Janesville50°

Emergency medical technicians' efforts provide Milton man with a new chance at life

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Catherine W. Idzerda
September 20, 2010
— For a guy who was seconds from death a week ago, Don Trumbull looks pretty good.

Good enough, in fact, to spend part of his weekend thanking the men and women from the Milton Fire Department and EMS who saved him.


Trumbell, 53, his wife, Pam, his children, Kristine, 15, and Matthew, 21, and other family members gathered Saturday afternoon at the Milton Fire Department for a group photo, hugs and the presentation of a letter to the staff.


Don, who is in the Army Reserves, recently returned from his third tour overseas. He’s a sergeant first class with the 940th Movement Control Team out of Fort Sheridan, Ill.


He’s on military leave from his regular job as a Janesville postal carrier.


The story of his second life starts last Sunday, when he was outside splitting wood.


“I was at home, working, and I started to have all the symptoms,” he said. “My wife said, ‘We better take you to Mercy.’”


After driving less than a quarter of a mile, his wife decided to return home and call 911.


“It’s a good thing she did,” Don said.


An engine and ambulance from the Milton Fire Department started their trip to Mercy Hospital with Pam and Kristine following in their car.


Don remembers looking up at the lights inside the ambulance and then waking up in the emergency room.


Somewhere, on a county road between the Trumbell home and Mercy Hospital, Don’s heart stopped dead.


That’s when the EMTs went to work.


For 27 minutes, Don had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.


For 27 minutes, Milton EMTs performed the series of chest compressions and breaths referred to as CCR.


Twenty-seven minutes of circulating Don’s blood through his body for him, keeping the oxygen moving to his brain, keeping his body alive and his brain intact.


And then, Trumbell woke up in the emergency room, and his family learned that his main artery was almost completely clogged.


Doctors put in a stent and he was released two days later, walking, talking and without any neurological damage.


“I can’t tell you how blessed I feel,” Don said.


Rearranging resuscitation

Don survived because of the heroic persistence of EMTs—and because they used a newer form of resuscitation called CCR.


CCR, or cardio cerebral resuscitation, requires two breaths for every 30 chest compressions. CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, uses two breaths for every 15.


Mercy Hospital’s Dr. Michael Kellum, who has lead the effort to bring CCR to the EMTs of Rock and Walworth counties, has described the procedure as “reorganization of resuscitation.”


“We didn’t do anything new. We just reorganized and reprioritized already existing interventions,” Kellum told the Gazette in a December 2008 story about the procedure.


For years, people thought that a person whose heart stops needs to be breathing.


But the body has all the oxygen it needs inside. It’s just not going anywhere when the heart stops, Kellum said.


Continuous chest compressions distribute the oxygen to the two organs that count—the brain and the heart, he said.


The brain is “much more” sensitive to a lack of blood flow than the heart, he said.


Happy to be here

CCR or CPR probably doesn’t matter to Don or his family. They’re just happy to have him back.


Greg Trumbell, Don’s brother, organized Saturday’s thank you ceremony.


In his letter to the department, which is signed by all the family members, Trumbell wrote that the 27 minutes of resuscitation and the six defibrillar shocks showed a determination to bring Don back to life, just as if he was a member of the responders’ own families.


Special thanks went to Jake Kuehne, Mike Soehner, Janna Drew, Amy Roehl, Nick Roehl, John Kuash, Aaron Reed and Lt. Travis McAfee.



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