April 24, 2015, is a day that Donald and Edna Nadler won’t soon forget. Spring was in the air, and the husband and wife duo were in their familiar place, outside working in the yard and by the lake. Lifelong Lake Winnebago residents, Don, 83, and Edna, 81, have enjoyed living the lake life. Whether it be maintaining their own yard (Edna cuts the grass and Don does the trimming), working in their big garden, or sturgeon spearing, with each having their own ice shack, they simply enjoy every part of lake living.
On this particular day, Don was down by the lake working on the pier and boat ramp while Edna was doing some yard work. She heard a yell and a splash and found him facedown in the water. Edna, who doesn’t swim, went waist-deep into the water and was able to drag him to the shoreline and get his head and shoulders up onto land. Don was unresponsive, but he was breathing and did have a pulse. Edna went to their nearby boathouse and used the phone, which has “never been used,” to call 911. The Calumet County Communications Center quickly paged out the call for help. Members from the Stockbridge Fire Department and First Responders, along with Gold Cross Ambulance from Calumet Medical Center, quickly responded. A joint effort was needed to remove Don from the water and place him in the ambulance.
The big questions remained: Why did Don end up in the water, and why was he unresponsive? Was it a fall, causing head trauma, or was it a medical condition, like a stroke or cardiac event, that initiated the incident? Nobody could say for sure, so all precautions were taken to ensure he received the best care. EMS had placed him in full C-spine immobilization and started oxygen and IVs. He remained unconscious with a Glasgow coma scale of 5. Rapid sequence intubation was quickly performed to secure his airway, and he was flown to the Trauma Center and Stroke Center at ThedaCare in Neenah. Given Don’s critical condition, both a trauma blue and code stroke were initiated simultaneously. CT scans revealed he had not suffered any acute trauma or stroke, so the mystery continued.
During a three-day stay in the ICU, Don gradually improved and was extubated. He had no recollection of the events that brought him to the hospital. Arrangements were made to transfer him to Appleton Medical Center, where he would receive a full cardiac workup, including an electrophysiology study. During that study, his heart could be induced into ventricular tachycardia with loss of consciousness. Ventricular tachycardia is a potentially lethal arrhythmia if left untreated. His heart was defibrillated back into a normal rhythm and the mystery was solved. Two days later, he received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in his chest, and on April 30, he was discharged home.
Don has since made a full recovery, and at last check, both he and Edna were back to living the lake life. Edna said they still have “a lot of living to do.” Don said, “He isn’t leaving the lake until they carry him off the property,” and how he can laugh about it now considering how close he came to just that. Carry on, you two, and enjoy.
By Steve Hablewitz, ThedaStar Flight Medic