Pictured above: Lucas and Robert Weme
By Gina Mayfield
On a Minnesota summer day, as the Weme family played in the backyard, 47-year-old Robert Weme stepped outside to join his wife, children and grandchildren. As he sat on the deck, his 20-year-old son, Lucas, noticed something about his dad seemed off.
“I went over and asked him what was going on, and he said he had passed out in the kitchen. At that point, I was getting kind of worried,” Lucas says. “Then he passed out on the deck and started to seize.”
Lucas’ mom and sisters ran over and made sure the grandkids were okay as they called 911. “My dad didn’t have a pulse, so I just started CPR on him. I did about 30 compressions, then he started to come back to,” Lucas says.
Robert answered questions and seemed awake and alert, and just as everyone thought he was out of the woods, everything changed. “Shortly after the first responder got there, my dad ended up going back into seizure fit. We couldn’t find a pulse,” Lucas says. After another round of 30 compressions, then another, Robert regained consciousness then went back out again. “I did more compressions and then they slapped the AED on him and shocked him,” Lucas says. “He was in V-tach.”
V-tach is short for ventricular tachycardia, a heart rhythm disorder caused by abnormal electrical signals in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart causing a very rapid heart rate. It can last for just a few seconds, or much longer, and cause cardiac arrest.
EMTs got an IV established and headed straight for St. Mary’s hospital in Duluth. Lucas and his mom were never far behind and reached the ER shortly after the ambulance. “One of the drivers actually came out and talked to us. She said my dad was pretty stable throughout the whole transport, he was talking, alert and oriented,” Lucas says. “Then they led us back into the ER.”
What the ambulance driver may not have known was that his otherwise healthy, 47-year-old patient biked or lifted weights for about an hour every day, including the day before this incident – and was a paramedic himself. And Lucas was a pre-med student hoping to follow his dad’s footsteps into emergency medicine. He had been a licensed EMT for two years, from the time he was 18, and currently serves with Carlton Fire and Ambulance. That’s where he learned CPR.
When Lucas and his mother got back into the ER, Robert had something he wanted to say to his son. “He said that he loved me and was very proud of what I did. He said he wouldn’t be here without me doing what I did,” Lucas says.
Robert was right. The survival rate for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is around 11 percent.
A few days later after being diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy, Robert left the hospital with a defibrillator and a family with its sense of humor still firmly intact.
“Even though I work on an ambulance too, my dad was actually my first patient to code. I guess he wanted to have the glory of being my first one,” Lucas says with a smile.
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