A team effort results in a positive outcome


A quick response by these community members led to a safe out- come for an Ewert Recreation Center patron who had a seizure while in the pool. Pictured are (l-to-r) Mark Lunn, aquanastics instructor; Recreation Director Robert Petersen; Recreation Assistant Krista Vanderwal; Lindsey Sasker, a nurse at Pipestone Area Schools; and Roxine Mollema, administrative assistant at the Ewert Recreation Center. K. Kuphal

On Thursday, July 6, a woman was participating in an aquanastics class at the Ewert Recreation Center when she had a seizure. Recreation center employees and others were quick to respond and provide the care that was needed.

According to those involved, the woman, who asked not to be named, wasn’t feeling well and was going to get out of the pool. The seizure occurred before she got out, however, and she went under the water. Her husband and Mark Lunn, the class instructor, went to help her and Lunn turned her over onto her back and made sure she could breath.

Recreation Director Robert Petersen saw what was happening, told Administrative Assistant Roxine Mollema to call 911, told Recreation Assistant Krista Vanderwal that someone needed help and grabbed the back board. He and Vanderwal jumped into the pool and got the woman onto the backboard and out of the water. Lindsey Sasker, a nurse at Pipestone Area Schools, was watching her daughter play volleyball in the gym at the time when she was told someone needed help in the pool and went to lend a hand.

Officers with the Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office and Pipestone County Ambulance personnel responded within minutes and provided further care.

“It was an awesome team effort,” said the woman’s husband.

The members of that “team” said they had not experienced something like this incident before, but they had a wealth of training to prepare them to respond appropriately. All recreation center employees receive emergency response and CPR training, Vanderwal is a certified lifeguard, Petersen has had emergency response training as a member of the Pipestone Fire Department and a high school coach, and Lunn is a former lifeguard, water safety instructor and certified nursing assistant and has had first aid training.

Pipestone City Administrator Deb Nelson recognized the city employees who helped the woman during the July 10 city council meeting and thanked Mayor Dan Delaney and the city council for prioritizing and funding training for city staff that was put to use during the incident.

“I just want to thank Robert [Petersen] and Krista [Vanderwal] and Roxine [Mollema] and Mark Lunn for taking your training seriously,” Nelson said. “The situation could have turned out a lot worse than it did. They really stepped up to the plate and I can’t thank them enough. In my eyes, they saved a life.”

The woman they helped said their actions and the way the situation was handled made her feel welcome and safe to return to the recreation center after the incident.

“I have full confidence in the Ewert Center, with my health condition, that they’ll be right there to help me,” she said.

She also urged people who have health conditions or disabilities to have plans in place for various settings and scenarios in case something happens. In this case, that meant her and her husband signing up for a class with an instructor rather than exercising in the pool on their own.