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Cardiac arrest survivors attend ‘re-birthday’ event

Nineteen Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) survivors attended the first annual Survivors Banquet and Re-birthday Celebration recently in Fergus Falls. Front Row, left to right: Tim Hoffman, Bruce Atterberg, Gene Johnson, Garry Frankel, Jerry Griffin,Izzy Mastel. Back Row (L to R): Wayne Schneider, Art Stortrom, Larry Kimball, Tom Renville, Kevin Kent, Bruce Wizik, Ruth Nodsle, Al Bertke, Julia Werk, Dan Kerkvliet, Bill Timmerman, Bill Breth, Dr. Owen Thompson.

Long-term survival after sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is possible.

Nineteen SCA survivors from across the region gathered to share their stories at the first annual Survivors Banquet and Re-birthday Celebration at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls on Saturday, Feb. 15.

The longest-term survivor in attendance was Dr. Owen Thompson, who suffered a SCA in 1991.

“We owe the continued rising survival rate to increasing technology, but more importantly to EMT and ambulance companies willing to invest in having the new technology ready and available,” said Thompson.

“We need to continue to get more and more AEDs (automated external defibrillator) into rural communities.”

Gene Johnson, President of the Minnesota SCA Survivors Network, originated the group ten years ago.

“We had to scrape across the entire country ten years ago to find 42 SCA survivors,” Johnson said.

“Today there are 22 in this room alone.”

Nationally. 15,000 to 20,000 people survive SCA each year, with the odds of surviving at seven percent.

“Survival rates are improving dramatically,” Johnson continued. “But we have to keep pushing. As you can see long-term survival IS possible.”

“I’ve never felt better,” said Bruce Atterburg, SCA survivor from Battle Lake.

Atterburg went down while playing basketball at 7 am on March 4, 2011 at the Battle Lake high school gym. Fellow players Dr. Ted VanErp, Reverend Ed Borchert, and EMT Bryan Hodenfield recognized what was happening, applied CPR, and shocked him with an EAD. Ringdahl ambulance transported him to Fargo.

“By 10:15 a.m. I was sitting up in a hospital room with a new stent in my heart feeling like nothing ever happened,” said Adderburg.

“The true heroes in this situation were the three guys who saved my life and the school for purchasing an EAD.”

On Oct. 23, 2012 Dan Kerkvliet was on duty at the post office in Morris. One of his co-workers called 911 and reported that an employee was choking.

Officer Shane Nelson of the Morris Police Department was at the Court House nearby and was the first to respond to the 911 call. He recognized upon entry that Kerkvliet was in cardiac arrest and ran to his squad care to retrieve an EAD.

A single shock from the EAD restored pulse and respiration to Kerkvliet who has made a full recovery and is feeling great.

Izzy Mastel from Jamestown, North Dakota experienced a SCA while watching a movie with his family on March 9, 2013. Quick thinking from his wife, who started CPR, and his son-in-law Ross, who called 911, contributed to saving his life.

EMTs arrived on the scene within minutes and shocked him with an AED. Mastel came to and was told what was going on. Paramedic Juanita Gorder was on duty and rode in the transport to Bismarck.

“We had to shock him three more times on the way to Bismarck,” said Gorder. “The weather was horrible, too, so it took longer than it normally would, but we made it.”

Mastel was released from the hospital a week later and underwent heart surgery last fall. He reports feeling great now.

The recognition banquet, hosted by the Western Minnesota chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, was organized by Randy Fischer, who also serves as the Operations Director of Ringdahl EMS and CEO of RWF Enterprises and Stevens County EMS in Morris.

“We have an opportunity to improve survival of SCA by engaging the public, business, healthcare organizations, and private advocates to stress the importance of early access to 911, early CPR, early defibrillation, and early advanced life support care by EMS and local healthcare systems,” said Fischer.