Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

An EMS success story

By Katrina Altenhofen

No one wakes up thinking, “wow, I hope something happens to me today to cause my heart to stop beating and 9-1-1 has to be called.”
Well, for John Palmer, that is exactly what happened, and I have been given the honor to share with you his story.
John and his family had been to a 4-H meeting the afternoon of Feb. 17.  His daughter gave her oral presentation on one-room schools as compared to modern schools.  They had just returned home and were preparing to eat supper.  John had opened up the refrigerator to get something to drink and collapsed on the kitchen floor face-first while doing so.  His wife found him right away and called 9-1-1 while his daughter helped to turn him over to see if he was breathing.  The  9-1-1 operator continued to speak with John’s wife and told her step by step what to do until EMS arrived.  Mark Miksch, a West Chester First Responder was at the home within five minutes and began to take over the chest compressions.  Other members of the West Chester unit arrived with the defibrillator before the ambulance arrived.  John was shocked with the defibrillator twice at home and five times in the ambulance on the way to Washington County Hospital Emergency Department.  Once he was stabilized to the point where he could safely be transported, the Washington County Ambulance transported John to the University of Iowa Emergency Department where he would later go into surgery to have an automatic internal defibrillator implanted in him.
What John had is known as Ventricular Fibrillation, which leads to sudden cardiac arrest.  If the patient is not found in time and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is not given the patient usually does not survive.   Like many, John have had no history of high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol problems, and  no prior warning symptoms.  John did not have any risk factors such as diabetes nor has he ever smoked.  The figures for survival of this disorder are daunting in themselves.  John  was told by a cardiac failure specialist that he is now in the 2 percent group that experience sudden cardiac arrest and actually live to tell about it.   
John spent four days in the University of Iowa Cardiac Intensive Care Unit before being transferred to the cardiac ward; and even though having had this life changing event, his prognosis for living a normal life is now good.    
For the Palmer family the EMS system worked-from the initial dialing of 9-1-1, the arrival of basic care providers, transport to appropriate health care facility by an advanced life ambulance service, administration of cardiac care and rehabilitative therapy. In Iowa EMS is not state-mandated; counties and communities do not have to provide such a service by law as they do fire and law enforcement.  As county and community budgets tighten, many EMS agencies are being cut from the county or community budget in an effort to save funds.  For most communities the members that provide the majority of the basic level health care and some at the advance level do so without compensation — they provide your emergency health care as a “volunteer.”  On Feb. 17, 2013, the Palmer family got to meet some of our county’s volunteer health care providers and will be forever grateful for those who did so.  John was told that without them, the outcome would have been very bleak.
2013 EMS Week is May 19-25. The theme this year is “One Mission One Team!”  Washington County is a rural county that has enjoyed for over 30 years an EMS system second to none.  Each small community within the county has a group of non-paid basic level emergency care providers willing and ready to answer the pager.  Some of these units need your help as they are dwindling in size and need others to get involved and become a part of stories such as John Palmer’s.  During EMS Week take time to thank those in your community who give of themselves to help us survive the day we never think will happen