Donn Trieloff isn’t allowed to go kayaking anymore without wearing a wetsuit.

The 65-year-old Cambridge man’s wife will “ground him” if he doesn’t wear one, Trieloff said.

Trieloff was not wearing a wetsuit March 27 when he fell out of his kayak into Badfish Creek in northern Rock County.


Donn Trielhoff of Cambridge is shown kayaking in this photo. Trielhoff fell out of his kayak into Badfish Creek on March 27 and developed hypothermia in the cold water.

A wetsuit might have prevented him from developing hypothermia, which landed him at Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville for three days, he said.

Trieloff was the first patient to benefit from Mercyhealth’s new warming equipment, said Yone Amuka, an emergency medicine physician at Mercyhealth.

Therapy with ZOLL’s Intravascular Temperature Management has replaced what Amuka considers an “archaic” way of warming patients whose body temperatures are dangerously low.


Trieloff has been an avid kayaker since he retired and had paddled dozens of times before the day he fell into the water.

He was trying out a new kayak that day. The craft was a bit shaky, and he fell out multiple times during the hours-long trip down Badfish Creek with a friend from college.

The air temperature reached 61 degrees, and Trieloff and his friend thought that was good enough for a day on the water. The duo did not consider the water temperature, which was their mistake, Trieloff said.

Trieloff’s clothes got soaked from falling in so many times. He didn’t realize how cold his body had gotten until he fell into Badfish Creek the last time and could not feel his legs, he said.

Trieloff’s friend tried to pull him out of the water but couldn’t. He called 911. First responders got Trieloff out of the creek, but he doesn’t remember anything between the time he fell in and the moment he woke up at the hospital.


The equipment used to save Trieloff offers a more efficient way of warming a body compared to what the hospital had used about eight months ago, Amuka said.

Emergency room doctors once warmed patients by passing warm water through catheters and chest tubes, he said.

With the new system, doctors insert one central line through the patient’s groin and about halfway up the person’s body. A warm saline solution flows in a circuit through the central line, warming the body slowly at about 1.6 degrees per hour, Amuka said.

Patients have to be warmed slowly to prevent further damage to the body, he said.

The new system is attached to a digital screen, where doctors can set a target temperature and monitor the patient’s temperature in real time, making it easier to hit a precise body temperature, he said.

The monitor will beep loudly if a patient’s temperature becomes too low or too high. That monitoring system frees up doctors and nurses to help others while it warms the patient, which could take 12 to 24 hours, according to a news release from Mercyhealth.

Back at it

Trieloff has continued to kayak since leaving the hospital, but he has exchanged the kayak he used March 27 for a new one, he said.

He has not experienced any residual effects since his hospital stay, but he did suffer a nasty bout of pneumonia, he said.

Trieloff now advises kayakers of all experience levels to check the water temperature before going kayaking and to wear a wetsuit, especially if the water is cold.

“I think the key thing is to not get too cocky,” he said.

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