By Jennifer Gallus
HOWARD LAKE, MN Bud Dangers of Howard Lake is still living up to his last name. He’s been on the brink of death many times in his 81 years of life, and this last time he was technically dead before being brought back to life.
Dangers and his wife Carolyn were in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, and the right technology, in Wright County.
The couple was shopping in Buffalo last October. They had spent the morning doing odds and ends. They dropped off prescriptions at Walmart, then headed to Menards, then back to Walmart to pick up the prescriptions.
As they were about to leave the parking lot, Carolyn noticed that Bud’s breathing had changed.
“He started to breathe funny. He didn’t say a word,” Carolyn said. “I thought, ‘I can’t wait around here,’ so I headed right over to the hospital. I didn’t have time to think about anything else.”
Carolyn pulled up to the Buffalo Hospital, and as paramedic Bill Sandberg opened the car door to look at Bud, Carolyn told him she thought her husband was having a heart attack.
Sandberg took one look at the limp man, and yelled to Dr. Charlie Lick, who happened to be walking out the door, that he had a cardiac arrest patient.
“He had no pulse. He was not breathing. In all technical terms, he had expired,” Sandberg said.
Interestingly enough, Lick, who is the medical director of the emergency room at Buffalo Hospital, as well as the medical director of Allina Ambulance, was on his way to give a seminar about cardiac arrest to Sandberg’s colleagues for continuing education purposes.
“We’ve got a cardiac arrest right here,” Sandberg yelled to Lick.
Lick, in turn, yelled to staff inside the doors of the emergency room that a cardiac arrest patient was in the parking lot, and “everyone explodes out the door with all the equipment,” Sandberg said.
Heart-saving devices such as a rescue pod, an AED (automated external defibrillator), and a Lucas device were immediately employed, and were all essential to bringing Dangers back to life.
Buffalo Hospital is the first hospital in the state to use a rescue pod, explained Lick.
It’s a device that is placed on the airway, and increases blood flow and circulation. It also prevents hyperventilation during the CPR process by guiding the timing of airflow to the lungs.
The AED was used on Dangers to get his heart started again. He was shocked seven times before it started beating at a normal rhythm.
“It will shock the heart as many times as it needs to get the heart beating normally,” said Heart Safe Communities Coordinator Kelly Lewis.
Additionally, a new technology called a Lucas device, was employed on Dangers. It is an automated power CPR machine that performed CPR on Dangers for 50 minutes.
Buffalo Hospital has had the devices for about a year and a half, and when they first came out, the hospital received 10 of the first 50 demo Lucas devices, explained Lick.
“We’ve had 265 uses, and multiple patients saved with the Lucas device,” Lick said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he (Dangers) wouldn’t be here without it.”
Dangers’ body was chilled to 92º during all the life-saving measures in an attempt to “save his brain.”
“When the body goes into cardiac arrest, cells and tissues die,” Lick explained. “When the body is started back up, it releases free radicals that damage the brain. Cooling seems to interrupt this process.”
After Dangers was stabilized he was flown by helicopter to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. The Lucas device stayed on his chest, although not turned on, just in case it was needed en route.
Sudden cardiac arrest strikes about 1,000 people each day in the US. Almost all of them die.
Cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical malfunction of the heart, and is different from a heart attack.
The only effective treatment for cardiac arrest is electric shock to the heart, or defibrillation, and is most effective in the first three to five minutes.
A heart attack occurs when plaque or clots block blood flow to the heart, and the longer the blood flow is interrupted, the more extensive damage is done, according to Allina Hospitals & Clinics.
Dangers had a pacemaker prior to his ordeal, and has had a weakened heart ever since he was about 12 and fell into a lake during subzero temperatures, almost froze to death, and developed rheumatic fever.
He is now fitted with a pacemaker that also has an internal automated defibrillator that will shock his heart if it detects that the heart is going into an abnormal rhythm.
“People ask me if I felt it coming on,” Dangers said. “All I did was sit down in my car, and it was like a light switch.”
“But all summer I wasn’t feeling well, and I knew something was wrong,” Dangers explained.
In fact, he had gone to two different doctors last spring and summer before his October ordeal. Both doctors checked him out, as well as his pacemaker, and couldn’t find anything wrong.
“For that eight to 10 minutes that I was technically dead, everything seemed so peaceful. There was no pain. It was unreal,” Dangers said.
“I used to be afraid of dying, before this happened, but I’m not concerned about it now,” he added.
Dangers has gotten a lot of attention for his survival story. He’s been on Fox 9 News, and just last week he was on WCCO.
Meeting his rescuers
Also last week, he met the team of professionals who saved his life that day, and gave all of them “life saver” awards. Dangers, in turn, received a “survivor” award.
“It’s quite an ordeal to go through. Being 81 years old, and surviving this, it seems unreal,” Dangers said.
The Herald Journal wrote about the dangerous life of Dangers, and that story can be found in the Herald Journal archives under April 2008 at www.herald-journal.com.