Published on June 21, 2021

When Life Changes in a Heartbeat: Jerry’s Story

Jerry Buhr stands with a golf club over his back looking into the distance

"I remember riding in the back of the ambulance thinking that was the end of my heart attack," says Jerry. "I had no idea it was just the beginning."

That February morning started with Jerry’s daily ritual. He went out to the garage with his Bible and black lab Josie to start the day before work. But he soon noticed that his left arm and chest hurt. Eventually, the pain pushed Jerry back inside to tell his wife about his symptoms. She jumped into action and called 911.

Jerry recalls the Detroit Lakes EMS team showing up quickly and working to keep him calm while they evaluated him. He even walked himself to the ambulance. "I remember riding in the back of the ambulance thinking that was the end of my heart attack," says Jerry. "I had no idea it was just the beginning."

The next thing he knew, everything went black. He regained consciousness thanks to a defibrillator shock but found a strange machine sitting on his chest. It was the LUCAS device—an automatic chest compression machine, ready when the next level of CPR is required to revive a patient. Thankfully, Jerry didn't need it. He woke to the cheers of the EMS team, "You're back!"

"I saw this man who was so cool, calm and collected back at my home. But now, he had sweat dripping down his beard. He was working so hard to save my life," recounts Jerry.

Within an hour of arriving at the emergency room, tests confirmed a 100% blockage in Jerry’s heart, and he was rushed to surgery for a heart stent. As much as he appreciates his surgeon, Jerry knows he would not have made it to the operating room without the persistence of the Essentia Health St. Mary’s-Detroit Lakes emergency personnel. Now that he has been through a crisis where seconds count, he is so grateful for hospital care close to home.

"I'm looking forward to meeting these guys and giving them a man hug one of these days," says Jerry. "I want to say a deeply heartfelt thank you for saving my life."

Until that day comes, Jerry opted to share his appreciation with a written thank you and gift certificates in honor of his EMS crew members, Matt Schauff and Jacob Lorsung. Shortly after, he got a surprise call from a work customer, Mike, who also happens to work on the EMS team. Mike checked in to see how Jerry was recovering, and he shared that the gift certificates were going to be spent to treat the whole crew. Teamwork is a core value—not just in their lifesaving work, but also in their celebrations.

A veteran himself, Jerry knows that heroes often shy away from public praise. As he shared, "They may just think they're doing their job, but every EMS team member deserves to be recognized by the community."

Today, Jerry has returned to work and life with a little more mindfulness about his exercise and eating—and a lot of gratitude for his second chance to live. But some things never change: Jerry still starts each day in his garage with his Bible and black lab Josie. 

Gratitude is powerful. As proof, the LUCAS technology in Jerry’s ambulance was originally purchased by Essentia Health Foundation, thanks to gifts from community members and previous patients who wanted to express their thanks.

As a result of their generosity, Jerry had access to the best treatment to survive a heart attack. Now, Jerry is paying forward his gratitude with a gift to the EMS team who saved his life. We may never know the ripple effect we can create with a grateful heart and generous spirit.

If you have a story as a grateful patient or family, we invite you to share it with the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Foundation at (218) 847-0867 or cara.frank@essentiahealth.org.

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