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Men get 'gift of life' after cardiac episodes at Y

Dec. 12, 2012

City of Oconomowoc - Thanks to the quick actions of staff, emergency responders and hospital teams, two men are recovering after suffering cardiac episodes in back-to-back emergencies that took place recently at the YMCA at Pabst Farms.

On Tuesday night, members of the Oconomowoc Fire Department and representatives from the Y and both Aurora Summit and Oconomowoc Memorial hospitals met to recount the events and to emphasize how clear communication among all parties helped to result in favorable outcomes.

Lt. Carolyn Oddsen introduced the meeting by reminding those involved that while they all advocate for patients, with these lifesaving events so close to the holidays "you gave them the gift of life."

First emergency

At about 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, a 79-year-old man collapsed in the upstairs fitness center.

Peggy Loomis, aquatics director at the YMCA, said another member (who is not being identified), who happened to be a member of the National Ski patrol at Highlands of Olympia, reacted quickly and began administering CPR to the man.

"By the time I got up there, he was looking better," Loomis said.

"The gentleman with the ski patrol continued chest compressions until the EMTs arrived," she added.

"I was more in a supervisory role, making sure the peripheral things were done," Loomis said.

Firefighter/paramedic Adam May said that the when they arrived, "I looked at this dude, and he's pink; that's great." May noted that the man's skin color was indicative of the man's condition.

However, as a reaction to the procedure, the man became combative with the paramedics.

"He was kicking out butts," laughed May, who said several firefighters had to hold the man down while a medication was administered to calm the man down.

Dr. Tom Dietrich, an emergency room physician at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, spoke highly of the work done by the Fire Department personnel.

"They did a really amazing job. This 79-year-old man had a strong cardiac history. You guys did all the heavy lifting on this," he told the group.

"Most likely he had a bad heart muscle to begin with, but he walked out of the hospital three days later, and he was doing great when he left," the doctor added.

Leidel lauded the Y for its clear communication to the department, and directing responders to the patient.

Loomis said Y staff reacted well, and she said she remembers thinking how seldom these types of emergencies occur, and thought it would be some time before it happened again. But she was wrong.

Second time around

Just a day later, at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 when an 84-year-old man collapsed near the therapy pool area.

"My office looks out at the pool," Loomis said.

The aquatics director raced out to the patient. "There were five pool staff in the immediate area, and we traded off (giving CPR)", she explained.

"It was all very automatic for me; that's what we hope for," Loomis added.

"Nobody was finding a pulse," Loomis said, adding that when emergency responders arrived they gave the patient injections of adrenaline before getting a rhythm again.

She said it was less than 10 minutes from the time the man collapsed and staff called 911 until paramedics arrived.

There was such "joy when they got a pulse started," Loomis said.

May lauded the Y staff for its response to the situation.

"We knew exactly where to go," he said, noting that they were directed to a door that eliminated the need to circle through the front of the building.

"Staff was giving CPR, they had tarps set up to prevent gawkers, and we just came in and took over. It worked out to be the best-case scenario," May said.

"No doubt about it. The CPR you did before we got there is why he had a return to life," he added.

The patient was transported to Aurora, where he was given treatment to cool his body down.

Debra Brooks, emergency room educator at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, explained that experiencing a cardiac arrest with a decrease of oxygen to the brain frequently leads to severe neurological impairment.

"What they found in research is that hypothermia increases the rate of neurological recovery," she said.

The patient is currently in rehab and has some short-term memory loss, but continues to recover.

OFD firefighter and paramedic Kami Warren is a relative of the patient.

"He's my great-uncle," she explained, adding, "He is doing very well."

She said that as she was leaving the hospital after visiting him, the patient's son took her arm and asked her to thank everyone involved. Because of their actions, "we'll have Christmas with our dad," he told her.

Working together

OFD Deputy Chief Glenn Leidel praised the YMCA staff for the way they handled the medical episodes.

"Both times they knew the shortest access routes. All the emergency procedures the Y put in place really paid off," he said.

He said staff provided instant records of the patient's name and efforts that transpired before emergency personnel's arrival.

Leidel said that in addition to their department, members of Lake Country Fire and Rescue also were on hand to help.

"It says a lot about a community and how it works together. This is a textbook example of how it should happen, and it happened twice," said Al Davies, EMS coordinator at Aurora Medical Center in Summit.

Dietrich, who has been with OMH for nine years, said he has been impressed with "the level of professionalism I have seen out here," between crews and other agencies.

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