept me calm as they wheeled me to the operating room, to the physicians who made the right decisions quickly that saved my life.”

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