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Cloquet man saved by quick actions of off-duty EMT

You might say a Cloquet man was in the right place at the right time, but unfortunately, the circumstances were life-threatening and terrifyingly real.

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The man, who asked that his name not be printed, had been grocery shopping with his wife at Super One in Cloquet's Pine Tree Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, April 16. After the two took their groceries out to their car, the man remembered they had forgotten to get ice cream so he offered to go back in and pick some up.

Though he has little recall of what happened next, witnesses say he was headed up one of the aisles when he virtually dropped in his tracks. Store personnel immediately called 911 and then ... they paged the produce department.

Christopher Erickson, who has worked in the produce department at Super One for 20 years, just happened to be working that day. Erickson has also served with the Wrenshall Volunteer Fire Department for nearly that long and is now assistant chief and a fully trained emergency medical technician.

Erickson said as soon as he was called up to the front of the store, he noticed the man lying motionless on the floor in one of the aisles was in crisis.

“He was completely unresponsive and had stopped breathing,” said Erickson.

Erickson said he had his emergency equipment out in his car, but he knew there wasn’t time to go outside for it so he just started doing chest compressions until the Cloquet Area Fire Department (CAFD) showed up in about three to five minutes.

At that point, paramedics Cody DeBondt and Dan Syson of the CAFD took over, continuing to administer chest compressions on the man.

“We knew at that point that we needed to do a lot in a short time to save him,” said DeBondt. “We were able to get a few short bursts of spontaneous breathing, but it wasn’t until we got him in the ambulance that we were able to ventilate him, get a return pulse and stabilize him.”

The patient was taken to Community Memorial Hospital and later transferred to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Duluth. As of Tuesday, he was recuperating back at CMH, feeling much better and hoping to return home as early as Thursday possibly.

“I’m just thankful that Chris (Erickson) was so close by that day and that we have such a great fire department here in town as well,” he commented. “I guess I was basically gone, but thanks to their help I’m still here today.”

Wrenshall Fire Chief Randy Wolf said Erickson’s efforts that day at Super One were typical of his hard work and expertise.

“He has been very dedicated to the fire department and he’s there at drill every Tuesday night,” said Wolf. “It’s great to have someone like with the department.”

Erickson also works part-time with the on-call ambulance crew at the Carlton Fire Department.

“I’ve worked on a lot of people before,” he commented. “It’s always nice to know that there’s a happy ending.”