Garden Plans Grow Into Lifesaving Rescue

Each winter, Rhonda and Steve Schroeder make plans for their spring planting. “We’re big gardeners,” Rhonda says. This past February was no different. Rhonda had read about ways to use wooden pallets in the garden and was excited to try it. “We’d seen that there were a lot of neat things you could do,” she recalls.

After finishing his overnight shift as a machine operator, Steve headed out early one morning in their large SUV in search of free or discarded pallets. Instead of picking up one or two, Steve returned a few hours later with their SUV loaded full of them. “My husband always overdoes things,” Rhonda explains.

“When he came in the house, he didn’t look good and said he didn’t feel good. That’s when it began for me,” Rhonda recalls. “I was cooking breakfast, so I began to wrap that up and got dressed. I knew I needed to be prepared.”

Steve had experienced recurring chest and jaw pain in the past, but it always went away. After lifting and loading all those pallets, the pain in his chest had returned, and he was experiencing severe pain on both sides of his face. Steve agreed to go to the ER. “Give me a minute. I’m just going to lie down for a bit,” he told her.

“I kept the door cracked open. I knew something wasn’t right,” Rhonda says. She checked on Steve 10 minutes later and found him unresponsive and making noises as he struggled to breathe. She immediately called 911.

I heard [the AED] tell them to step away [so it could shock him].
I didn’t know at that point if he was going to make it.

Rhonda Schroeder,
wife of SCA survivor

Putting training into action

Officer Frank Dickman of the Columbus, Indiana, police department responded to the call from dispatch to assist someone with heart issues. EMS was not yet on scene when he arrived, and Officer Kelly Holley arrived moments later. Suspecting sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), Officer Holley grabbed the automated external defibrillator (AED) in her patrol car and raced into the house. Steve was gasping for air and turning purple.

Officers Holley and Dickman quickly and carefully moved Steve onto the floor. Officer Holley opened the ZOLL® Powerheart® G3 AED, retrieved the electrodes, and followed the instructions to attach them to his chest. The AED analyzed Steve’s heart and advised a shock. The officers worked together to deliver CPR, following the device’s guidance.

“I heard [the AED] tell them to step away [so it could shock him]. I didn’t know at that point if he was going to make it,” Rhonda recalls.

EMS arrived, took over CPR, and administered advanced lifesaving measures. They transported Steve to Columbus Regional Hospital, where doctors performed triple bypass surgery. After several months of recovery, Steve was back on his feet.

Steve Schroeder, SCA survivor.

Looking forward with optimism

Rhonda and Steve, along with their children and grandchildren, are grateful for the assistance of the police officers who arrived so quickly. They’re discussing retirement and planning out this year’s garden, in large part thanks to the efforts of Officers Holley and Dickman. Because their patrol cars are equipped with AEDs, the officers had quick access to a lifesaving device and were able to provide assistance until EMS arrived.

While Steve still has no memory of what happened that day, Rhonda recalls the events with great clarity and realizes how lucky they were. “I don’t know where he went that morning, but if this had happened when he was out alone, I couldn’t have done anything,” she says.

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