Superior woman's quick action using CPR helps save man's lifeIt could be called a tale of two heroes. A Superior woman’s quick decision to start CPR in the parking lot of the Superior Walmart kept a Vietnam veteran’s heart pumping for a few crucial minutes.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
It could be called a tale of two heroes. A Superior woman’s quick decision to start CPR in the parking lot of the Superior Walmart kept a Vietnam veteran’s heart pumping for a few crucial minutes.
“She was a real hero,” Gerhardt Glass of Herbster said from his hospital bed in the Essentia Health Cardiac Intensive Care Unit on Friday. “I don’t know what I could say to give her as much credit as she has coming. She saved my life.”
Through a series of coincidences, Lorie Clark was at the right place at the right time to keep Glass’ blood flowing. That forged the first link in a chain of survival.
“It gives you goosebumps,” said Glass’ niece, Traci Juntunen of Mahtowa. “It still gave us all a chance at a happy ending.”
A creature of habit, Clark said she always parks near the Walmart food doors. On May 14, she picked a different spot. Glass was on his way to the Veterans Affairs hospital in the Twin Cities for surgery to install a defibrillator — a surgery that had been postponed weeks earlier due to an April snowstorm. He stopped by the store for supplies, from a pillow and aspirin to snacks.
“Everything but a winning lottery ticket,” he said.
As Glass was loading the purchases in his car, he got dizzy and collapsed. Clark was parked right behind him.
“I saw him go down,” she said. “I dialed 911 and was at his side.”
Initially, he was breathing, but when his lips started turning blue, the Superior woman rolled him to his back and began chest compressions. She kept pumping, aided by a retired sheriff’s deputy, until help arrived.
“The energy that it takes, it’s exhausting,” said Clark, a health unit coordinator for Essentia Health. About four minutes after she placed the call, members of the Superior Fire Department were on the scene, closely followed by Gold Cross Ambulance paramedics.
Two hours later, members of the Superior Fire Department called to let her know that he had survived and made it to the Essentia Health ICU.
Clark typed out a quick text to her best friend, a Cromwell teacher, to share the dramatic incident. Then she spent hours that evening pouring sand and gravel on flames to protect a cabin in the Barnes area.
“She should have a cape on her,” Glass said.
When Juntunen called that same teacher to explain why her son didn’t have time to do his homework — because his great-uncle collapsed in a Walmart parking lot — the teacher read her the text and put the two women in touch with one another. Clark, who works a few floors below the Cardiac ICU unit, went to visit Glass on Wednesday.
“I can’t tell you what it was like to walk in that room and see him,” Clark said.
His ventilator had just come out, Juntunen said, and he hadn’t spoken yet.
Clark stepped up to his bedside.
“I rubbed his arm and said, ‘Gary, my name’s Lorie; we met in the Walmart parking lot.’ ”
Juntunen said his response was: “Thank you. I owe you everything.”
The Vietnam veteran was a charmer, even flat on his back laced with tubes. As Clark stood by his bedside, Glass turned his head, barely opening his eyes.
“You’re pretty,” he told her. His sister, Iva, who had flown in from Texas to meet him in the Twin Cities for the surgery, chuckled.
“You could just tell that he must have an incredible sense of humor,” Clark said.
Glass, 67, worked as a machinist and draper in Chicago and ran a general store in Herbster in the 1970s with his brother, Bud. The father of three served in the U.S. Army infantry on the front lines during the Vietnam War and was awarded a Purple Heart. His hobbies include fishing in Lake Superior, gardening and helming an orc hunter in the online game World of Warcraft.
Glass spoke about his life and laughed at jokes served up by Juntunen’s husband, Donnie, on Friday. He gave Clark credit for saving his life.
“She is an American hero,” he said.
“I can say the same (about him) because I know he’s a vet,” Clark said.
Both heroes said they hope to keep in touch. Glass said he plans to get the Superior woman a birthday present.
The whole series of events is like something out of a Lifetime movie, Juntunen said.
“It was a miracle,” she said.
“It’s like 1 million to 1,” Clark said Saturday as she tried on wedding dresses. “I feel like I should play the lottery.”
They did, in fact, beat the odds. About one in 100 cardiac emergency calls ends happily, according to Capt. Lindzi Campbell with the Superior Fire Department.
“To have a positive result, everything has to come into a perfect storm,” she said. The collapse must be witnessed and CPR started right away. First responders need to be there quickly, as do paramedics.
“This call was a great example of the important contributions so many people make toward a positive outcome, or what is termed as the ‘chain of survival,’ ” said Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger, who noted that this is National Emergency Medical Services Week. “The quick response of bystanders, police, fire, paramedics, emergency room personnel and critical-care providers all share in the success and survival of this patient.”
Clark has taken CPR training for her job. She’s worked in the medical field all her life, but this was the first time she used it. Now, she’s encouraging her children to take it.
“You just don’t know how valuable it could be some day,” Clark said.