Two near-death experiences, one family

Sheriff’s Office, defibrillators integral in survival of father, son—

The Ellsworth family was relaxing at their home near Rush Lake Feb. 16 when the unthinkable happened: Andy Ellsworth, then 23 years old and in good physical condition, had a sudden cardiac arrest. Joann Ellsworth, Andy’s mom, said the last thing her son said to her before collapsing was that he “didn’t feel good.”

Joann and Ken Ellsworth pose with a hands-only CPR dummy Katie Tewalt of Allina Heart Safe Communities loaned to them. Joann Ellsworth plans to use the dummy and a practice AED at the family’s annual neighborhood Christmas party to show her friends how to operate an AED and do CPR — knowledge that is important to have handy in emergency situations. Photo by Derrick Knutson

Joann and Ken Ellsworth pose with a hands-only CPR dummy Katie Tewalt of Allina Heart Safe Communities loaned to them. Joann Ellsworth plans to use the dummy and a practice AED at the family’s annual neighborhood Christmas party to show her friends how to operate an AED and do CPR — knowledge that is important to have handy in emergency situations. Photo by Derrick Knutson

“We told him to hit the toilet, and he did that ‘last breath before death’ thing,” Joann Ellsworth said. “My son Charles knew right away something was wrong, and Ken (her husband) and Charles started CPR right away and got on the phone to 911.”

Fortunately for the Ellsworths, Chisago County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ryan Edmonds was responding to a call on the other side of Rush Lake when the call from dispatch went out to emergency responders.

Edmonds was first on the scene within minutes of the 911 call, and in his squad he had a device that proved integral to saving Andy Ellsworth’s life: an automated external defibrillator.

Although he had never used the AED on a person before, Edmonds had been trained on how to use the device, and he administered a shock with it that restarted Andy Ellsworth’s heart.

An ambulance from Cambridge Medical Center then arrived and transported Andy Ellsworth to the hospital; he was airlifted from the center to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for more treatment.

He spent three days in a medically induced coma, but he eventually fully recovered from the cardiac arrest.

Andy Ellsworth now has a defibrillator under the skin on his chest that will shock his heart if it stops again.

Son’s near-death experience factor in saving father’s life

Due to Andy Ellsworth having a heart attack at such a young age, doctors suggested the whole family get tested for the genetic heart condition he has: arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia/cardiomyopathy.

Ken Ellsworth tested positive for the condition, and he, like his son, didn’t have an inkling that he had a heart condition. Also like his son, Ken Ellsworth had an internal defibrillator implanted.

That turned out to be a good decision; the device likely saved his life less than two weeks ago.

On Dec. 7, Ken Ellsworth was awake before the rest of his family, and he wasn’t feeling very well.

When he was in the garage of his home, he was hit with a powerful shock that brought him to his knees.

At first, he didn’t know what was going on, and then the second shock hit and the reality of what was happening sunk in: his heart was beating irregularly, and the internal defibrillator was delivering shocks to get it back in rhythm.

Ken Ellsworth ended up going to the hospital following the incident, but the device had done what it was supposed to do — it saved his life.

If his son hadn’t had a heart attack less than a year prior, Ken Ellsworth would have likely died that day.

“You know, Andy thanked me for helping save his life in February,” he said. “I called him up on Saturday and thanked him for saving mine.”

Deputy Ryan Edmonds accepts the Chisago County Sheriff Office’s lifesaving award at the May 15 Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting. Photo by Derrick Knutson

Deputy Ryan Edmonds accepts the Chisago County Sheriff Office’s lifesaving award at the May 15 Chisago County Board of Commissioners meeting. Photo by Derrick Knutson

More AEDs for Sheriff’s Office

Edmonds was awarded with the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office Lifesaving Award at the May 15 Board of Commissioners meeting, and after the meeting he and Joann Ellsworth got to talking.

She said Edmonds told her it was lucky he had an AED that day, because there are only enough for about half of the squad cars in the county’s fleet to have them while on patrol.

During a cardiac arrest survivors meeting in late summer, Joann Ellsworth was introduced to Katie Tewalt, Heart Safe Communities supervisor at Allina Health, and Tewalt informed her of a grant she could pursue to help the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office get more AEDs.

Joann Ellsworth filled out the grant application, forwarded it to Chisago County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Keith Hoppe, and he submitted it.

In late October, the Sheriff’s Office found out it had been awarded two new defibrillators — which can cost more than $2,000 apiece — via the grant.

Joann Ellsworth said she was pleased she had a role in the Sheriff’s Office getting more of this life-saving technology, and she’s now taken it upon herself to get the word out about the importance of AEDs and hands-only CPR.

During her neighborhood annual Christmas gathering Dec. 20, she plans to do a presentation on how to use an AED and perform CPR with the aid of a practice AED and CPR dummies Tewalt loaned to her.

She’s also thinking of approaching area businesses, like bars and restaurants, to see if they’d be interested in having someone come in and do CPR and AED training.

Anyone with questions about AEDs or hands-only CPR can call 651-241-4470 or email heartsafe@allina.com.

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