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Playground volunteer a real lifesaver

Paramedic happenedto be at Possibility site when man’s heart stopped

Kyle Demler hadn’t planned to volunteer to build Possibility Playground in Port Washington, but after reading about the project in the paper, he decided to spend his day off helping.

Help, it turns out, would be an understatement.

“I go there to help build a playground and I end up saving a man’s life,” said Demler, a 26-year-old paramedic who works for the West Bend Fire Department. “It was a pretty weird day.”

Demler, who grew up in Random Lake and recently moved to West Bend, volunteered at the playground in Upper Lake Park on Friday, Sept. 19. He had just returned to the work site after having lunch in a nearby area of the park when he saw a couple of construction foremen gathered around a man on the ground.

“I came back from lunch a little early so there were only about 10 people on the site. That’s when I noticed the man on the ground,” Demler said. “He wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse.”

Demler started chest compressions, not knowing how long the man had been without oxygen or how long it would take for help to arrive. Ironically, he noted, an ambulance and EMTs that had been at the playground site throughout the project had been called away at that moment.

Then, after about a minute of pumping the man’s chest, there were signs of life.

“He started breathing, but not very strong,” Demler said. “After about another 30 second, he was breathing on his own.”

Shortly after that, the man regained consciousness and started talking.

“He said something like, ‘I wasn’t really dead,’ and we all said, ‘Oh yeah you were.’

“He didn’t have a pulse and he wasn’t breathing. There was no air movement whatsoever. He was dead.”

Ralph Prom, 73, of Grafton, said doctors later told him that his heart had stopped.

“I got really dizzy and was looking for a place to sit down,” he said. “That’s about the last thing I remember.”

Prom, who said he has had heart problems for years, was scheduled to receive a pacemaker and defibrillator later this month but had the procedure done last week.

“I was pretty lucky,” he said. “I really want to thank the guy who helped, but I’ve been a little tied up lately.”

Prom’s daughter, Lisa Dickmann, said doctors told the family that the work her father was doing at the playground did not cause his heart to stop.

“The doctors said it had nothing to do with overexerting himself, that this would have happened even if he was just sitting at home watching TV or reading the newspaper,” Dickmann said. “As a matter of fact, if he wasn’t at the playground, he may been alone at home with no one to help him and who knows what would have happened.”

Oddly enough, Demler said, he noticed Prom among the hundreds of volunteers shortly after he arrived at the playground.

“I saw this older man working and thought, ‘What a great project. People of all ages are helping out,’” he said. “Little did I know that a few hours later I would be doing chest compressions on him.”

Demler said the key to saving Prom was finding him quickly and starting chest compressions.

“Usually, paramedics aren’t on the scene right away and it may take five or 10 minutes to get CPR started,” he said. “You can revive a person, but if they haven’t been breathing for a period of time, they often don’t end up surviving.”

Shortly after Prom was taken by ambulance to the hospital, Demler was back at work shoveling and raking.

“I was just shaking as I was shoveling,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘He couldn’t have been dead.’ But he definitely wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. It was a pretty amazing day.”

–By BILL SCHANEN IV Ozaukee Press staff 10-2-08