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Voyageur's Best Features of 2004

Selena Smith signs a basketball

The biggest victory of all
Emergency Medical Technicians spring into action
by John Grones  | March 23, 2004

It was the most lopsided set of emotions anyone could ever imagine for Cromwell Girls Basketball assistent coach Jen Painovich on Thurs., Mar. 18, who was coaching in the Minnesota State Basketball Tournament at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Jen started out coaching the most exciting game in Cromwell basketball history. Her enthusiasm and excitement would soon turn to a state of shock after turning to discover that her father, Tony Petrick, was laying behind the bench. He had no pulse and was not breathing.

“I honestly did not know what had happened,” said Jen. “I turned around hoping that it wasn’t him.” It was him and by the time the reality had set in, Jen’s emotions went from watching her team make a nice, four-point run to start the second half of a the ball game, to the worst feeling a person can experience as her father’s life hung in the balance.

Fortunately for the Petrick family, the heart attack occured where it did – near five of Cromwell’s most experienced EMTs, and one registered nurse. Tim Hakamaki, Stacy Hedin, Julie Forconi, Craig Harp, Jen Anderson and Shari Hutar all sprang into action, right at the moment the third quarter started.

The team was oblivious to what was going on. They had just scored four straight points and had the momentum in the game before it was stopped, while emergency personel attended to the situation. “We tried not to look,” said Cromwell player Kylee Smith, “and when we realized who it was, we gathered together to pray.”
Senior, Heather Maki, led the team in a short prayer before officials decided to send both teams to the lockerroom, where they would await the outcome.

Once Mr. Petrick was moved from his seat to the floor, Stacy Hedin began administering CPR, with help from Shari Hutar. Tim Hakamaki, a former Coronary Intensive Care Registered Nurse (and current EMT) took over the situation and provided instruction to the team. Julie Forconi, Jen Anderson and Craig Harp also assisted the situation from the beginning. “He was gone,” said Stacy. “At first, they were hollering for Jen Anderson, because they thought he was choking.” He wasn’t. He was having a heart attack and, according to Tim Hakamaki, a pretty severe one.

While Cromwell EMTs continued to provide CPR, Williams Arena staff members retrieved the Automatic External Defibrillator (AED). It was determined that Tony’s heart was in fibrillation and would require shock treatment. Fortunately, one shock was administered and the heart returned to a normal, rythmic beat. “That’s the best scenario,” added Stacy. “He’s one of the lucky ones.”

Tim Hakamaki agrees. Tim and Stacy shared that there is a low survival rate of a severe heart attack, even if someone experienced is at the scene. The most important aspect of the situation was the rate at which everyone responded, and the fact that there was a defibrillator on hand. “It’s a good thing we got him right away,” Stacy concluded. “It’s called the ‘golden five minutes’. His heart was probably in fibrillation for three minutes.”

Tony’s response to the treatment was an answer to prayers. According to Jen, Lois (Jen’s mother) remained calm throughout the whole ordeal. “She reassured me it was not up to us, and it wasn’t his time to go.”

Lois was right and, 20 minutes later, paramedics arrived and took over. After Tony was lifted to the stretcher and rolled to the exit, a hand went up indicating that he was okay. In fact, he was barely in the ambulance when he asked if the Cardinals had won the game. At that point, the game had not yet resumed, but it would soon. He would later ask for a Coke.

Tony was rushed to Hennipen County Medical Center where he was treated and assessed. “The doctors figure he had a heart attack in the past and didn’t know it,” added Jen, “and the doctors determined that he would need quadruple bypass heart surgery.” Jen went on to recount the next morning. “The surgeon stopped in and asked my dad when he wanted to have the surgery. He said, ‘Monday’, but the doctor said, ‘How about today?’” After a brief discussion, the family concluded it would be best to go ahead with the surgery right away.

After a couple of hours of prep work, the surgery began around 12:00 and wasn’t completed until 6:00. The surgery was successful and Jen stayed at the hospital with her family while the Cromwell Cardinals continued their state tournament experience. She returned to coach the third, and final, game against Kittson Central.

Tony later discovered that the Cardinals pulled out the victory the afternoon of his heart attack, 49-47. It was a special day. A victory for Cromwell EMTs and the first win by a Cromwell basketball team at the Minnesota State Basketball Tournament.

This article first appeared in the March 23, 2004 issue of the Voyageur Press.