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Sudden death cardiac arrest survivors attend event

Submitted photo Nineteen sudden cardiac arrest survivors recently attended the first annual Survivors Banquet and Re-birthday Celebration in Fergus Falls, Minn. Pictured are, front, from left, Tim Hoffman, Bruce Atterberg, Gene Johnson, Garry Frankel, Jerry Griffin and Izzy Mastel, of Jamestown; and back, from left, are Wayne Schneider, Art Stortrom, Larry Kimball, Tom Renville, Kevin Kent, Bruce Wizik, Ruth Nodsle, Al Bertke, Julia Werk, Dan Kerkvliet, Bill Timmerman, Bill Breth and Owen Thompson.

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

The longest-term survivor in attendance was Owen Thompson, who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest 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,” Thompson said. “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 10 years ago.

“We had to scrape across the entire country ten years ago to find 42 sudden cardiac arrest survivors,” Johnson said. “Today there are 22 in this room alone.”

Nationally 15,000 to 20,000 people survive sudden cardiac arrest each year, with the odds of surviving at 7 percent. “Survival rates are improving dramatically,” Johnson said. “But we have to keep pushing. As you can see long-term survival is possible.”

Izzy Mastel of Jamestown experienced sudden cardiac arrest 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,” Gorder said. “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, Minn.

“We have an opportunity to improve survival of SCA by engaging the public, business, health care 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 health care systems,” Fischer said.