Janesville man saves a life

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Sunday, April 18, 2010
— March 26 was an ordinary Friday that became extraordinary for four people on Janesville’s south side.

Don Guetschow had driven that morning with his wife, Kathy, known by many as “Sue,” from their Beloit Township home to their daughter Donna’s house in Janesville.

Donna Hanson had volunteered her van to haul cabinets her parents had ordered from Pewaukee.

Hanson drove. Don rode in the front passenger seat. Kathy was in the back. They had barely left the driveway when Don felt dizzy.

“That’s the last thing I remember,” he said.

Don’s head fell back. His mouth dropped open.

They tried to rouse him. Then they both were dialing 911.

“I just remember shaking so bad,” Hanson said.

“Both of us,” Kathy said.

They later learned Don had suffered “sudden cardiac death.”

Hanson drove about two blocks to get to Kellogg Avenue. She stopped in front of Our Savior Lutheran Church, where she figured the ambulance could find them easily.

The dispatcher advised the women to get Don out of the van, lay him on the ground and start CPR.

Don is 6 feet tall and 192 pounds. The women knew they’d never get him safely to the ground. They ran into the street and flagged down a pickup truck.

Alex Craker had just left home and was on his way to school at Blackhawk Technical College.

He pulled over when he saw the women waving their arms.

They had stopped the right guy.

Craker is big and strong, and his last CPR class was in February. It’s a requirement at his job at Aggregate Produced Products, a sand and gravel supplier in Evansville.

Craker graduated last spring from Parker High School, where he wrestled as a heavyweight and played offensive line on the football team.

Craker didn’t hesitate. He pulled Don from the van as Hanson cradled her father’s head.

“I said, ‘Do you know CPR?’ He said, yes, he did,” Kathy said.

Craker began compressions as Don lay on the grass. Hanson heard her father’s ribs crack. Paramedics soon arrived and took over.

“He stayed the entire time while they worked on my dad and comforted us,” Hanson said.

Later, Hanson heard from several medical professionals that Craker had saved Don’s life.

Doctors induced a coma and later installed an internal defibrillator. Don seems to be recovering nicely.

Craker joined the Guetschows at their home Thursday and met a conscious Don for the first time.

Don was feeling well enough to get out of his armchair to give Craker a hug. Smiles filled the living room as they talked about the fateful day.

“The only unpleasant part about this is I have two broken ribs,” Don said good-naturedly. “They told us that’s the only way you can do it (CPR) right.”

Don, 82, is retired from Beloit Corp. He and Kathy have four children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren who all are grateful.

Don said Craker’s actions show that young people aren’t as bad as some people make them out to be.

“I never thought that because I’ve had pretty good kids, even grandkids. They’re respectful to adults, and they respect their peers, and that’s a great thing,” Don said.

Hanson can’t get over her good fortune.

“You never know how you’re going to react in a situation like that. You hope you do the right thing and the right people help you out,” she said.

“We were just lucky.”

Last updated: 1:34 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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