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November 1, 2019


ThedaStar Team Visits with Patient in Recovery


Photo 1 Caption, from left to right: ThedaStar Flight Nurse, Erin Rusch, patient, Trucker ‘Ted’ Imme, ThedaStar Flight Nurse, Dani Rybicki and ThedaStar Lead Pilot, Nic Highfill.

Photo 2 Caption: Trucker ‘Ted’ Imme visits the ThedaStar team.

November 1, 2019


ThedaStar Team Visits with Patient in Recovery

NEENAH, Wis. – Life is tenuous. Trucker ‘Ted’ Imme, 51, is well familiar with heartbreak. His son passed away at the age of 18 and his very dear friend died in a motorcycle crash last year.

“I’ve been through a lot in life,” he said. “It’s all made me who I am, stronger and a survivor.”

During a recent visit to ThedaStar, he shared the story of his own “broken heart” after a recent heart attack. It’s a story that can inspire all of us.

It was a typical night for Ted, who has been trucking for more than 30 years. He was spending time with his cousin. They had just finished hauling sweet corn for the night and had gone out to the field to camp until morning near Markesan. It was around 11:00 p.m. when Ted decided to have a bedtime snack. Minutes after, Ted knew something was wrong.

“When I called 911, I told them I knew it was my heart,” he recalled. “At that point, I took three aspirin and waited for instructions from first responders.”

Ted has a significant family history of cardiovascular disease. The cousin who Ted was with that night, had suffered a heart attack just one month before this incident.

“I had always felt it was never a matter of if I’d have a heart attack, it was when,” he said. “The trucking lifestyle led to bad eating habits, long hours and little sleep. I was also a smoker.”

Ted said he doesn’t recall much from the ambulance ride.  

“When the medics arrived, I remember them connecting me to monitors and saying yes, it was my heart,” he said. “Then, I remember them saying ThedaStar was only a few minutes out.”

That’s when he met flight nurses Dani Rybicki and Erin Rusch.

“When we got to him, paramedics had already activated response for a heart attack,” explained Rybicki. “Time was extremely important in his case. We knew he needed to get to the closest hospital immediately.”

According to Rybicki, Ted went into cardiac arrest multiple times during the flight.

“I remember seeing the face of a caregiver, Dani, who kept telling me to open my eyes,” he recalled. “I remember seeing the flight crew doing chest compressions and being told to hang on.”

After five defibrillations, he was stabilized. Ted’s electrophysiologist told him his left anterior descending artery (LAD) was 100% blocked and his right coronary artery (RCA) was 90% blocked resulting in three stents.

“Occlusion of the LAD is often called the “widow maker” infarction due to a high risk of death,” explained Rybicki. “External electrical defibrillation remains the most successful treatment for ventricular fibrillation.”

According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 Americans die every year from sudden cardiac arrest. The key to survival is recognition of the signs and early defibrillation.

“From the sweet corn field, to the landing zone, my heart had been through a lot,” he said. “I remember the helicopter blades spinning as they wheeled me into the hospital. From what they tell me it’s a miracle my heart’s still beating. Words cannot express my gratitude for the paramedics, flight crew, hospital staff and team of doctors who tirelessly helped me.”

“Good outcomes are the real reason we do this type of work,” explained Rybicki. “It’s great to know we are part of a team making a life-saving difference for someone. We can all go home and sleep well.” 

Ted is currently in cardiac rehabilitation hoping to strengthen his heart muscle enough to not need an implanted defibrillator. 

His priorities have also changed. 

“I’m focusing on exercise and a heart healthy diet,” he said. “And I’ve stopped smoking. While the future will be challenging with all of the lifestyle changes, I’m in it for the long haul.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to a community of more than 600,000 residents in 14 counties and employs more than 7,000 healthcare professionals. ThedaCare has 180 locations including seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, New London, Shawano, Waupaca and Wild Rose. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.