Clintonville woman alive today because of friends’ concern

Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Grace Kirchner From left, Carol Theken, Gail Cowden and Cherry Shauger are thankful for friends and family. Theken is thankful to Cowden and Shauger for saving her life.

Each Thanksgiving, Carol Theken is grateful for a crucial phone call from her sister thousands of miles away and the quick action of a dear friend that probably saved her life.

Theken woke up on the morning of Nov. 17, 2002, feeling quite like normal. She usually went to play bingo at the casino, but this Sunday morning she decided to stay at home in Clintonville and watch the Packer game. As she went to take a shower, she started to have an unusual feeling in her chest, sort of like scrubbing walls. Then the sensation moved to under her arms and back. She began to sweat profusely.

The phone rang, and it was Theken’s sister, Cherry Shauger, calling from Taiwan. Shauger, who was an English teacher, called family and friends from time to time, and this day she had decided to check in with Theken.

“I called Carol to see what was going on and to say hi. When I asked Carol how she was, she responded by saying she didn’t feel quite right — just not like she usually felt. This was unusual for her, and it scared me. I told her she should call the doctor, and she said no,” Shauger recalled.

“After I hung up, I decided to call our longtime friend, Gail Cowden, of Embarrass. Gail was teaching Sunday School at the time, so I told her daughter Avery to tell her mother to check on Carol when she got home,” Shauger said.

Avery Cowden sensed Shauger’s concern for her sister. So she drove to church, took over the Sunday School class and sent Gail Cowden to check on Theken.

“I looked at Carol, and I thought she was having a stroke, similar to what my mother had had. I told her I needed to call 911. Carol didn’t want me to. She said she just didn’t feel well and was sweating,” said Cowden.

Theken recalled things were getting fuzzy at this point. She agreed to speak with an on-call nurse who, after asking Theken some questions, asked to speak to Cowden and directed her to call 911. Even though Theken objected, saying she didn’t want her neighbors to see the ambulance and know something was wrong, paramedics arrived to check her vitals and transport her to the hospital in Shawano.

Shauger was getting anxious to know how Theken was doing. When she called again from Taiwan, she was told Theken was having a heart attack.

“I couldn’t ride with the ambulance. So I stopped at home to tell my family what was going on, and I headed to the Shawano hospital,” Cowden recalled. “When I got there, Carol was all hooked up and they were giving her some medicine. Still, Carol was resisting. She wanted the doctors to talk to her son who is a dentist in Texas.”

Theken was transported to Appleton Medical Center, where she stayed for several days. She was then instructed to go home, rest and prepare for bypass surgery.

Within a few days, Shauger was able to fly back to the States to visit Theken and be with her for the Dec. 12 surgery, along with another sister, Cindy Thorne, and Theken’s daughter, Deanna Posig.

Her friends from the Clintonville School District, where she had been employed, took turns staying with her after surgery. She said she is grateful for their help during her recovery and road to a healthier lifestyle.

“I had smoked for over 40 years, and I was afraid I might have lung cancer. My friends and family cleaned out all the cigarettes and washed the walls in my mobile home,” Theken said. “I no longer smoke.”

Theken, now 77, gets emotional when she recalls that fateful day a decade and a half ago.

“I regret all the grief I caused for Gail and all my friends and family,” Theken said as her eyes teared. “They have given me 15 years of life.”