By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN When Christina Clark went to her son’s basketball game at Watertown-Mayer Middle School Jan. 9, she never expected to help save a man’s life that day.
“It all happened really quickly,” she said.
Clark had been serving as statistician during the eighth-grade game when she saw a referee from the seventh-grade game on the next court sprinting. She could tell he was no longer refereeing the game.
“Something’s wrong,” Clark remembers saying.
She quickly saw the reason for the referee’s panic. Another referee, Phil Hanson, had collapsed due to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Clark shouted for medical personnel and an automated external defibrillator (AED) while rushing to the man’s side. Another person at the game, Craig Anderstrom of Watertown, also ran over, dialing 9-1-1 on his cell phone.
Within 30 seconds, the AED pads had been placed on Hanson’s chest. Anderstrom did chest compressions, while Clark handled the AED prompts.
Meanwhile, Sarah Maus of Watertown performed mouth-to-mouth.
The Ridgeview Medical Center website notes that “when Ridgeview Ambulance paramedics Aaron Hoover and Jeff Hasse arrived just minutes later, Hanson was breathing again as a result of the care provided by his three rescuers.”
After the incident, Clark didn’t think she had really done much to help, but a friend helped her realize that in an emergency situation, each person has a different role.
“Every little part counts,” Clark said. “. . . It was a team effort from getting the AED to us so quickly, to starting chest compressions and breaths, to having the EMTs onsite within a few minutes of our ref going down. Everyone helped out in both communities. We had a friend getting the door and showing the EMS team which gym to go to, as well as a note taker.”
Clark, Anderstrom, and Maus were awarded the Citizen Lifesaving Award at the Watertown City Council meeting April 10. They had an opportunity to meet with Hanson during the ceremony, and Clark said it was great to be able to see that he was doing better.
The Jan. 9 event wasn’t Clark’s first time successfully saving someone after a cardiac arrest.
About five years ago, she and a friend had been out for a run, when one of Clark’s neighbors met them at the end of his driveway. He shouted to them, asking if they knew CPR. Clark ran over to the patient, and was able to help until medical professionals arrived.
People might think they wouldn’t know what to do in an emergency situation, but Clark said it is possible to educate yourself. She recommends looking at community education brochures to find classes on CPR or first aid, and becoming familiar with AED locations.
“When you go to an event, look around for an AED,” she said, explaining that the devices help save lives and are easy to use.
Clark and her husband have AEDs in the Snap Fitness centers they own along Highway 12, from Dassel to Delano.
Before becoming a gym owner, Clark spent about 10 years working as a flight attendant. Although she handled various medical situations, she never encountered a cardiac arrest situation until after she left that job.
In the Jan. 9 incident, Clark said she is just glad she and others were there to help.
“Everyone worked so well together,” she said.