Heart to heartThe joy of helping others has always been dear to Ruth Nodsle’s heart. When that heart suddenly stopped beating one day in June, she was saved by the same caring spirit that she had administered for years.
By: By Marit Aaseng, Intern Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
The joy of helping others has always been dear to Ruth Nodsle’s heart. When that heart suddenly stopped beating one day in June, she was saved by the same caring spirit that she had administered for years.
When Nodsle became a founding member of the Carlos First Responders, she volunteered her time to save lives, never expecting that one day that very unit would save her own.
A call to respond
In 1985, Terri Toenjes approached both Nodsle and her soon-to-be husband, Roy, with her fledgling idea of developing a first responder unit in Carlos. They both agreed to volunteer.
“Everything was brand new at the time – how to become a responder, how to introduce the idea to the community and how to get the word out,” said Nodsle.
A medical secretary by trade, she had previously received training in CPR and first aid. So had Roy, as a fireman. However, becoming a certified first responder required even more specialized training in crash injury management and other life-saving skills. They soon completed the more than 40 hours of training, and jumped into action, helping others.
During the first year of operation the unit received about one emergency call a month, but over the 18 years that Nodsle served, the number grew to an average of two a week. During these countless calls, the team offered invaluable assistance.
“There were so many calls where because we were there, and because of our training, we made a difference in people’s lives,” said Nodsle.
The indescribable feeling of having saved a life is something that Nodsle and other first responders share.
Although Nodsle left the Carlos First Responders several years ago, the unit was far from through impacting her life.
Saved in a heartbeat
The morning of June 16 was an ordinary one for the Nodsle family, with no indication of the danger that the day had in store.
Nodlse and her oldest daughter, Kelly Solum, started the day in a healthy way – swimming at the local YMCA before heading home for lunch.
That is when the chest pains struck.
The sudden and unrelenting pressure in Nodsle’s chest was soon followed by pain in her left arm and nausea – trademark symptoms of a heart attack that were apparent to Nodsle thanks to her training and experience. Her daughter quickly called 911.
Within two minutes, Carlos first responders Chris Hanson and Rick Zwieg were at the door, ready to help.
The memory of what happened next is hazy to Nodsle.
While Hanson and Zwieg were asking her some basic questions, she collapsed onto the kitchen floor – no breathing and no pulse. She was in cardiac arrest.
The two men started CPR instantly. Within a couple of minutes they detected a trace of a heartbeat, but the use of a defibrillator was still necessary. An ambulance soon arrived to transport Nodsle to Douglas County Hospital. Hanson accompanied the ambulance crew to continue to assist in the rescue.
Over the course of events, Nodsle was shocked more than six times to reestablish a heartbeat. She was resuscitated at the hospital, and then taken by helicopter to St. Cloud where she received further treatment and therapeutic hypothermia.
Four days later, Nodsle woke up. She had survived, and was on track for a good recovery.
Nodsle’s life was saved by a combination of many things – but when asked if she believed the Carlos First Responders saved her life, she replied, “in a heartbeat.”
Early recognition, early CPR, early defibrillation and early advanced care are keys to the chain of survival for cardiac arrest. Thanks to the first responders, Nodsle received all of this crucial care.
“I am so lucky,” she said. “If the circumstances had been different, who knows what might have happened, but all of these things just fell into place. Someone is definitely watching out for me.”
Nodsle’s road to recovery has been “slow but steady.” She had a pacemaker implanted, is undergoing cardiac rehab and is doing well. Thanks to her swift treatment she also lost very little memory during her medical crisis. The cause for her cardiac arrest is still unknown – she has no history of high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
After everything is said and done, Nodsle feels indebted to her rescuers. On August 11 she was able to help honor Hanson and Zwieg as they were awarded lifesaving awards at the Carlos City Council meeting for their role in Nodsle’s rescue.
“Emotionally, I was really glad to be able to tell them thank you,” said Nodsle. “This rescue really hit home for them, as my neighbors and fellow first responders. How can I ever pay them back for all they did?”
Nodsle’s journey with the Carlos First Responders has gone full circle – a lifesaver’s life saved by the very group she helped to found.
Need for responders
First responders operate on an entirely volunteer basis – it is a job centered on helping others, not money.
The impact that these volunteers can have on a life, such as Nodsle’s, is obvious. However, at this time there are only five first responders on the Carlos team. They are in great need of more.
“You only have four to six minutes to start CPR,” said Nodsle. “Having more people on the team will allow a faster response and could give someone else the chance I had.”
According to Hanson, the only member currently available to handle calls from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., a person must go through extensive training in order to become a first responder. They then must apply for membership with a first responder group, and if accepted, they can serve. From then on they must regularly undergo training, and recertify every two years.
“There are new technologies, new devices and new methods being tested every day, so it’s an ongoing learning process,” said Hanson. “We would pretty much jump through hoops for everyone who wants to join. It’s not just us – other units in Douglas County and beyond are struggling to get recruits.”
For more information, call Chris Hanson, Carlos First Responders, at (320) 808-5060.