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Iowa cardiac arrest survivor reunited with first responders

Bruce Seidel refers to the Mason City crew as the “The Fearsome Foursome”

By Robin McClelland
Globe Gazette

MASON CITY, Iowa — Bruce Seidel has been practicing gratitude.

On Nov. 18, while doing some yard work at his Mason City residence, he began to feel unwell. He’d been working hard cutting branches, tidying up and rushing to get the job done. “I’d been pushing to finish and didn’t take enough breaks. I could feel I wasn’t breathing well, but I thought I’d be OK,” he said.

Before long, Seidel, 66, realized he needed medical assistance. He called out to his partner, Jill, to dial 911 and made his way out front to meet the ambulance.

Although Mason City Fire and Rescue arrived within minutes, during the short wait, Seidel experienced a cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, the team quickly assessed the situation and took over CPR efforts from Jill.

Seidel’s heart began beating briefly, only to stop again.

Now, 1st Battalion responders, known to Seidel as “The Fearsome Foursome,” Lt. Dustin Pillard, Scott Watson, Wes Hardy and Eric Maki, had to act fast. Seidel wasn’t responding to their efforts and they made the decision to use a Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System, or LUCAS device.

A LUCAS device provides mechanical chest compressions at a fixed rate in order to allow first responders to focus on other tasks. Every Mason City ambulance has one on board. In Seidel’s case, it may have been the difference between life and death.

On that terrifying evening, the MCFD team made all the right moves. They were able to transfer Seidel to the ambulance and then to MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center’s emergency department.

Seidel wasn’t aware of the frenzied pace as healthcare workers scrambled to stabilize him. The amount of time he had been without a heartbeat made the case that much more dramatic.

In order to give him the best chance at recovery, Seidel was placed in a coma and his body temperature was lowered to just 34 degrees. For three days, he lay in this state of suspended animation.

Seidel’s nephew, Hunter Dean, recalls the IVs, medications and machines Seidel was attached to. “He had tubes coming from just about everywhere,” Dean recalled.

In a bit of serendipity, Dean had been participating in the Mason City Fire Department’s Explorer program. The program allows young people to job shadow firefighters to determine if the career suits them.

Dean works at 4-C Western Wear in Mason City and is planning to major in fire science and attend the fire medic program in Green Bay, Wis.

“I was really just checking out some options and had really enjoyed the program. Now, and this event with Bruce didn’t cement it, exactly, but now I can see myself going forward in the fire service,” Dean explained.

After the emergency team got Seidel stabilized, he was moved to the critical care unit on MercyOne North Iowa’s sixth floor. There, he was supported by doctors, nurses and staff.

“Every moment I was at MercyOne, I was treated with the most respect,” Seidel said through tears.

Tests revealed that Seidel suffers from an Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, known as A1AD. In particular, Seidel has the SZ variant. This deficiency means he is unable to produce the antitrypsin protein that can protect the lungs from irritants. The Alpha-1 antitrypsin protein is produced in the liver. Without it, patients are at risk of chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD).

Seidel’s gratitude extends to every person he encountered during his nearly two-week stay at MercyOne North Iowa. He started his gratitude drawing not long after he was awakened from his coma.

Since his release, Seidel has been staying with his sister, Kim, and brother-in-law, Denny Withers. “I’m all on one floor here, no worrying about the stairs,” Seidel said with relief.

While the road to recovery may be long, Seidel has few concerns.

“I’m just happy to be here, which I wouldn’t be without them all. It was the people that made it so good,” said Seidel. “Every person in the whole hospital experience touched my heart.”

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