Group home staff save resident from drowning on Pillager Lake
PILLAGER--Quick action by staff members from a group home saved one of their developmentally disabled residents from drowning late Friday afternoon. Residents from the Oakwood Terrace group home in Staples were on an excursion to a beach on Pilla...
PILLAGER-Quick action by staff members from a group home saved one of their developmentally disabled residents from drowning late Friday afternoon.
Residents from the Oakwood Terrace group home in Staples were on an excursion to a beach on Pillager Lake near Cass County Road 1, north of Pillager.
Louis Eschenbacher, 24, Brainerd, administered CPR and another staff member performed rescue breathing.
Eschenbacher said he was on shore, tending to three other residents, and his coworker was down by the water, watching a resident who was swimming.
"He loves to swim," Eschenbacher said of the resident, who he did not identify due to medical privacy laws. "He has this little game ... where he dips his head underwater, and then kind of lays there, and then comes back up."
Suddenly, the staffer down by the water realized the swimming resident wasn't coming back up, for about 30 seconds.
She and Eschenbacher turned him over to find his lips were blue, he wasn't breathing, and didn't have a heartbeat. They dragged him up on shore.
The resident had been wearing a life vest, Eschenbacher said.
Eschenbacher successfully resuscitated him in the course of performing CPR for five minutes. The resident was breathing and had a pulse by the time paramedics arrived.
The group home residents didn't really react to the incident, Eschenbacher said, as they aren't high-functioning.
To Eschenbacher, though, the experience was "terrifying" and "surreal." He's worked for a year and a half at Oakwood Terrace with the same four residents, who he considers almost family, he said.
Eschenbacher is training to be a nurse, and said the incident gave him a valuable lesson in what it feels like to give CPR in a real-life emergency. Eschenbacher could feel the man's ribs crack as he did chest compressions, which is a common byproduct of emergency resuscitation.
Of he and his coworker's lifesaving actions, Eschenbacher said simply, "We just got to work."
"It doesn't help to just stand there and be scared," he said.
Emergency workers briefly closed down County Road 1 to form a landing zone so the man could be airlifted to a hospital by helicopter. North Memorial Ambulance, Pillager Area Fire and Rescue, and the Cass County Sheriff's Office responded.
ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .