By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN “Five-and-a-half years ago, I survived a cardiac arrest.”
As Lisa Koenecke spoke those words Wednesday morning, Delano High School students were reminded that life and death scenarios can happen to anyone anytime, anywhere.
Koenecke doesn’t remember the day her heart stopped, but it’s a day Beverly Lindenfelser won’t ever forget. Koenecke had been working at the chamber of commerce in downtown Delano, and Lindenfelser was at a business down the hall.
“I heard a crash, and I’m thinking Lisa dropped something,” Lindenfelser recalled.
She yelled a joke to Koenecke, telling her to “keep it down. I’m trying to get some work done here.” She expected Koenecke to respond, “Since when?” but instead, there was silence.
Concerned, Lindenfelser got up and went to check on her.
“That’s when I found her under her desk,” Lindenfelser said.
She immediately called 911, and Delano volunteer firefighter Jason Dreger (whose office was less than two blocks away) arrived at the scene.
He determined that Koenecke’s airways were open, but she had no pulse. He performed chest compressions (hands-only CPR) and gave her two shocks with an AED.
“We’d get a pulse, and then we’d lose her again,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘here I am working on a woman who is probably my age most likely a wife and mother. I wanted to make sure she got home to her family.”
As a fit 45-year-old, Koenecke always seemed like a “picture of health,” according to Lindenfelser.
“I certainly wouldn’t have guessed it to be a heart attack,” she said.
Although the average age for a first heart attack is 66 for men and 70 for women, younger people like Koenecke can also be at risk.
The day of her cardiac arrest, she was transported to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, where her body temperature was lowered to 92 degrees (reducing the brain’s need for oxygen). According to a Feb. 20 ABC News article, studies have shown that cooling cardiac arrest patients is an effective way to reduce brain damage and increase survival rates.
“Doctors told my family I might not live, and if I did, I might not have brain function,” Koenecke said.
Loved ones prayed and waited. Three days later, doctors slowly began raising Koenecke’s body temperature.
“After eight days in the hospital, I was able to start my recovery at home,” Koenecke said.
Today, Koenecke is enjoying life with her husband, two sons (a freshman and junior at DHS) and daughter (a junior in college).
“I’m so thankful to have a second chance to be a wife, mother, daughter, and sister, and I praise God for that,” she said. “My cardiologist says I’m a miracle.”
Be ready to help
Cardiac arrest is almost always fatal, but early intervention can greatly increase the person’s chance of survival.
“Doing something is better than nothing,” said Dr. Kevin Sipprell, emergency medicine physician at Ridgeview.
He urges everyone to take a CPR-training class, and also recommends a training video on the Ridgeview website. To see the video, follow the link at www.delanoheraldjournal.com.
Students at DHS received training for compression-only CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) usage Wednesday morning, with the help of the fire departments/ambulance services of Delano, Loretto, Montrose, Waverly, Howard Lake, Maple Lake, and Cokato; the Ridgeview Medical Center; the Delano Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT); and other health professionals.
Students were taught two simple steps if they see an adult collapse: call 911, and push hard and fast on the center of the person’s chest.
Chest compressions should be continued until the ambulance arrives, at about 100 compressions per minute (to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive”).
While doing the compressions, the rescuer should instruct a second person to get an AED. At Delano High School, AEDs are located by the Tiger activity center and outside the auditorium. They are also available at city hall and area churches.
AEDs are simple to use, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Sticky pads with sensors are attached to the patient’s chest, which sends information to a computer about the patient’s heart rhythm. If an electric shock is needed, the AED uses a voice prompt to tell the rescuer exactly what to do.
People should not be afraid to help if they see someone having a cardiac arrest, according to Sipprell.
“Someday it could be a family member or friend, and you could save their life,” Koenecke added.