by Dennis Dalman
When heart-attack survivor Ernie Kociemba stepped up to the podium at the Jan. 26 Sartell City Council meeting, he was sporting a big, wide, happy grin.
“See this big smile?” he asked the council, pointing to his face and then pointing to seven people standing in the room. “It’s because of them.”
The seven people – four men, three women – were all honored with Lifesaving Awards presented by Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes in front of the council and an audience.
Hughes explained why they were so deserving of the awards.
On Dec. 11 at Fitness Evolution in Sartell, several law-enforcement personnel were doing their physical training when all of a sudden a crisis occurred. They noticed a man had collapsed onto the floor and rushed to help him. Other emergency backup were notified, and an ambulance was on its way.
The helpers did chest compressions, made sure the man’s airway was unobstructed and then later used an external defibrillator to get his heart started again. During the trip to the hospital in the ambulance, emergency medical technicians monitored the man’s condition.
The man, Ernie Kociemba of Grey Eagle, survived.
Doctors installed three stints in his arteries. At 7 p.m. that evening, Kociemba woke up in the hospital and there stood his family members above him.
“There was my family,” he told the city council. “And more important, there were my grandchildren!”
Then Kociemba looked over to the seven honorees in the council chambers and gave them a heartfelt thank-you from his family and himself.
Hughes said all seven of the lifesavers had demonstrated “quick thinking, action and calmness” the very qualities, he added, which cause emergency personnel to choose their careers – to help other people.
It was apparent everyone in the council chambers was moved by the lifesaving story and by Kociemba’s survival and gratitude.
Those who were honored with Lifesaving Awards were Shelby Lane and Kari Bonfield, both of the Sartell Police Department; Dan Williams, trauma employee at St. Cloud Hospital; Johnathan Batterberry, Becker police officer; Dusty Miller, Wright County deputy; Zach Sorenson, Stearns County deputy; and Nancy Kalla, emergency medical technician for Gold Cross Ambulance Service.