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Pushing OnStar Saves the Day

Date:  March 14th, 2014

Contact/Phone:  Mary Muhlbradt
Phone: (701)857-5116
Fax: (701)857-5683

e-mail:   Mary Muhlbradt

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Jeannie Brekhus of Kenmare doesn't mind being called the lady who pushed OnStar. The popular car
safety system helped save her husband's life after he suffered a heart attack. It happened January 14th on a bitterly cold Friday.

“We were leaving Minot after a doctor's appointment and had just turned onto Broadway heading south,” Jeannie recalls. “Milton (her husband) was talking to me. Pretty soon I heard a strange sound.
I looked over at him and knew something wasn't right. He was shaking and gasping for air.”

She pushed OnStar to summon an ambulance and pulled her car to the side of Broadway near First Western Bank. The voice at the other end of OnStar asked if her husband was breathing. Jeannie said she didn't think so. So he directed her to take action, and at that point Jeannie had to muster all her strength.

“He told me to get out of my car and get (Milton) on a flat surface so I could start compressions. I was pretty hysterical. I told him, ‘I don't think I can get him out; I'm not strong enough!' He said, ‘You have to get him out — I don't care if you have to pull him by his feet!' Jeannie ran around the car and unbuckled Milton's seatbelt. “I grabbed him under the arms, pulled him out of the car and started compressions."

It was a cold day to be on the pavement, but Jeannie wasn't thinking about the weather. She'd had some first aid training but worried that she wasn't doing the compressions correctly. “Thank God for OnStar — he kept me grounded,” Jeannie noted. “It must have seemed weird, me yelling at my car and my car talking back to me.”

Within moments a couple of good Samaritans approached the scene to see if help was needed — first a man and then a woman who identified herself as a nurse. The woman assisted with the compressions. “One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story is because I don't know who those people are,” Jeannie said. “I'd really like to thank them.”

Soon a police responder arrived and Community Ambulance of Minot. Paramedics applied their advanced life
support skills and loaded Milton into the ambulance for the ride to Trinity Health's Emergency/Trauma Center. Luckily, Community Ambulance and Trinity had years earlier become some of the first providers in the nation to acquire LIFENET, a system that gives paramedics in the field 12-lead EKG capability so they can transmit cardiac information to a hospital emergency department.
Before Milton arrived at Trinity, doctors knew they were dealing with a STEMI — a type of heart attack caused by a sudden blockage of a coronary artery. With that diagnosis in hand, Trinity's heart team began readying the heart catheterization lab and summoned a cardiologist. But first they would
have to restart Milton's stubborn heart.

Jeannie rode in the ambulance to the hospital, where she was greeted by a chaplain. “I was shaking so bad when got to the hospital, but I don't think it was the cold. My adrenaline had me going so fast.” It was a stressful wait as doctors worked on Milton. Finally, Trinity Cardiologist Samir Turk, MD, FACC, emerged.

“Dr. Turk came out. I'm sure I wasn't breathing,” Jeannie recalls. “He said they got a pulse, and then he went back to the Cath Lab.”

Dr. Turk reopened Milton's artery with a balloon and inserted a coronary stent to help the artery stay open. And due to the stress that Milton's body had endured, doctors decided to
cool him down to help his body heal.

“Cardiac arrest stops blood flow and causes whole-body ischemia or cellular damage due to lack of oxygen,” noted Dr. Jeffrey Sather, Director of Trinity's Emergency Department.
“Providing therapeutic hypothermia (cooling of the body to 32 - 34o C) reduces metabolism and other key functions. This helps decrease cellular damage and preserve brain and other organ

Dr. Sather explained that therapeutic hypothermia is induced by sedating a patient and inserting a catheter into the central circulation with cool saline circulating through it. This is connected to a device called CoolGuard 3000, a device that precisely controls a patient's temperature. The patient is kept at the 32 - 34o C range for 24 hours and slowly rewarmed over a 24 hour period.

Milton did indeed awake with a chill. “I woke up in ICU feeling very cold,” he said, recalling his first memory. His wife and hospital staff gradually shared with him what all had happened. “My reaction was — How am I still here?”

In the time since his ordeal Milton has dealt with some symptoms related to his heart attack. But for the
most part he feels like he's on the mend. “I feel pretty good now,” he said. “I think I'll recover 100 percent; it'll take time.”

The experience has left its mark on the Kenmare couple. Life is more precious now, and they've made
some lifestyle changes.

What is their advice to others?
“If you experience any kind of warning signs, get checked out,” Milton said.

“I would say, get some first aid training,” Jeannie added. “I had taken CPR a few years earlier, and
because of Milton's job I knew about the change to focus more on compressions. I didn't worry about the breathing.”

Oh, yeah, Jeannie said: "Get OnStar." SPACE index.php