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Published December 24, 2013, 05:16 PM

North Dakota National Guardsman, others act quickly to save man’s life

Maj. Mark McEvers was just playing basketball with some friends in Devils Lake when suddenly one of the players fell backward. Everyone gathered around the man who fell, McEvers said. He was having trouble breathing, and then his breathing stopped.

By: Charly Haley, Grand Forks Herald

Maj. Mark McEvers was just playing basketball with some friends in Devils Lake when suddenly one of the players fell backward.

Everyone gathered around the man who fell, McEvers said.

He was having trouble breathing, and then his breathing stopped.

McEvers, who works for the North Dakota National Guard as a supervisor at Camp Grafton, immediately grabbed the automated external defibrillator in Sweetwater Elementary School, where the recreational basketball league of about 12 men in their 40s was playing when the accident happened, the evening of Dec. 8.

The man who collapsed had turned blue, McEvers said. He didn’t have a pulse.

McEvers administered a shock with the AED, and another basketball player, Rich Olson, started to perform CPR.

Soon, the man regained color to his face and started breathing, said Olson, who works as an engineering technician for the city of Devils Lake.

While McEvers and Olson were helping the man, someone had called 911, and emergency personnel arrived shortly.

“We kind of kept him awake until the EMTs got there,” Olson said.

Olson had never performed CPR before, he said, and while McEvers was trained on the AED as part of his work with the National Guard, he hadn’t ever used it to save someone.

McEvers said there were other heroes there that day.

Others called 911, he said, and someone took children who were watching the basketball game into another room so they wouldn’t have to witness the man unconscious.

And “the real heroes,” McEvers said, were the emergency medical personnel. “They do this all the time,” he said.

A few days after the accident, the rural Devils Lake man, in his upper 50s, underwent triple-bypass heart surgery, Olson said. He declined to name the man to respect his privacy.

The man collapsed at probably the best time and place possible, Olson said, because he was surrounded by people who could help, and he was in town so medical care was nearby.

The situation resonated with many because another Devils Lake man died a few days earlier after suffering a heart attack, Olson said.

At the basketball game, Olson said everyone remained calm, including the son of the man who collapsed.

“We were all there. We were ready,” Olson said. “We all just did what we had to do.”

McEvers, the executive officer and officer in charge for the North Dakota National Guard’s 136th Combat Sustainment Support Brigade at Camp Grafton, encourages people to embrace using an AED in a situation like what happened Dec. 8. The machine is easy for anyone to use, he said, and it saves lives.

“Embrace some of the technology that makes things like this easier,” McEvers said.

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