Family and friends rally for East Sider with heart trouble

47-year-old Wendy Kichler has spent three months in the hospital recovering from a catastrophic aortic dissection. Her daughter Mindy and some long-time friends have pulled together to help her out and make sure she can keep up with bills. (submitted photo)

Benefit for Wendy Kichler scheduled July 19

Life-long East Sider Wendy Kichler has run into some bad luck.

On April 14, 2014, while the 47-year-old was working a front desk for an airline at the Minneapolis - St. Paul Airport, she out of the blue suffered a severe heart attack, known as an aortic dissection. An artery had clogged and burst open.

She went to United Hospital in St. Paul where she spent eight hours fighting for her life during intricate open-heart surgery.

After that surgery she was moved to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, where she’s gone through a flurry of medical emergencies. She experienced kidney failure, acute lung distress, cardiac arrests, two strokes, and another heart surgery to insert a permanent device that controls the left side of her heart.

July 14 marks three months in the hospital, and the bills are piling up. Her recovery looks to be a slow one - she has short-term memory problems and will likely need 24-hour care for at least a month once she’s out of the hospital.

So, rather than see the single mother go it alone, her friends have stepped up to help.

Pulling together a benefit

Her daughter, Mindy, and long-time friend Jenny Poppo, with the help of other family and friends, are orgaizing a fundraiser to help Kichler pay bills while she’s in the hospital and working on rehabilitation. The theme will be “have a heart.”

Tickets for the Saturday, July 19 benefit cost $10 and the event runs from 2 to 10 p.m. at the American Legion Post No. 39, 2678 E. Seventh Ave. in North St. Paul.

Though Kichler has medical insurance, that doesn’t cover all her expenses.

The goal of the benefit: “alleviate some of the stress of how she’s going to pay her rent ... her utilities,” Poppo said.

Poppo said the crew behind the benefit is “aiming for a year of being able to pay (Kichler’s) bills so she can focus on therapy.”

“It’s been about a full-time job helping coordinate the benefit,” Poppo said.

Thankfully she hasn’t been working single-handedly. Between Kichler’s only daughter and other friends and family, she’s got an entourage of volunteers working on her behalf.

“It’s been amazing the amount of people that have been helping,” Poppo said. “She’s got a lot of friends, and they’re all helping with donations and selling admissions tickets, getting food portions donated.”

Abundant support

Kichler seems honored by the efforts being made on her behalf.

When Poppo told her they’d be holding the benefit, Kichler was surprised and grateful.

“I broke down crying,” Kichler recalled. “Nobody’s ever shown me so much kindness. ... I didn’t know I had so many people who care about me.”

Though her short-term memory is fairly foggy, she reports the days are getting better. She’s been able to sit up in a wheelchair for the past couple weeks, and she has more energy.

Seated in a wheelchair in a hospital room overlooking a park, with her grandson and daughter nearby, she seemed in good spirits. She talked confidently, despite a shaky voice, and managed to project a positive attitude, despite the challenges that face her.

But she’d still rather be in her own house, with her own stuff, and her own bed, she was keen to note. So she and Mindy are pulling for her to go through rehab and eventually end up back in her East Side house, which she rents.

“The East Side’s always been my home,” she said. It’s a part of her to the extent that she’d put it in ink -- she’s got an East Side tattoo on her back.

Daughter by her side

Critical to Kichler’s recovery has been the persistent presence of her 25-year-old daughter, whom Kichler raised as a single mother.

Mindy cut down her hours at her job at the airport in order to be able to be there for her mother.

“It’s definitely been a role reversal,” she said. “I had to make some really big decisions for her from the beginning.”

The start of her mother’s hospital stay was especially challenging, she said, and there were points where it wasn’t clear whether Kichler was going to survive. She was unconscious in a medically induced coma for the first six weeks in the hospital, and with all the complications, “it was one emotional rollercoaster after another.”

Now, Wendy is focusing on rehabilitation, in hopes of transferring from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility.

While Wendy works on getting better, a group has been meeting weekly to prepare for the July 19 benefit.

Poppo said she and Wendy have been friends for decades, and their supportive friendship made the idea to hold a benefit very obvious.

“She’s been in my life for so many years,” Poppo said. “She would do it for any of us.”

To donate to help Kichler with her expenses, donate at any Wells Fargo to “Team Wendy fund” or visit, or go to

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at

If you go...

Tickets for the Saturday, July 19 benefit cost $10 and the event runs from 2 to 10 p.m. at the American Legion Post No. 39, 2678 E. Seventh Ave. in North St. Paul.

The event will include a spaghetti dinner, kids activities, a silent auction, a DJ, a bake sale, and more.

There will also be photos of Kichler displayed. The theme of the party is “have a heart.”


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