On July 12, Clay Berger of Glasgow, Mont., was traveling through Minot when he suffered cardiac arrest. Every link in the "chain of survival" was present, from the 9-1-1 dispatcher to medical personnel who delivered treatment, and Berger's life was spared.
Berger held a recognition event Monday in Minot at Trinity Health in honor of the people who helped save his life.
"This was kind of an unusual case. I've been an EMT for 28 years, and I deal with cardiac arrest on a regular basis. I had no symptoms, except for a little bit of indigestion," Berger said.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN •
Clay Berger, left, thanks Minot Community Ambulance EMTS Steve Hall and Matt Merkel.
As Berger and his wife, Sherry, were traveling, he recalls asking her to pull over. He blacked out after that, slumping over in the car and falling out of his seat. Sherry, herself an EMT, knew the situation was critical.
"I knew I was in trouble, and something had to be done. I tried to flag people down on the road. I called 9-1-1, and the call got dropped," she said.
The 9-1-1 dispatcher was able to reconnect the call. Bystanders Layne and Charolette Shelkey helped out by providing an exact location for the dispatcher, because the Bergers were unfamiliar with the area.
Another individual who stopped, Col. Roosevelt Allen, commander of the 5th Medical Group at Minot Air Force Base, helped Sherry begin CPR.
"My training just kicked in, and I knew what had to be done," Sherry said.
Within three minutes, the Minot Fire Department arrived. Captain Lonnie Sather and crew members Steve Allan and Dustin Safranski took over CPR and utilized an automatic external defibrillator in an attempt to restart Berger's heart.
Community Ambulance then arrived within four minutes, with EMTs Steve Hall and Matt Merkel, who were able to deliver the shock that restarted Berger's heart.
"It's good to know there are people out there that know their training, and they know what to do in a case like this," Sherry said.
"I just wanted the community to know... if I would have been anywhere else, I wouldn't be here. It was just exceptional," Berger said.
Berger was transported to Trinity Hospital's ER within 11 minutes after the 9-1-1 call, where he was stabilized and placed under the care of cardiologist Dr. Samir Turk. For the next 72 hours, Berger was in intensive care, in an induced hypothermic state after stent placement in the left anterior descending artery.
The machine that kept him in the induced hypothermic state, the Coolgard, was purchased by Trinity about a year and a half ago. The machine helps patients who are post cardiac arrest.
"Cooling lets the body rest and heal, and it reduces oxygen intake of the body. It can help with healing, hopefully, it will mean that the heart and brain has less damage," Susann DeForest, nurse manager for Trinity's ER, said.
"The potential is there for it to be useful for many patients. When they come in during cardiac arrest, it's (use of the machine) something that's discussed and thought about," DeForest added.
Berger is now making a recovery. He put his experience in perspective, explaining that only 40 percent of cardiac arrests are in shockable rhythm, and CPR is needed immediately along with the use of an AED within 10 minutes of arrest. With use of an AED after 10 minutes of arrest, survival rates drop dramatically.
"The service across the board was just amazing. I'm very fortunate to be alive. I'm one of the lucky 40 percent," Berger said.
As a part of their recognition event, Clay and Sherry Berger, who are photographers, presented the individuals involved with Clay's rescue with photographs that they had taken in the Fort Peck and Medora areas.