DETROIT LAKES — In September 2022, after a series of falls landed Detroit Lakes resident Dorothy Poffenberger at Essentia Health St. Mary’s hospital and then the transitional care unit in Oak Crossing (a home for adjacent elderly operated by EHSM), was looking forward to finally moving into his new temporary home at a nearby assisted living facility.
The move was scheduled for September 6, but it didn’t make it there, and to this day, Dorothy doesn’t really remember what happened.
“That part of my life is just gone,” he said in an interview on May 17.
According to Dorothy’s daughter, Terri Hutchinson, her mother was originally hospitalized due to a particularly nasty fall she had taken that “caused her brain to bleed and was creating havoc with her ability to perform the daily functions of life, such as walking and talking.” “. she had spent a week in the hospital and then three weeks at Oak Crossing.”
Terri said her mother needed to move to Pelican Landing, an assisted living facility just a short drive away, to continue her recovery. She was all packed up and ready to go, and then, on the morning of Sunday, September 4, Terri received an unexpected phone call from Oak Crossing staff, who told her that her mother “was passing out and losing consciousness.” “. could get into town, I got another call that her heart had stopped and CPR was started.
“When we arrived, the room was packed with Oak Crossing, EMS and police personnel,” he continued. “It was a sight seared into my memory. Suddenly, the automated CPR machine stopped, someone said, ‘We’ve got a pulse,’ and everyone left. Mom was soon airlifted to Fargo in a helicopter.
“The doctors there were very apprehensive, saying, ‘You really don’t know when CPR started and when EMS actually came in,'” Terri said.
But in fact, one of the nurses on duty that day, Donna Guck, had started CPR almost immediately and was able to keep Dorothy’s heart beating until EMS personnel arrived. Due to her quick intervention, Dorothy actually became one of the rare patients to survive CPR: according to the American Heart Association, the survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is about 10%.
“She’s (Dorothy) our miracle, and you’re a hero,” Terri told Donna directly during the interview.
Donna recalled that another registered nurse on duty in Oak Crossing had called her because she felt “something wasn’t quite right.” After getting a good look at Dorothy, she said, “I knew we were in trouble. I tried to listen to her heart, but her pulse was very weak and she was not breathing well. She was unconscious and unconscious.” for a moment.”
And then the nurse noticed that her patient wasn’t breathing and couldn’t hear a heartbeat. So she started CPR and kept her patient’s heart beating until the EMS team arrived.
“By the grace of God and the great team at Essentia (Health) in Fargo, she slowly got better,” Terri said of her mother. “By Monday (the day after the incident) she had her intubation tube removed, by Tuesday she was up and walking, by Wednesday she was sent back to Detroit Lakes.”
After a brief stay at Oak Crossing, Dorothy finally moved to Pelican Landing, where she made an almost miraculous recovery over the course of the winter. In May of this year, she returned to live in her own house.
“He’s made a full recovery,” Terri said. “She drives his car, sings in the church choir, goes out to coffee and concerts, and comes home, at least for the summer. And she’s 87!”
Earlier this month, a group of Dorothy’s family and friends gathered in Oak Crossing to surprise her nurse, Donna Guck, with a celebration to thank her for her efforts.
“I was just doing my job,” Donna said, but she thanked the group for honoring her.
Terri and Dorothy said that no “thank you” would do. Although she doesn’t really remember the events that led to her heart stopping, or for quite some time afterwards, Dorothy said, she does know that “if this happened when she was alone, the outcome would have been very different.”
Though Donna protested once more, “I feel like I was just doing my job,” Terri replied, “but you did it right. You were in the right place at the right time.”
Dorothy recalled that when they met in the Central Market one day after her recovery, “we both began to cry.”
Looking at Donna, she added, “My goal right now is to let everyone know that I love them…and I love you.”